Brown is a lousy storyteller and a very good communicator, never passing up an opportunity to share a fascinating historical or artistic factoid with the reader at the expense of building up tension, taking pains to frame complex ethical and scientific debates in a way that the layman will understand.

One reason why this book is more interesting than some of his more recent efforts is that there is less action, fewer puzzles and cryptograms, than usual: he concentrates more on intellectual ideas, which are what really excites him. One day he will write a book which consists entirely of Langdon and a friend conducting a Socratic dialogue while sitting quietly, and it will be his best. 

Origin (544pp) is published by Transworld at £20