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Dan Brown, read by Paul Michael. Random House Audio, , unabridged, 15 CDs, 18 hrs., $50 ISBN 978-0-7393-1929-1

The fifth outing for Harvard symbology professor Robert Langdon’s combines Brown’s typical mix of sinister religious fanaticism and old-fashioned adventure tropes, but most of the fun this time comes from the author’s creative ideas for futuristic technology. The best of these is Winston, a beyond-the-cutting-edge artificial intelligence created by Edmond Kirsch, a former student of Langdon’s. After Kirsch is murdered, minutes before disclosing a world-shaking discovery about the origin of life, Winston supplies Langdon with background information, advice, and, when needed, life-saving escape tips. Reader Michael gives Winston a wry British voice (more Hugh Grant than Anthony Hopkins) and a charming attitude that easily qualifies him as the novel’s most entertaining character. When circumstances quiet Winston for much too long, the book turns dull. The rather stiff-sounding Langdon and his companion, Ambra Vidal, the “future queen of Spain,” rush breathlessly from Madrid to Bilbao to Barcelona, trying to uncover Kirsch’s secret discovery while simultaneously avoiding a loony religious hit man and the police, who believe they killed Kirsch. But it’s only when Winston returns, with his all-knowing yet likeable voice, that the energy and vitality of the story once again match the plot’s relentless activity. That’s no fault of actor Michael, who admirably keeps up with Brown’s pace throughout. A Doubleday hardcover. (Oct.)