For all of the ridiculousness of Brown’s plots and my frustration with some of his writing style, I absolutely keep coming back to his books because when you remove everything I dislike, the rest is a personal guided tour of some amazing information about art, culture, and history.
That being said, this is not his most ridiculous book, but he does keep using the same terrible habit of point-of-view abuse — where the character whose head we are “in” sees or discovers something shocking, but does not share it with the reader in order to drag them along through the story. I’m not sure if it was used more in this novel than in previous books, but it sure felt like it.
Most authors who do a ton of research for their writing end up spending too much time going “all my research — let me show you it.” In that regard, Brown has a deft hand with what details he includes. But there is so much text here that some other elements of exposition end up getting repeated unnecessarily, which was a bit frustrating.
My husband is obsessed with Elon Musk, so I was easily able to identify the similarities between this novel’s Edmond Kirsch and my husband’s idol. I especially enjoyed the irony of the “Musk” character developing a capable AI (artificial intelligence) when the real Musk has loudly declared the dangers of AI. Winston, however, comes off as a helpful character with a unique voice. Definitely more like Iron Man’s JARVIS than 2001’s HAL.
There were two discoveries to make in this exciting adventure. The first was a race to finish presenting a scientist’s epic theory that claimed to shake the world’s religious foundations. As an agnostic reader, I found the titular theory of our origin to be interesting but without much emotional impact. As a futurist and a bit of a techie myself, the accompanying prediction of where the human race is going was a bit of “duh” moment. I’m sure that the reactions from Brown’s expansive audience will vary.
The second discovery was a murder mystery that led to a startling and much more satisfying ending, as the Elon Musk allegory goes full circle.