Next by Michael Crichton

Let's start out by my saying that I don't think Crichton's written a real novel in quite some time and this book, Next, is not an exception to that. However I did enjoy reading it and I would recommend it for people with an interest in or fear of genetic / science research.

Let me justify my remarks a bit. I think Crichton is a very good writer when he bothers. However he's only got so much time and his creative energy is split in many directions which results in books that are multipurpose. Lost World and Prey were little more than movie scripts spun into books. State of Fear was a polemic on global warming much in the style of Da Vinci Code. Crichton's current book, Next, is a different type of non-novel. This book is like a few Powerpoint slides filled with bulleted points but fleshed out in a fictional fashion. The result is what seems at times to be almost random jumps between thinly described characters--characters which serve mainly to illustrate the potential dangers of genetic engineering technology.

And Crichton goes out of his way to imply that all the events in the book could be happening today. Right now. I work in this area and a number of the events in the book just don't seem possible with our current technology. Still, it's probably all possible and that is scary. Regulation of cutting edge science isn't easy since politicians deal with ethical issues far too slowly and reactively for them to even hope to provide oversight to scientists. It's not a problem with an easy solution.

While this sounds rather negative, the book does raise some very interesting questions. I think Crichton exagerates wildly in Next, just as he did in State of Fear, but people that worry about the negative impact of science on the world will find this book quite illuminating. In either case, if you're interested in science you'll probably find the content of the book interesting reading. There's simians and birds in Next that can talk as well as cutthroat businessmen and academics who are in research more for the money than the advancement of science. It's a very diverse crew and while it takes a while to see how some of them relate to one another, eventually Crichton ties most of the plot threads together.

Will there eventually be a movie? You can bank on it.


Michelle said…
Have studied in depth genetics with relation to criminals, i may just run out and buy this one :o)
Carmi said…
Like Tom Clancy, Crichton is in that class of writers who can simply write whatever they wish, and it will easily find an undemanding audience.

Depressing for those of us struggling to break in. But also inspirational for the day we actually do make it.
used*to*be*me* said…
You know, TimeLine was one of my all time favorite books. I don't know precicely why. But I saw tht Crichton wrote Next and I just haven't been in the right mood to buy it just yet. Did you read Time Line? How do they compare?
Anonymous said…
It sounds interesting. I quite like the fact that it fantastical in a way though I really am not sure about the 'it could be true' side of things either. I have had enough of my entertainment preying on the fear factor for now!

I also know what you mean about lazy writing. It can irk when a talented writer is obviously not doing their best as you expect so much more from them and are ultimately left disappointed. Methinks the business side of the writer knows just how much adn what he needs to do for it to be successful and that is what he does.
utenzi said…
I liked Timeline also, beK. It was a more complete book though the writing was a bit ragged. I liked it more for the plotline than the style.

Carmi, I like Clancy though I realize he's never going to get a prize for the style of his writing. Another good example is John Grisham. I like most of his books also but there's no style there at all. Just a very plain delivery. And he sells like crazy.

Bob-kat, the example I think of in that regard is Patricia Cornwell. Her first two or three books were quite well written but most of the 15 or 20 since then have sucked. She can write--but she doesn't bother.
Anonymous said…
Timeline was my favorite Crichton book. i think i have read it 6 times.

michele sent me this morning.
tiff said…
does it not irritate you when wild-ass claims regarding the powers of science are made? it seems like everyone thinks that all scientists are doing is charging toward the day when they can work their evil plots on the innocents of mankind.

guess I had it wrong when I spent all those years trying to cure cancer and asthma.
Carmi said…
Oh, to be in the rare class of writers whose every work is a guaranteed best seller and movie. Perchance to dream...

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