81. Next - Michael Crichton

Tuesday, September 23, 2008
An oranguatan than can swear in two human languages. A chimp named Dave that thinks (correctly) he's almost human. Giant tortoises that glow in the dark with corporate logos. What do these things have in common? They're three of the many interwoven stories in Michael Crichton's most recent scientific/medical thriller, Next.

Once again, Crichton delves deep into the mysterious world of genetics and cloning to take the reader on a rollercoaster ride of action and adventure filled with all the thrills, spills and chills found in his previous offerings (Sphere, Jurassic Park, State of Fear, etc). This time around though it's not Pterodactyls and Velociraptors that he's cloning - it's something a bit closer to home. Genetically altered apes as well as the very building blocks of life, our genes (and the information they contain) are the main cast of characters in this work of fiction. Throw in a bounty hunter with no conscience, a parrot with an attitude, and the billions of dollars that are at stake and you've got yourself a formula for success.

As I mentioned, Next follows the same pattern as most of Crichton's novels and includes a great deal of what will likely appear to be technical mumbo jumbo to the average reader. Unfortunately, unlike even Jurassic Park which dealt with a somewhat similar topic, Next is even heavier on the scientific jargon than any of his novels I've read. Crichton is a doctor by trade and, given the subject matter, it would be difficult to explain the science behind the story without getting quite technical. However, for your average joe, I think this could end up being a distraction and turn off a lot of readers. Additionally, he inserts a number of 'articles' from various journals, newspapers, and television interviews. While they relate to the plot of the story and appear at appropriate times, I found it unnecessary and an unwelcome intrusion into the narrative. He could easily have done away with them without causing the story to suffer at all.

My only other complaint? While I enjoy his work and have read most of his fiction, I find he tends to write for the screen rather than the printed page. Perhaps it's just my own bias since so many of his novels have been turned into movies but it often seems as though he's trying to picture how it would work on film rather than as a book. Unfortunately for Crichton, his movies tend to be pale comparisons to what he ends up writing.

I recommend checking it out if you're a fan of Crichton's previous works and are familiar with his highly technical science-speak.


theduckthief said...

I just found your blog and wish you luck. I have the same goal I hope to eventually complete.

This sounds like an interesting book. What I love about the cover is how Crichton's name completely dominates and the title of the book huddles in that barcode.

D. Debil said...

I read most of Chrichton's work and I find his early work to be more expertly crafted and better narrative than his latter. In particular "Eaters of the Dead" I think is his best book of them all. "Andromeda Strain" is also quite good.

I think that his later work suffers from his success. With nothing to confirm this assumption, I think that his success has made him un-editable. "Timeline" was about 175 pages too long, and "Next" was a mere collection of (in my opinion) half-assed extrapolations from crappy news accounts of partially explained genetic phenomena and hypothesis. It was an enjoyable read (I read it on the way to a conference in Atlanta), but it is hardly good writing or well crafted narrative.

I respect your opinion and the thought you have put into your review, but I hope you take a minute to entertain an opposing insight.

I am,

D. Debil

(PS: the way he numbered his chapters implies that it would ultimately accommodate a three-digit numbering scheme. It seems in keeping with the hubris of the author that he might reach a chapter count in the hundreds.)


D. Debil said...

PPS: Let me strongly recommend "Eaters of the Dead". It is a retelling of Beowulf and has a bery nice historical fiction feel to it. But beware, it is entirely fiction, even the extensive "scholarly" footnotes.


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