Wednesday, March 29, 2006

State of Fear (by Michael Crichton)

I've read most of Crichton's books to date, I think. I love both The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park. And I decidedly do not love The Lost World. I think it's gimmicky and a sell-out, and I couldn't get past the first few chapters (although a lot of people I know liked this one). I also really like Rising Sun and Disclosure. I mean, he's got some problems (he writes bad endings, for one) but I've always enjoyed his books.

State of Fear is about global warming, and how it's not a real threat to the world; the action plot is about stopping eco-terrorism by environmentalists. Which would be fine and interesting, except that Crichton obviously has an agenda. He's got the usual Ian Malcolm-esque genius science character, John Kenner, only in this book he's dialed all the way up. Kenner pontificates left and right about global warming as if he's in an Ayn Rand novel. This is fine at the beginning of the book, but towards the end, it slows down the action. Plus, Crichton has footnoted the book all over the place with references to scientific journals. Since when does he need to use footnotes in a novel? It's not an academic paper.

The other problem is that everyone who cares about the environment in this novel is portrayed as idiotic, self-righteous, and selfish. All the better to discredit their environmentalist beliefs, I guess! It's just very weird. I don't know Crichton's political persuasion, nor do I really care. But I wish the focus here had been more on the novel and less on the giant lecture about global warming that the novel is an excuse for.

Other than that, it's your typical page-turning formula fiction. One character survives so many murder attempts that it's really ridiculous by the end, but it's still exciting to ride it out, and it kept me reading in spite of the boring bits. But this isn't a novel that I'm inclined to hang onto or re-read. You probably figured that out already.


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