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Books

Dan Brown's new novel 'Origin' pits artificial intelligence against religion

The American author, whose stories swirl with conspiracy theories, symbolism and secrets, has published his latest novel. In "Origin," Brown's protagonist Robert Langdon once again embarks on a perilous adventure.

Harvard symbology professor Robert Langdon barely survived his previous adventures. An unfolding series of events always led him into suspenseful, hair-raising situations.

He has survived a fall from a helicopter, an antimatter explosion and countless other potential death traps. He has had to confront free masons, Templar knights, and secret brotherhoods, and has crisscrossed Europe on his hunt to solve mysteries. He has cracked hidden codes in famous Renaissance paintings and even temporarily lost his memory. Langdon's faced all this, just because of his expertise in ancient symbolism and iconography.

Now Robert Langdon faces the future in Dan Brown's new novel, "Origin," the latest book to feature the scholarly, tweed-sporting professor as its main protagonist.

The unanswered questions of human life

Langdon's former student and hyper-intelligent billionaire, Edmond Kirsch, impressively presents a vision of the future when he invites his friend and once-professor, along with other guests, to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Kirsch, a convinced atheist, wants to demonstrate that no god is needed for creation. He also seeks to prove that god's help is not necessary to answer the remaining questions about humanity, namely, where we come from and where we go after death.

World religions are alarmed. And (Spoiler alert!) Kirsch does not survive his lecture. But he leaves behind a digital adviser in the form of "Winston," an artificial intelligence (AI) device that fits in one's ear. Langdon has this AI tool at his side, as well as the requisite beautiful woman — in this case the head of the Guggenheim Museum, Ambra Vidal.

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (picture-alliance/dpa)

"Origin" kicks off at the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao in Spain's Basque country

Adventure amid famous Spanish architecture

Langdon now has to discover Edmond Kirsch's secret by, once again, cracking a code. But this time it's a computer code. Despite this technological twist, the code's clues and building blocks are hidden in the works of the old artistic masters, just as in past adventures.

The former royal residence and monastery of El Escorial (picture alliance/Prisma Archivo)

El Escorial, built by Spanish King Phillip II, is another location for the twisting plot of "Origin"

Langdon's search for the answer to the question of human origin takes him and Vidal to Spain's architectural treasures. Along with the Guggenheim Museum, Barcelona's Sagrada Familia cathedral and the residential Casa Mila, both designed by Antoni Gaudi, as well as Madrid's Royal Palace and the former royal residence of El Escorial provide the setting for the story.

Just like Brown's other novels, such as "The Da Vinci Code" (2003) and "Inferno" (2013), "Origin" is perfect film material, even if solely due to its settings. A film production of the new novel could certainly be worth it. The previous three Robert Langdon Hollywood films featuring Tom Hanks in the title role were all box-office hits.

Read more: On location with the Dan Brown movie 'Inferno'

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