Other Books in Series
This is book number 5 in the Robert Langdon series.
The World According to Dan Brown - Cody O'Loughlin for The New York Times
RYE BEACH, N.H. — Anyone who has read Dan Brown’s work — and with 200 million copies of his books in print, you know who you are — is familiar with his signature technique of inserting little chunks of expository information into the narrative. Among the topics addressed in his latest thriller, “Origin”: the wide-ranging talents of Winston Churchill, the elusive appeal of abstract art, the exciting peculiarities of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia cathedral and the latest insane developments in the world of artificial intelligence.
This is central to the Brown approach, because he himself prefers literature that is instructive and, ideally, not wholly invented. “I feel like if I’m going to take time reading, I better be learning,” he said recently. He was sitting in his large and cunningly designed house here in the New Hampshire countryside. Of his novels, he said: “This is the kind of fiction I would read if I read fiction.”
“Origin” is Mr. Brown’s eighth novel. It finds his familiar protagonist, the brilliant Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconography Robert Langdon, embroiled once more in an intellectually challenging, life-threatening adventure involving murderous zealots, shadowy fringe organizations, paradigm-shifting secrets with implications for the future of humanity, symbols within puzzles and puzzles within symbols and a female companion who is super-smart and super-hot.
As do all of Mr. Brown’s works, the new novel does not shy away from the big questions, but rather rushes headlong into them. Here the question is: Can science make religion obsolete?
As the story begins, Edmond Kirsch — “billionaire computer scientist, futurist, inventor and entrepreneur” — is preparing to present a new discovery to an eager crowd (and to the world, via the internet) at the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain. He has promised that this announcement, the details of which are enticingly withheld until the very end of the book, will upend people’s view of religion by proving irrefutably that life can be created using the laws of science, thus excising God from the equation. (The theory is real, borrowed from the M.I.T. physicist Jeremy England.)
“Origin,” is to be published by Random House Oct. 3, with an initial printing of 2 million copies, eventually extending to several dozen countries in 42 languages, according to the publisher. Readers will find in it a familiar swirl of big ideas and nonstop action, so that those who aren’t enchanted by the erudition can find relief in the plot, and vice versa.
Mr. Brown, 53, spent four years writing and researching the book. He is nothing if not disciplined. He rises at 4 a.m. each day and prepares a smoothie comprising “blueberries, spinach, banana, coconut water, chia seeds, hemp seeds and … what’s the other kind of seed?” he asked. “Flax seeds, and this sort of weird protein powder made out of peas.” He also makes so-called bulletproof coffee, with butter and coconut oil, which he says changes “the way your brain processes the caffeine” so as to sharpen your mind.
His computer is programmed to freeze for 60 seconds each hour, during which time Mr. Brown performs push-ups, situps and anything else he needs to do. Though he stops writing at noon, it’s hard for him to get the stories out of his head. “It’s madness,” he said of his characters. “They talk to you all day.”
Mr. Brown’s books have made him rich, but he does not have the aura of a rich person. His house, concealed behind gates, is not so much the home of a flashy millionaire as that of a person with the means to alter his surroundings in any wildly idiosyncratic way he (and his wife) want to.
He showed me around on condition that I didn’t present the house as “incredibly ostentatious.”
No, more like fantastically bonkers. Push a button on a library shelf, and it swings around to reveal a secret shelf that contains the first Brown book (“The Giraffe, the Pig, and The Pants On Fire,” written when he was 5) and an exotic scientific-looking object that turns out to be the antimatter prop used in the film of “Angels and Demons.” Touch the corner of a painting in the living room, and it slides aside to expose a hidden room whose walls are decorated with gold records, awarded to Mr. Brown as a result of vast audiobook sales in Germany.
Outside a bathroom is an antique Bible opened to Job 38:11 — “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.” (“That means it’s occupied,” Mr. Brown said.) The inside of the door is covered top to bottom with a replica of a page from one of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, written in backward handwriting. “It’s one of his famous quotes, which you cannot read until you close this door and position yourself on the toilet or at the sink and read it in the mirror,” Mr. Brown said.
Here is Leonardo’s celebrated painting “The Virgin of the Rocks,” or at least the reproduction used in the film of “The Da Vinci Code.”
Also, look over there. It’s the “Mona Lisa,” smiling enigmatically from her canvas on a different wall.
“That’s a reproduction too, to save you from asking,” Mr. Brown said. (Such is the power Mr. Brown can exert on an institution that even the haughty Louvre, which has the real paintings, offers “Da Vinci Code”-themed tours and admits on its website that the book and film have increased “Mona Lisa’s” popularity.)
The house is also full of paintings, sculptures and unexpected additional works by Mr. Brown’s wife, Blythe, who has a taste for the macabre. A dining room sideboard contains a tableau featuring taxidermied animals like a fox and a pheasant; a table in the kitchen holds a Hieronymus Bosch-like sculpture replete with tiny skeletons and other objects churning together in a hellish configuration.
“Blythe has a fixation with death,” Mr. Brown said cheerfully. “Once she literally took me on a date to a cemetery.” The two met more than 20 years ago in Los Angeles, where Mr. Brown moved after graduating from Amherst College. He grew up in Exeter, N.H., and went to high school at Phillips Exeter Academy, where his father taught math. (I was at the school as well and knew him slightly.)
At the time, Mr. Brown was a not-successful musician; his future wife, more than a decade older than he is, was the director of artistic development at the National Academy for Songwriters. Because of their unequal work relationship, they dated in secret for seven years, Mr. Brown said, at one point even attending the Grammys together, along with fake dates, to conceal the romance.
Among other features of their house: a shirt signed by the members of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning soccer team; a cantilevered staircase built right out of the wall, with no supports from above or below; and two pillars that are exact replicas of those in Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, which appeared in “The Da Vinci Code” and was quickly overrun by Brown enthusiasts searching for the Holy Grail.
Downstairs, there’s a medieval suit of armor, moved here after an unsuccessful sojourn in a more prominent spot.
“We built a niche for it in the library, and it was just overkill,” Mr. Brown said. “It sort of felt like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ or something.”
Mr. Brown does not have a lot in common with Edmond Kirsch, the futurologist and entrepreneur of his book, but they do share a car: the Tesla Model X, the least expensive version of which costs about $80,000. Among other things, it can drive and park itself.
Its owner seems a little bit bemused to find himself in possession of such a rarefied object. “I’m not a car person,” he said. “Three years after ‘The Da Vinci Code’ came out, I still had my old, rusted Volvo. And people are like, ‘Why don’t you have a Maserati?’ It never occurred to me. It wasn’t a priority for me. I just didn’t care.”
Eventually, he bought a Lexus hybrid SUV, and then after that a Tesla sports car, which also did not sit easily with him.
“I felt like a jerk,” he said. “ I felt like I needed a gold chain and a ponytail or something. This one feels like the minivan of Teslas.”
He and I got into the car, which indeed looked kind of minivan-esque until it accelerated from 0 to 60 in under three seconds, right in the (not very long) driveway, and then switched lanes by itself on the highway.
We were on the way to Exeter, where Mr. Brown was going to a service in honor of his mother, who died several months ago. (“Origin” is dedicated to her; her initials, C.G.B., appear, very faintly, on the back cover of the book.) Mr. Brown credits his father, now 81, with instilling in him a love of science, math and intellectual puzzles, and his mother, who was religious but became disillusioned with church politics, with instilling in him a wonder for the mysteries of the world.
Though Mr. Brown comes out strongly in favor of science, both in person and in his novels, he cannot give up the possibility that there is something else out there.
“It’s probably an intellectual weakness,” he said, “but I look at the stars and I say, ‘there’s something bigger than us out there.’ ”— New York Times - Cody O'Loughlin
Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist, and one of Langdon’s first students.
But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced to flee. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch. They travel to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.
Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade an enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace. They uncover clues that ultimately bring them face-to-face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery…and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.
About the Author
DAN BROWN is the author of numerous #1 international bestsellers, including The Da Vinci Code, Inferno, The Lost Symbol, Angels & Demons, Deception Point, and Digital Fortress.
"Fans of The Da Vinci Code rejoice! Professor Robert Langdon is again solving the mysteries of the universe."
"A brisk new book that pits creationism against science, and is liable to stir up as much controversy as The Da Vinci Code did. In Origin, the brash futurist Edmond Kirsch comes up with a theory so bold, so daring that, as he modestly thinks to himself in Brown’s beloved italics, “It will not shake your foundations. It will shatter them.” Kirsch is of course addressing The World, because that’s the scale on which Brown writes. Brown and serious ideas: they do fit together, never more than they have in Origin."
–-Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Origin asks the questions Where do we come from? Where are we going? They are questions about humanity--but they could just as easily be questions about Robert Langdon. The Mickey Mouse watch-wearing, claustrophobic, always-near-trouble symbology professor is back in Dan Brown’s latest book. And just like he was in his original exploits (Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code), Dr. Langdon is once again wrapped up in a global-scale event that could have massive ramifications on the world’s religions. As he does in all his novels, Brown[‘s] extensive research on art, architecture, and history informs every page."
"Entertaining . . . Loyal fans of his globetrotting symbologist Robert Langdon will no doubt be thrilled with the fifth book in the series."
"Dan Brown is once again taking on the big questions: God and science and the future of the world. Origin is a familiar blend of travelogue, history, conspiracies and whodunit, with asides on everything from the poetry of William Blake to the rise and fall of fascism in Spain."
"The bestselling author of The Da Vinci Code is back with a new book that looks to the future. Origin features many of Brown’s signature themes. An evil, Catholic-adjacent cult, in this case the Palmarian Church, is behind some murders. Gems from art history are the key to solving the mystery. [And] if the reader is in it for the thrill and the twist, the faithful will be glad to hear that there’s a Da Vinci Code-esque background to Robert Langdon’s mission."
--The New Republic