If you ever thought being a translator means a dull, uninspiring job for an office drudge or a nerd, this is a book to put everything in the right perspective. It is precisely due to his job in a stagnating language services market, threatened by the ever-tightening grip of the globalization, that Andy Dennison, a linguist and translator, gets the chance of his life to enroll in a great adventure and eventually save the mankind. Origin, a technothriller by J.A. Konrath, is a story of cosmic dimension which leaves nothing short of extraordinary. Andy Dennison is summoned by none other than the President of the United States to an underground facility somewhere in Nevada. Considerations of national interest require that the alien creature found by workers who built the Panama canal in 1906 be finally taken care of and attended to by a language genius. (After so many years, the giant creature woke up and started talking in a language nobody understands.) Never mind the creature can do perfectly well without support of a language professional as it manages to learn English within a couple of days and devour masses of knowledge available on the Internet no less slowly. Afterward, things begin to amp up. The infernal creature, a demon or Lucifer himself, grows nastier and nastier until it becomes a threat for the inmates of the compound (a catholic priest, a rabbi, a high-ranking military commander, a bunch of weird scientists and other apostate figures) and then proceeds to destroy the human civilization.
Actually, “Bob” (the creature) is called “Bub” (short for Beelzebub), but, since I had the book in an audio version and my German-Russian ear cannot apparently register any difference between “ob” and “ub” in the American English pronunciation (remember the story of the American ROBBER barons changed in the German translation of a TV documentary to “Gummi Barone” – RUBBER barons), I’d prefer to call it Bob. (Apart from the fact, that “Translating for BUB” as a blog post title doesn’t sound so good and might suggest one more translator complaining about his bad experience when working with another bad translation agency with another acronym name.)
Well, things start to go terribly wrong in a screenplay fashion. The Alien meets the Jurassic Park meets the Exorcist meets the Independence Day, as humans and demons pool together to escape the nuclear Apocalypse. I start to wonder who is going to star as Andy Dennison, our language professional, when Hollywood produces a mainstream blockbuster about this major government conspiracy and a sequel hereto – in fact, Origin ends (I managed to listen to the end!) predictably enough to provide room for Origin II, in line with one of the book’s key words resurrection.
As the plot evolves, you might find it entertaining to partake of the theological discussion, ancient Mayan mythology or learn some pseudo-facts about genetic programming, for a change. No wonder the book is a technothriller and is called Origin.
Unfortunately, you won’t learn much about our profession, notwithstanding the main protagonist being a highly skilled language interpreter.
The book certainly doesn’t belong to what we usually (confess to) read or listen to, but, on the other hand, I know quite a few colleague translators who are fans of Dan Brown or The Twilight Saga and what not.
So, if you fancy some easy reading or listening, and remember – it is a book about a translator – Origin might turn out to be quite entertaining and amusing for you.
In such a case, enjoy and God bless you!