Novel Will Be Popular With Crichton's Fans
By Michael Crichton
Harper Collins, 2006, $27.95
Starting way back with "The Andromeda Strain," author Michael Crichton has taken his readers on journeys through many aspects of science and technology that are unknown to most Americans. Trained as a doctor of medicine before he turned to writing, Crichton's grasp of the deep technical and his ability to turn it into interesting, if fictional, stories is what makes Crichton, well different. And like many popular authors, if you are a fan, you will read a number of his books.
Usually the story lines are fairly straightforward, carried out though several seemingly unrelated threads until the end, when it all comes together in a neat finish. They make for good page-turners, and one learns a lot in the process. His recent books, "Prey," and "State of Fear" are good examples, and good reads.
Just behind the title page of "Next," the latest Crichton creation, is the statement: "This novel is fiction, except for the parts that aren't." The same could be said for all of his books. But "Next" is a story wrapped around the science of genetic engineering gone amok. And what is most worrisome in reading it is what part isn't fiction. If half of what he says is based on fact is true, we should be very much concerned about the future of the world we live in.
The problem with describing "Next" is that there are more story threads than in most of his books. So many sub-plots, in fact, the story gets hard to follow. There are some pretty strange creatures, too. Not like the dinosaurs of "Jurassic Park" brought back to life. "Next" brings us talking orangutans, a parrot with the IQ of a Duke law professor, and a "monkey boy" who's adopted by his genetic father's family after he finds out he accidentally has a "son" as the result of a lab experiment years ago. There are so many characters introduced you almost need a key to keep them straight.
Tension is created throughout by the desire of giant research firms, including many major universities, to control the potential monetary gains that will come from the breakthroughs in genetics. They will go to almost any lengths for the billions at the end of this promise.
If this book is to be believed, mankind is much farther along on this path of genetic manipulation than most people realize. Breakthroughs will continue to beget other breakthroughs, and some day soon your future neighbor may not be what you think. Well, you get the picture.
If you like Michael Crichton's work, you'll probably like this book. If you aren't familiar with him, you might want to get a different title, such as one mentioned earlier. This book, while entertaining and interesting, isn't the best Crichton work to cut your teeth on.
Pat Taylor may be reached at email@example.com.
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