Sunday, July 08, 2012

Next by Michael Crichton

Continuing the Crichton reading I finished another book Next from later in his career. In this story Crichton explores the topic of genetic engineering and the ability of modern science to modify species, cure diseases, adjust human behavior,  using gene therapy. He also discusses related topics such as patenting of genes, and the ownership of the genes in our own bodies.

If there's ever a discussion of the worst Crichton title then Next should always be considered. This book is terrible. It seemed to have no discernible plot at all. Just a long sequence of unconnected genetic related events by unconnected people all over the world. He does make a halfhearted attempt to pull the storylines together in a sloppy and not believable confrontation at the very end of the book. But it was too little too late.

The characters are awful. It seems everyone is evil, hateful, greedy, selfish. He does make a good point about contemporary science though. Maybe in some romantic past like the heyday of Einstein there was some notion of the noble scientist serving only the advancement of human knowledge. Alas today there are literally millions in America and worldwide who make a living as "professional scientists". In such a large population the scientist is no longer a separate or special entity in society. Today they are just regular folks with the same shortcomings of regular folks, lying, cheating, stealing, underhanded dealing, deception, money chasing, litigious, concealing unfavorable findings, etc.

Ah the cheating. Going back to Disclosure and Prey Crichton has used marriage infidelity through his novels, usually as a key part of the plot. However in Next Crichton has turned it into the Getty museum. It seems pretty much everyone cheats. Worse the cheating seems to have just been thrown in for fun, unrelated to what little plot there was. For example one character Gail gets into a fight with her husband when their overly smart parrot discloses the husband has been bringing some slut back to their house. Gail storms out and then goes off to sleep with some colleague visiting researcher from Tokyo who she had cheated with before. Of course Crichton adds that Tokyo was also cheating as he has a wife and child back in Japan. And so on it goes throughout this painful book.

It was hard to finish and I nearly put it down. I did get through it for the laughs as I suspect Crichton may have released this book as a joke. It did make it finishable, reading it as an unserious work.

Like Stephen King, nobody claims that the later Crichton stuff is close to as good as the stuff from the early years. It is what it is. I get the feeling from the later titles that Crichton should have just retired from writing and spent more time enjoying his immense wealth in his final few years. Another step closer to done the Crichton project now.

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