The Virtual Bookcase Reviews of 'State Of Fear':
Reviewer Koos van den Hout wrote:
Another Crichton adventure / thriller book. He takes on global warming as subject, has studied it thoroughly (coming up with the conclusion 'inconclusive') and written a thriller focussing on the big stakes on both sides of the global warming debate. Eventhough he has 'done his homework', I suspect a real climatology scientist can shoot holes in his story. The style of the book is the usual Crichton style: an intense week in which a lot happens, and multiple storylines start unrelated but sort-of come together in the end. Some story lines that start of looking like major adventures of their own end as 'support act' for the main storyline. The title 'state of fear' refers to the need of 'the population' to have a common enemy, a concept that should have been worked out better in the book (in my opinion).
Greenpeace and other organizations aren't going to like this book much for their message about global warming and climate change is weakened.
Maybe 'global warming' is a too political or too big subject to use in an adventure thriller, I feel like this subject and the repeated discussion of it in the book distracted from the actual storyline.
Reviewer Rob Slade wrote:
Crichton is getting really sloppy in his old age. First there's the
plot. Silly, and seemingly pointless, it's just one darned thing
after another. Then there are the characters, who aren't very
sympathetic, and only develop as required by the (well-telegraphed)
story line. (I got the "surprise twist" about 400 pages before it
happened.) And I doubt, even in these post-9/11 days, whether just
showing a card with a fancy national security name is going to cut any
ice with the police. Although the bad guy plot is foiled, there
really isn't any resolution to the events.
The dialogue is either stilted, or long "is to/is not" sessions. The
characters seem to be quite dense, and the discussions serve only to
advance Crichton's hypothesis that most people don't know what they
are talking about, with respect to global warming, even when footnoted
The technology isn't getting much better. Theoretically some of these
things should function, but I wouldn't bet on any of them working the
first time anybody, let alone a shadowy terrorist group (which never
does get identified). If I was trying to create a lightning
attractor, I might try something long and pointy, or a capacitor
capable of holding a really humongous static charge, but a doctored
cell phone just doesn't seem to fit the bill. (Oh, and if you *do*
want to kill someone with a lightning strike, Vancouver is not the
place to try it. We get a lot of rain, but lightning is a rarity.)
Most of the book, as previously noted, is involved with global warming
and shady plots by eco-terrorists. (The phantom plots appear to be
publicity stunts in which it is assumed that thousands of people will
die in the name of fund-raising.) However, the central theme of the
book, as evidenced by the title, doesn't appear until the story in 75%
finished, and then gets a mere ten pages of outline. This is really
too bad, because the "State of Fear" concept; that mankind requires a
sort of fixed level of fear, and that when a real enemy disappears one
must be made up to fill the gap; is fascinating [footnote 2]! It
would explain a lot about current politics, and the willingness to
create a bogeyman out of the most tenuous evidence. Certainly those
of us in the security world (and particularly Schneier's "Beyond Fear"
[footnote 3]) recognize the phenomenon.
Crichton hasn't completely lost his touch. There is some suspense,
and a fair amount that would be of interest. It's a decent thriller,
but not a good one, anymore.
[footnote 1 - The "is to/is not" dialogue seems to be intended simply
as a structure to provide a place to put the footnotes.
Interestingly, Crichton seems to be quite willing to "cherry pick"
passages out of reports in the same way he has his non-preferred
characters do. (I recall a book that set out to prove that Karl Marx
was a Satanist, using Marx' own writings. In the book it was
credible. When the passages were read in context, it was nonsense.)
Even more intriguingly, some of the footnotes cited do not, in fact,
support the contentions of the preferred (it would be hard to call
them heroic) characters.]
[footnote 2 - Unfortunately, there are no footnotes to support the
"State of Fear" idea, particularly the more specific parts of it.]
[footnote 3 - cf. BKBYNDFR.RVW]
Reviewer amazon.com wrote:
Amazon.com Exclusive Content A Michael Crichton Timeline Amazon.com reveals a few facts about the "father of the techno-thriller." 1942: John Michael Crichton is born in Chicago, Illinois on Oct. 23. 1960: Crichton graduates from Roslyn High School on Long Island, New York, with high marks and a reputation as a star basketball player. He decides to attend Harvard University to study English. During his studies, he rankles under his writing professors' criticism. As an act of rebellion, Crichton submits an essay by George Orwell as his own. The professor doesn’t catch the plagiarism and gives Orwell a B-. This experience convinces Crichton to change his field of study to anthropology. 1964: Crichton graduates summa cum laude from Harvard University in anthropology. After studying further as a visiting lecturer at Cambridge University and receiving the Henry Russell Shaw Travelling Fellowship, which allowed him to travel in Europe and North Africa, Crichton begins coursework at the Harvard School of Medicine. To help fund his medical endeavors, he writes spy thrillers under several pen names. One of these works, A Case of Need, wins the 1968 Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Allan Poe Award. 1969: Crichton graduates from Harvard Medical school and is accepted as a post-doctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Science in La Jolla, Calif. However, his career in medicine is waylaid by the publication of the first novel under his own name, The Andromeda Strain. The novel, about an apocalyptic plague, climbs high on bestseller lists and is later made into a popular film. Crichton said of his decision to pursue writing full time: "To quit medicine to become a writer struck most people like quitting the Supreme Court to become a bail bondsman." 1972: Crichton's second novel under his own name The Terminal Man, is published. Also, two of Crichton's previous works under his pen names, Dealing and A Case of Need are made into movies. After watching the filming, Crichton decides to try his hand at directing. He will eventually direct seven films including the 1973 science-fiction hit Westworld, which was the first film ever to use computer-generated effects. 1980: Crichton draws on his anthropology background and fascination with new technology to create Congo, a best-selling novel about a search for industrial diamonds and a new race of gorillas. The novel, patterned after the adventure writings of H. Ryder Haggard, updates the genre with the inclusion of high-tech gadgets that, although may seem quaint 20 years later, serve to set Crichton's work apart and he begins to cement his reputation as "the father of the techno-thriller." 1990: After the 1980s, which saw the publication of the underwater adventure Sphere (1987) and an invitation to become a visiting writer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1988), Crichton begins the new decade with a bang via the publication of his most popular novel, Jurassic Park. The book is a powerful example of Crichton's use of science and technology as the bedrock for his work. Heady discussion of genetic engineering, chaos theory, and paleontology run throughout the tightly-wound thriller that strands a crew of scientists on an island populated by cloned dinosaurs run amok. The novel inspires the 1993 Steven Spielberg film, and together book and film will re-ignite the world’s fascination with dinosaurs. 1995: Crichton resurrects an idea from his medical school days to create the Emmy-Award Winning television series ER. In this year, ER won eight Emmys and Crichton received an award from the Producers Guild of America in the category of outstanding multi-episodic series. Set in an insanely busy an often dangerous Chicago emergency room, the fast-paced drama is defined by Crichton's now trademark use of technical expertise and insider jargon. The year also saw the publication of The Lost World returning readers to the dinosaur-infested island. 2000: In recognition for Crichton's contribution in popularizing paleontology, a dinosaur discovered in southern China is named after him. "Crichton's ankylosaur" is a small, armored plant-eating dinosaur that dates to the early Jurassic Period, about 180 million years ago. "For a person like me, this is much better than an Academy Award," Crichton said of the honor. 2004: Crichton’s newest thriller State of Fear is published. Amazon.com's Significant Seven Michael Crichton kindly agreed to take the life quiz we like to give to all our authors: the Amazon.com Significant Seven. Q: What book has had the most significant impact on your life? A: Prisoners of Childhood by Alice Miller Q: You are stranded on a desert island with only one book, one CD, and one DVD--what are they? A: Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (Witter Bynner version) Symphony #2 in D Major by Johannes Brahms (Georg Solti) Ikiru by Akira Kurosawa Q: What is the worst lie you've ever told? A: Surely you're joking. Q: Describe the perfect writing environment. A: Small room. Shades down. No daylight. No disturbances. Macintosh with a big screen. Plenty of coffee. Quiet. Q: If you could write your own epitaph, what would it say? A: I don't want an epitaph. If forced, I would say "Why Are You Here? Go Live Your Life." Q: Who is the one person living or dead that you would like to have dinner with? A: Benjamin Franklin Q: If you could have one superpower what would it be? A: Invisibility
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