Book Review: State of Fear by Michael Crichton
“In the darkness, he touched her arm and said, 'Stay here.'”
“The twisting jungle road lay in shadow beneath the canopy of the Malay rain forest.”
“Richard Mallory looked up from his desk and said, ‘Yes?’”
“Nat Damon signed the paper with a flourish.”
“The flight attendant poured Morton’s vodka into a cut-glass tumbler.”
Michael Crichton seemed to have a knack for opening lines that hooked the readers and pulled them into the following paragraphs and deeper into the story. The above lines are from the first five chapters of State of Fear which begins simultaneously in four settings. Action in Paris, Vancouver, Tokyo, and the jungles of Malaysia will of course be connected eventually, but their relationship is not obviously apparent in the beginning. This is not a unique device for writers, but one of which Crichton makes excellent use here.
The first time I read this “techno-thriller,” I quickly realized that it was not necessarily about global warming. It’s about a more universal danger that is probably even more significant and long reaching — the unhealthy mix of science and politics. Crichton referred to it as “pseudo-science and poisonous politics” and cited several examples including eugenics. Global warming was a convenient, trending topic that seems to be a “flash-point” topic of discussion.
Choosing controversial topics with international interest has long been a hallmark of Crichton’s work (and no doubt a good strategy for marketing). Germ warfare (The Andromeda Strain), genetics (Jurassic Park), computer technology (Rising Sun), and sexual harassment (Disclosure) have all been examined by Dr. Crichton. A typical method of Crichton’s was to look at an issue from an uncommon point of view as he did in Disclosure. His victim of sexual harassment was the man who had a woman supervisor and the expected roles were reversed.
The reader’s eyes and ears in State of Fear are found in Peter Evans, youngest of several attorneys representing George Morton, a millionaire philanthropist with an intense interest in all things environmental. Morton was interested in a small island that was about to file suite against the United States over global warming. Should he assist them?Continued on the next page