Jenny Colgan

More secrets and symbols

Brisk, fun and endearingly grandiose, Origin tackles the fundamental questions of human existence

Being reflexively snotty about Dan Brown’s writing is like slagging off Donald Trump’s spelling: it just entrenches everyone’s position. In a world where a quarter of people read literally no books in any given year, can we give each other a break on this kind of thing? If you found Angels and Demons good fun, thoroughly enjoyed The Da Vinci Code (as I unironically did), but despised Inferno for the worthless piece of rat doodah that it was, then the good news is that Brown is back on form here.

Origin is brisk, fun and filled with adorably pointless Wikipedia paragraphs; and what’s at stake is endearingly grandiose. Here, the premise is atheism vs religion. A young tech genius proffers proof that there is no God, and is then gunned down before he gets a chance to explain it. It’s a scene so Hitchhiker-ian to British readers, you’re constantly expecting Slartibartfast to pop up and warn you not to buy anything.

Then it’s up to Robert Langdon, every- one’s favourite lap-swimming eidetic claustrophobe, and a Spanish princess to discover the answer to the book’s central question: ‘Where did we come from and where are we going?’ (The answer to the second question, by the way, even for someone like me who never ever reads blurbs and does their best not to guess ahead, is painfully obvious painfully early.)

Langdon is Harvard professor of symbology. I remain mildly obsessed with what Harvard’s undergrad course in symbology must be like. Can it take four entire years? What’s the viva like? Are finals just the Highway Code test? I mean, if the Harvard professor of codes, in Bilbao, can’t work out a code that starts BIO followed by a flight number, it’s got to be the easiest way to get through one of the world’s best universities..

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