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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019) and AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021).

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Death of Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park and many other books, most of them popular techno-thrillers, has died at the age of 66. Funny, just the other day I was contemplating reading his latest novel, Next, as I looked around the bookshop at FACT in Liverpool. (I'm obviously a couple of years behind in my reading.)

I feel some ambivalence about Crichton's work, which has a strong anti-science, technophobic element running through it. But at the same time, I'm surprised by the way his novels are so often dismissed as if they were wooden and worthless. That's not my experience at all: I've always found them suspenseful and engaging, and have often devoured a long Crichton thriller in a single day, even when cursing at some aspects. My own handling of Kong Reborn was obviously patterned, to an extent, after the Jurassic Park series of books and movies, though without the strong streak of technophobia.

You can love Crichton's work or hate it - or you can gulp it down hungrily at the same time that it infuriates you. For me, his death is a sad loss.


Blake Stacey said...

It's a matter of taste, I suppose, but I found his corpus to be overall very uneven. Looked at chronologically, I think he went downhill after he went megabig: Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park were novels one could learn technique from, stylistically and structurally, even though the science was goofy (and, in the latter case, Faustian). The novels which came out after Jurassic Park. . . well, I remember that I read Airframe, but I can't remember any of the characters' names, and the only scene I recall is one which stuck in my memory because at the time it felt like an unresolved plot element stuck in to be more "cinematic".

(Thomas Harris comes to mind as a parallel example. Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs were great books for their genre, written with "local colour" which worked with the characterization rather than being larded in to pad out the word count. Once the movie of the second book made Hannibal Lecter a legend. . . well, the less said about Hannibal, movie or book, the better.)

Russell Blackford said...

I liked Airframe, but it's true that great success can lead to self-indulgence and sloppiness. Example, Heinlein after The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. He did return to form a bit with Friday, but such books as I Will Fear No Evil, Time Enough For Love, and The Number of the Beast are incredibly self-indulgent. They do have some charm, despite the way they are often simply dismissed - but it seems that Heinlein was under no pressure to produce tight prose, plotting, or anything else in particular during that period, so we get stuff that just seems to indulge his whims and fantasies with little conventional pay-off. He could have sold his shopping list, and sometimes it seemed as if he had.