Michael Crichton

In an effort to stay unaware as long as possible of certain world events, I have avoided almost all media, which inadvertently caused me to miss the passing of Michael Crichton.

Most of you probably know Crichton from TV and movie adaptations. Some of his work got mangled transferring to film, but some of it became quite iconic. Some of it you might not have even known was his. (Remember WEST WORLD? Guess who wrote TWISTER? You knew he was an M.D. and created E.R, right?)

For me, Crichton was always an author. He wrote Adventure Techno-thrillers with strong Sci-Fi sensibilities. (Or maybe the other way around.) When I say Sci-Fi, I mean it in the classic sense. Crichton would imagine technology a few years down the line. What would it be used for? What might go wrong? Most of his novels end up being cautionary tales.

Crichton was never really big on characters; that's not why you read his books. They were about ideas. They were about logic in the face of adversity. They were about dealing with the consequences of technology beyond our abilities. They were about, in the famous words of Crichton character, "Scientists so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."

Crichton wrote about immensely complicated things, yet made them accessible to laypeople. For all that, he never wrote "down" to his audience. Sure, there were plenty of "speeches" from characters that you just knew were Crichton himself, but he always assumed his audience was intelligent.

Crichton clearly loved science, as most of his books deal with it in some way. But he wasn't a sycophant. In fact, Crichton often took on the Scientific community without fear. He was strongly vocal of the dangers of "consensus science," ridiculing how so much of Science hypothesis is treated as "fact" when it is unfalsifiable. (If you don't know what that last sentence means, you may NEVER read another science article in the newspaper or watch the Discovery Channel on TV until you do.)

Crichton was also against the rampant speculation of the Media, they way they invented scenarios that had not happened or were not true and then analyzed in ridiculous them as if it were real. Do you begin to see why I was drawn to him? These last two things pretty much describe my feelings as well.

I discovered Crichton when I was 14, and I read every book he'd written. I haven't read the last few, but that's my own failing, not his. No one would call Crichton one of the world's greatest authors, but he was almost unparalleled at melding Science, Philosophy and Story, and making it so interesting. Because of his books and the ideas in them I went on to read literally hundreds of other non-fiction books on subjects he brought up. No textbook has ever managed that.

I am sad to see Crichton go, but his legacy, his REAL legacy of ideas, lives on in his novels. Below I have listed my ten favorite Crichton books, along with brief notes on any movie adaptations. Obviously a couple of his adaptations are simply legendary, and I am not advocating skipping them. However, if you want the true measure of how a brilliant man was able to think about things, read the damn books.


#10 A Case of Need - The story involves abortion, which is interesting when considering it was published several years before Roe v. Wade. Worth reading for that context alone. [No adaptation]

#9 Eaters of the Dead - Fascinating novel written as if non-fiction. Imagine Beowulf minus the mythology. [Pretty good adaptation as THE 13TH WARRIOR, although the adventure is stressed over the idea of an historical document.]

#8 Airframe - I worked for an airline at the time I read this, but I think anyone would be interested. [No adaptation]

#7 The Andromeda Strain - A frightening idea, and worth noting Crichton wrote it BEFORE APOLLO 11!! One cannot help but wonder how much thought NASA and Russia put into this. [Haven't seen any of the adaptations, but they probably tried to "update" the idea. Read the book with knowledge of when this was written, and you'll be more impressed.]

#6 Rising Sun - Interesting Look at the Japanese ideals in business. Very sharply written. [The movie takes substantial liberties, but is very entertaining, and has a very erotic sex scene]

#5 Timeline - A great introduction to the concept of the "Multiverse." One of the best forwards I have ever read. [Refused to see the movie]

#4 Disclosure - Fascinating look at the world of sexual power in relationships. Interesting Virtually Reality ideas too. [Fairly decent movie adaptation. Did not distort the idea too much.]

#3 Jurassic Park/The Lost World - An amazing examination of evolutionary ethos, pathos and mythos, and one helluva idea. [Iconic movie adaptations, although the second film deviates substantially from the book]

#2 Congo - Amazing to think that he came up with the computer ideas in the 1970s. Fascinating portrayal. [Abominable movie adaptation. Worst animatronic ever.]

#1 Sphere - One of the most interesting ideas I have ever read. Imagines everything from Aliens to black holes to level 5 cyclones to mind-control to time travel, all with impressive logic and never dull. I have read this six times. [One of the worst movie adaptations ever. Read the book. You won't be sorry.]

"I am certain there is too much
certainty in the world." -Michael Crichton

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