Archive for January, 2008

Up next: The Temple in Salt Lake City!

Yep, it’s true: I paid a visit to the Mormons while I was in Salt Lake. I went to Temple Square and saw many things. When I get back from my appointment this afternoon, I shall regale you all with my tales.


My last Michael Crichton

On impulse at the airport, I bought a paperback copy of Michael Crichton’s Next. It’s a year old or so, but I’d heard it was a good exploration of the issues around bioengineering, a moral issue if there ever was one.

I used to love his books, but he’s clearly slipped. The last one I read was Airframe, which came out in 1996 (at least, the paperback did; the hardcover may have come out even earlier). That was a great read, a well-plotted story, and an informative bit of entertainment. He clearly had an opinion, but it was similar to Rising Sun, in which he made an effort to present both sides of the issue as well.

It’s not that he didn’t in Next, it’s just that this book feels more like a score settled than an opinion explored in fiction. The characters are cardboard, distinguishable only by their names, and the way the story breaks down is that about ten doomsday scenarios about bioengineering are presented by characters who nobody would like. It’s not so much a story, the way his earlier books were, as it is a rant about something that annoys him presented as fiction.

I haven’t read his State of Fear, which apparently is about how global warming isn’t real. But I heard about it because I heard of a score he apparently settled in that book with a political columnist who reviewed that book – and Chrichton himself – poorly. In Next, he makes up a child-rape case where the perpetrator has nearly the same name, the exact same educational background, and the exact same profession as the political columnist in real life. The article is here if you want to know more about it, but the specificity is disgusting and creepy.

Anyway, bioengineering and biotechnology raise serious moral issues that are worth serious discussion. Based on this book, I think Mr. Crichton has lost the flexibility to even consider an opinion other than his own. It’s too bad, because he used to have it, and it made his work stronger. Oh, well.