Twenty two chapters.
What does that mean for us this morning? That’s the number of chapters it took for the action to get started in Dan Brown’s latest novel, ORIGIN. Heck, I’m not even sure that’s the exact answer—it might have been twenty three or twenty one, but I just don’t care enough to toggle back in my Audible file to find the answer because it’s beside the point.
What happened for all that time up until Chapter Twenty Two? Talking. Lots and lots of talking. And even after the action gets started, there is more talking. Lots of talking. Mini lectures, actually. It’s almost like a Michael Crichton novel. I have a distinct memory of reading RISING SUN and, every now and then, I’d turn the page and there’s be wall-to-wall text and I knew I was in for a mini lecture. Heck, Crichton even had footnotes. At least Brown mostly put his lectures—but not all—in the form of dialogue.
I never disliked Dan Brown. I was one of those millions of readers who jumped on the THE DA VINCI CODE bandwagon. That was a thrilling book. Think about it. In that book, chapter one showed a murder and introduced the bad guy, chapter two introduced hero Robert Langdon, and we were off and running. I even diagrammed the first 100 pages of DA VINCI CODE to see how Brown made it work. It was an “aha” moment.
From there, I happily jumped back to ANGELS AND DEMONS and enjoyed it. In some ways, it was better than DA VINCI CODE. I read THE LOST SYMBOL (AKA, “Da Vinci Code in America”), but something must have happened because I completely bypassed INFERNO. For whatever reason, I felt the tug of ORIGIN and, with a new, long commute, I thought “why not?” With the audiobook clocking in at eighteen hours, it would certainly get me through a week or two.
I lasted for about twelve hours before I bumped up the speaking speed to 1.25. At least then I’d be able to get through the novel in a shorter amount of time. I’m not even done (about three hours until the end) and I’m more or less still listening because I at least want to know the big reveal at the end.
But come on! If the book is supposed to be a thrill ride of a story, put some thrills in it. And speed up the pace. I’m not advocating Brown write a pulp fiction novel. He’s got something to say and has clearly done a lot of research—most likely, it all found its way into the text. But at least Crichton put lots of chases and escapes in his stories. They were exciting to read. Heck, DA VINCI CODE was an exciting and thrilling read. ORIGIN is simply dull.
Maybe the ending will be worth it. We’ll find out.
Coincidentally, in my science fiction book club, Frank Miller’s Dark Knight III: Master Race was selected. This is yet another sequel to his seminal 1986 work, The Dark Knight Returns, a fantastic graphic novel. I intentionally bypassed DKIII because I so loathed The Dark Knight Strikes Again (or whatever the second book was called). With that book, I got the distinct impression the good folks at DC Comics didn’t care what Miller produced as long as he gave them something they could sell. One might argue he didn’t really have an editor, because if he did, some of the stuff he threw in would have been chopped.
Same with Dan Brown, at least with ORIGIN. There’s a story here, but it is one that should have been tightened up, trimmed down, and streamlined. Maybe he’s of a particular stature now that he can pretty much write whatever he wants and it’ll get published. Maybe not, but if you’re an author who writes a chase book, please start the action way before chapter twenty two.
I finished the book on Sunday. I'm not one to write a full review of a book I didn't like and I'm not gonna start now. But of the four Dan Brown books I've read, this is fourth on the list. I suppose there was a reason I skipped INFERNO. Now I know.