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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Slate on Michael Crichton's posthumous novel

An incomplete novel by Michael Crichton, Micro, has been completed by Richard Preston, and is now being published for our delectation.

I have ambivalent attitudes to Crichton's work. I actually enjoy his novels purely at the narrative level, taken as suspenseful techno-thrillers. However, there is often a Luddite tendency that I find downright annoying. His final book, before his death, Next, was quite an amusing satire, and it had some bright elements among all the anti-technological fog - though in many ways it was his weakest novel in plotting and characterisation. I haven't read the posthumously published Pirate Latitudes.

I'll probably read Micro, if only for the sake of completeness: I've read almost all of Crichton's famous novels (The Andromeda Strain, etc., through to Prey), as opposed to the pseudonymous work from his earlier career. Although it was more technophilic than technophobic, my own book, Kong Reborn, was intended to be somewhat in the style of a Michael Crichton techno-thriller.

Some of the new book sounds dire, though - what is going on with the misunderstanding of the nano scale that the Slate article refers to? That's not a matter of pedantry: for a novel like this, it would be pretty basic.


steve oberski said...

After "Eaters of the Dead" his work became airport fodder.

I never realized he published under a pseudonym.

Distinct plot similarities between "The Terminal Man" (1972) and "Man Plus", published in 1976 by Frederik Pohl.

Russell Blackford said...

I actually think that Airframe may be his best book of those I've read. He gets some real interest and suspense out of an obscure topic.

godsbelow said...

I devoured Crichton novels when I was a teenager. He had a talent for constructing exciting narratives around interesting topics that other authors of a similar calibre as writers tended to overlook. I found Eaters of the Dead, Jurassic Park, Sphere and Airframe all quite thought-provoking, as well as fun reads.

However, it seems to me that his talents waned in the last decade or so of his life. His plots became weaker and weaker, culminating in State of Fear which, Crichton's views and presentation of data on climate change aside, was little more than a series of dialogues interspersed with some really ridiculous action sequences. I haven't read Next, however.

I wouldn't bother with Pirate Latitudes if I were you, Russell. I suspect it was an early draft of a story that Crichton never bothered to finish.