|State of Fear
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The "Crichton effect" -- this term has come to signify the distinctive blend of fear, fantasy, and authentic cutting-edge science driving the blockbuster novels of Michael Crichton. Hailed as "the father of the techno-thriller", Crichton boasts an impressive history of global bestsellers -- from The Andromeda Strain to Jurassic Park to Prey -- that explore the frightening possibilities of breakthrough research led astray by abuse and corruption. Drawing on his past as a Harvard Medical School student and his ongoing study of the world of technology, Crichton's gripping fiction is grounded in scientific fact culled from the latest academic journals.
Amazon.com Exclusive Content
A Michael Crichton Timeline
Amazon.com reveals a few facts about the "father of the techno-thriller."
1942: John Michael Crichton is born in Chicago, Illinois on Oct. 23.
1960: Crichton graduates from Roslyn High School on Long Island, New York, with high marks and a reputation as a star basketball player. He decides to attend Harvard University to study English. During his studies, he rankles under his writing professors' criticism. As an act of rebellion, Crichton submits an essay by George Orwell as his own. The professor doesn¡¯t catch the plagiarism and gives Orwell a B-. This experience convinces Crichton to change his field of study to anthropology.
1964: Crichton graduates summa cum laude from Harvard University in anthropology. After studying further as a visiting lecturer at Cambridge University and receiving the Henry Russell Shaw Travelling Fellowship, which allowed him to travel in Europe and North Africa, Crichton begins coursework at the Harvard School of Medicine. To help fund his medical endeavors, he writes spy thrillers under several pen names. One of these works, A Case of Need, wins the 1968 Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Allan Poe Award.
1969: Crichton graduates from Harvard Medical school and is accepted as a post-doctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Science in La Jolla, Calif. However, his career in medicine is waylaid by the publication of the first novel under his own name, The Andromeda Strain. The novel, about an apocalyptic plague, climbs high on bestseller lists and is later made into a popular film. Crichton said of his decision to pursue writing full time: "To quit medicine to become a writer struck most people like quitting the Supreme Court to become a bail bondsman."
1972: Crichton's second novel under his own name The Terminal Man, is published. Also, two of Crichton's previous works under his pen names, Dealing and A Case of Need are made into movies. After watching the filming, Crichton decides to try his hand at directing. He will eventually direct seven films including the 1973 science-fiction hit Westworld, which was the first film ever to use computer-generated effects.
1980: Crichton draws on his anthropology background and fascination with new technology to create Congo, a best-selling novel about a search for industrial diamonds and a new race of gorillas. The novel, patterned after the adventure writings of H. Ryder Haggard, updates the genre with the inclusion of high-tech gadgets that, although may seem quaint 20 years later, serve to set Crichton's work apart and he begins to cement his reputation as "the father of the techno-thriller."
1990: After the 1980s, which saw the publication of the underwater adventure Sphere (1987) and an invitation to become a visiting writer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1988), Crichton begins the new decade with a bang via the publication of his most popular novel, Jurassic Park. The book is a powerful example of Crichton's use of science and technology as the bedrock for his work. Heady discussion of genetic engineering, chaos theory, and paleontology run throughout the tightly-wound thriller that strands a crew of scientists on an island populated by cloned dinosaurs run amok. The novel inspires the 1993 Steven Spielberg film, and together book and film will re-ignite the world¡¯s fascination with dinosaurs.
1995: Crichton resurrects an idea from his medical school days to create the Emmy-Award Winning television series ER. In this year, ER won eight Emmys and Crichton received an award from the Producers Guild of America in the category of outstanding multi-episodic series. Set in an insanely busy an often dangerous Chicago emergency room, the fast-paced drama is defined by Crichton's now trademark use of technical expertise and insider jargon. The year also saw the publication of The Lost World returning readers to the dinosaur-infested island.
2000: In recognition for Crichton's contribution in popularizing paleontology, a dinosaur discovered in southern China is named after him. "Crichton's ankylosaur" is a small, armored plant-eating dinosaur that dates to the early Jurassic Period, about 180 million years ago. "For a person like me, this is much better than an Academy Award," Crichton said of the honor.
2004: Crichton¡¯s newest thriller State of Fear is published.
Amazon.com's Significant Seven
Michael Crichton kindly agreed to take the life quiz we like to give to all our authors: the Amazon.com Significant Seven.
Q: What book has had the most significant impact on your life?
A: Prisoners of Childhood by Alice Miller
Q: You are stranded on a desert island with only one book, one CD, and one DVD--what are they?
A: Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (Witter Bynner version)
Symphony #2 in D Major by Johannes Brahms (Georg Solti)
Ikiru by Akira Kurosawa
Q: What is the worst lie you've ever told?
A: Surely you're joking.
Q: Describe the perfect writing environment.
A: Small room. Shades down. No daylight. No disturbances. Macintosh with a big screen. Plenty of coffee. Quiet.
Q: If you could write your own epitaph, what would it say?
A: I don't want an epitaph. If forced, I would say "Why Are You Here? Go Live Your Life."
Q: Who is the one person living or dead that you would like to have dinner with?
A: Benjamin Franklin
Q: If you could have one superpower what would it be?
- A voice of reason in the madness of modern "environmentalism"
Overall: State of Fear by Michael Crichton is a well executed cautionary tale based in the modern world. The cautionary tale is about allowing fear to rule one's life thanks to modern media's biases and need for fear to get anyone to pay attention them (See The Boy Who Cried Wolf one to many times) and about the "popular wisdom" of how global warming is a fact. A main point of the story is to point out that the world is a constantly changing and evolving extremely complex system; it is folly to assume that mankind can properly and completely understand it especially given the shoddy state of environmental research being done.
The story is a bit far fetched and the characters on the weak side. However, the points being made are valid and well balanced. Crichton leaves it up to the reader to determine their point of view on the questions; the extensive biography is a fantastic addition as a source for information on the research done to date.
Crichton's makes a very interesting point of showing the similarities of the eugenics movement (popular wisdom) of the 20th century and the global warming movement of the 21st century. The point is to be cautious, do solid science, determine proper cause and effect and do not get cowed by "popular wisdom" which is perpetrated by the media and not based on actual facts. It is important to always go back to the first source of information and not derivative sources that are manipulated either on purpose or do to selection bias of the source.
Characters: The characters are not very interesting and fairly 2-dimensional. It does not make sense for the hapless lawyer, Evans, to be dragged through some very perilous events especially after having been nearly killed by the use of a small, highly poisonous octopus (creative and a nice tie in to extremist environmentalists). The women in the story are cliched movie star types -- fabulously beautiful, very athletic, very smart and can do pretty much anything very well. The character's personalities does not get developed which hurts the narrative and tenseness of story.
Plot: The plot is interesting but fairly straight forward as a thriller goes...typical screenplay type plot. The bad guys are quickly revealed which is unfortunate. However, the means of creating the potential environmental disasters are quite imaginative and some interesting technology involved. The facelessness of the villians is part of the reason for the blandness of plot -- does not help build up tension as well as having a nemesis in the story.
Logic / Backstory: This is the clearly the strongest part of the book. There is quite a bit of temperature data in the story and some good logical discussion on global warming / climate change. The issue of not using double blind research is clearly called out and pointed out why it is important. The biography is very well done and extensive. I would have liked to have had a bit more discussion on the effects of land use / urbanization on increasing localized temperatures in a city. Also, it did not mention anything about the increase solar output of the sun which has a much larger effect on the earth's temperature than anything humans could possible do.
The logic is well thought out and given in pieces for the reader to determine what works for them.
Action: The action is typical Crichton style action. There is not much new or different here. The amount of danger that some of the characters get into considering their complete lack of background is silly and annoying; the characters are clearly just along for the ride. It would have been better to just leave those characters out the scenes at the end.
Prose: The quality and style of writing is on par with modern screenplays. It is not great but not bad. The dialog is fairly straight-forward except for a few points going over technical data that is not easily worked into the format of an action novel. I think Crichton's extensive research is clear in the content but it seems to have left him a bit low on the creativity side when it came time to write the book.
Overall: 4 stars
Characters: 2 stars
Plot: 3 stars
Logic/backstory: 5 stars
Action: 3 stars
Prose: 3 stars...more info
- Middle of the road.
Like most of the author's most recent work this book is not exactly good and its not exactly bad it suffers from the same problems that dogged "Prey"
Crappy characters that was so unlikable that you don't care if they live or die
A vast threat that looms on the edge of the narration for the entire book and when it finally arrives your reaction can be summed up in two words "That's it?"
Overall-While parts of the book work fine as a social criticism the central theme being that we don't yet know enough about climate change to make an informed decision this book is not without merit. As a medium designed to tell a story and entertain people this book falls flat. Success has been good for Michael Crichton I wish I could say the same for his readers.
- Enjoyed the book
I'm sure the environmental movement isn't going to like this book since it paints them in a negative light, however I enjoyed it. Sure it's fiction, but it's fiction with a plausible bent. Crichton weaves a story that keeps you interested right to the end. Much of the science is well researched and accurate, including the mining methodology that is the basis for the terrorists attempt to create a tsunami. Like all of Crichton's books, it is well written and engaging. If you're not a wackjob environmentalist, you will like it....more info
- State of Accuracy
Michael Crichton knows how to use brilliant science that is easy to understand. This book gives more than just interesting characters, suspense, and tough situations; it gives you the facts about environmental science. I thought it was great. -Stephen Prins, author of: Strife of the Lorin...more info
- Good theme, bad novel
A few reviewers have commented positively about Michael Crichton's latest bestseller "State of Fear" not only as a source of information about the science (and junk science) of global warming, but also as a novel. On the latter point, I must disagree emphatically.
The novel does have the skeleton of a decent plot, but it is fleshed out so ineptly that at times it is difficult to discern. I have never read a novel more in need of editing. There are so many loose ends left untied at the end that upon finishing the book you feel as though your copy must be missing several pages of denouement. All of the romantic interests go nowhere--although perhaps for a good reason, since the main protagonist is hardly an inspiring, masculine hero.
In fact, nearly all of the characters are among the least interesting that Crichton has ever created. The few of them who are truly heroic are characterized so thinly that they are not really characters at all, but simply vehicles for Crichton to deliver scientific facts, and on occasion perform Bond-like feats of espionage when Crichton apparently remembers that there is a plot that he must resolve somehow.
Entire chapters (and even characters) could (and should) have been cut without adversely affecting the plot, theme, or characterization of the novel. Some chapters consisted of the protagonist dealing with characters (such as the humanitarian's wife) who had absolutely nothing to do with the plot, and who were entirely absent for the rest of the story.
While the theme of "State of Fear" is far superior to much of Crichton's earlier work, its implementation is vastly inferior. *As a novel,* I enjoyed "Jurassic Park" more than "State of Fear" (though I of course disagree with the ideas presented in the former).
My recommendation: don't make the mistake I did and waste your money purchasing "State of Fear." Instead, just go to the library and photocopy its bibliography....more info
- Good information, bad writing.
I haven't read much Crichton, but I thought I'd try this upon a recommendation of a friend. I was a devoted climate change proponent, frequently nagging my friends and family with the issues. But after having read this book, I haven't gone the other way, but I have felt that his explanations, which come through shallowly guised as the words of one of his characters, are convincing enough to at least make me doubt my original convictions. As this book was published 5 years ago (during which time the Bush administration admitted to there being something fishy and scientists (Nasa, et al.) linking climate change to humans), it can't refute current discoveries, but it can make you think twice about the origins and true nature of the beast that is global warming.
On the other hand, Crichton has a threadbare style which can at times make you yawn. He does manage to keep the reader engaged enough, if only out of curiosity, to find out what happens next. The "twists" are easily predictable and Peter Evan's (the protagonist) exchanges with the scientists are at times monotonous. I gather that all of this is part of his established technique.
Bottom line: I recommend this book, but as an exercise in challenging your ideas about global warming, but you won't walk away impressed with Crichton's power over the language. ...more info
- Good Book.
Though the politics of this book are a little wierd and the data is slanted, it is a good story....more info
- Great book
State of Fear is one of the most important work of fiction in the last few years. It is the author's sytle to take an uncommon but often times correct view of current events in the world. This one is one of his masterpieces. Exposing the flaws in todays fear-mongering environmentalits groups as well as calling into question the actual scientific evidence behind manmade Global Warming. The story is interesting and the research he uses is vastly undervalued....more info
- Crichton's last magnum opus
Wonderfully researched book. The story itself is slight, but the whole worth while for the references and the epilogue is MUST reading.
Should be required reading for Al Gore and the alarmist sensationalist media. There IS an alternative explanation for climate change. Carbon footprint might just be a political ploy and diversion.
Read the book with an open mind. The softcover edition is excellent value and will be referred to frequently.
Charles M Steed MD FRCP(C)...more info
- A Fast-Paced and Deep Read
State of Fear can be read on many different levels. In part, it's an edge-of-your-seat thriller with Evans - the main character - as a kind of everyman thrown into the mist of an international crisis.
Crichton slows the action at various points to effectively challenge many common conceptions about global warming and the environment in general. The peninsula of Antarctica is melting but the interior is cooling. Increasing temperatures in cities can be attributed to increased industrialization or urbanization. An upward trend in the number of hurricanes can not be statistically shown. Little is known about forest preservation and efforts at preservation at Yellowstone have had the opposite result.
Crichton goes beyond the issue of the environment to address two key issues. One is the media and establishment manipulation of the public through the creation of an ongoing crisis (or state of fear) of one kind or the other. Crichton also confronts the enduring myth of the noble savage - the idea that man removed from industrialized society is in a natural state of innocence from which goodwill and generosity will flow. Quite the contrary, our natural state is one of depravity and lawlessness, as Crichton shows. What Crichton does not suggest is that the ultimate remedy for our depraved state is spiritual (not technological) transformation. Or to paraphrase Pascal: our corrupt nature can only be redeemed in Christ.
Overall, State of Fear is both a fast-paced read and a deep and challenging look at issues of enduring significance. It encourages the reader to want to learn and read more about the issues discussed in the book.
- Very Enjoyable...
After just finishing "State of Fear," I found the book to be very enjoyable. Michael Crichton, as always, does a phenomenal job of educating the reader about current issues, while using real-life data to support his view.
In this book, it's largely about global warming and its affect on various environmental issues. Particularly, it's about an organization known as NERF that's sole goal is to help the environment. As is typical with organizations like this, the bureaucracy causes the organization to require significant funds to make a difference. Thus, requiring, as in the book, wealthy individuals to make contributions.
Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It's very fast paced, and a hard book to put down. Hard to imagine I read a 600 page book as quickly as I did. Michael Crichton does a good job building characters and leading the reader through the complicated, well researched road.
While some may be disappointed in the overall topic of the book, maybe look at it merely as a science fiction book. No doubt that's not how he meant it to be, but by taking the book as it is (a work of fiction) I'm sure you'll find the book to be highly enjoyable. I certainly did. ...more info
- TRUTH IN FICTION
ALTHOUGH THIS IS FICTION, THE CHARTS AND GRAPHS FROM THE U.S GOVERNMENT ARE REAL AND EXPOSE THE TRUTH ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING....more info
- Important work!
Important work! Whether Michael is ultimately proven right or wrong is not the important thing here.
The important thing is to remind ourself that: lest we lose sight, science is knowledge acquired from empirical and repeatable observation. Due to the complexity of climate as a phenomenon, climate science as we currently know it is not "science" per se.
That doesn't mean climate science is not important. I am all for going green even if there is no immediate need to go green.
But we should understand that in pseudo sciences like climatology, the possibility of a whole field being hijacked by politically motivated paradigms are even greater than more traditional sciences....more info
- Top notch mix of fact and fiction
Crichton did his homework for this book, as usual. Of course he used fiction to dramatize his story and to bring excitement to the novel. But he also exposed the environmentalist movement for what it is: propaganda, not science. The characters are compelling and interesting and his story is as believable and fun as those of Jurassic Park, the Andromeda Strain, and his other popular works. If you're looking for another fine read that provides a believable blend of greed and power lust straight from today's headlines, look no further. Get this book. Only be prepared to be surprised. Unlike Crichton's previous books, the bad guys in this novel aren't businessmen. In fact, they're the ones who pose as saviors of "Mother Earth."...more info
- A very exciting novel
This book is a very good novel in which Michael Crichton does make you think about global warming...even thougth is a novel I found very interesting that it contained footnotes that are proved data refering to global warmig. Amaizing novel!...more info
started out pretty good,had great potential if not for that environmental teacher on every page.what i am saying, more story ,less envirofact , woiuld have made a bad book alot better....more info
- Good one
There are a lot of strong opinions on the book and for good reason. The book covers some controversial issues: I.E. validity in the globaly warming theory. I thought that the story was excellently paced and exciting while scattered with carefully selected pieces of information regarding global warming.
Regardless of your stance on the -theory- of global warming it should be emphasized that people are profitting, GREATLY, from the concept. Even if you are a die hard advocate of the theory I'd recommend the book because it does lead one to wonder about the organizations with which they choose to associate....more info