Friday, January 11, 2008

Invasive Procedures...Into Your GUTS!

While I'm on a Orson Scott Card theme here, I'm going to tell you about an inadvertently funny book I just read co-authored by him and Aaron Johnston. Let me tell you what I know about Aaron Johnston. He and I share the same alma mater and when I was in college, he was part of a comedy troupe whose performances I frequented. Let me tell you, the guy is funny. Hilarious, in fact. Part of the reason why I kept going back was to watch him and Eric D. Snider, another funny guy. And I had a small crush on him, despite his pokey-out ears and hideously ugly 90s-style Girbaud jeans. He had great comedic timing, improv skills and could do physical comedy nearly as well as Steve Martin. Now he writes a column for called The Back Bench that is, not surprisingly, very funny. So what is he doing writing a novel with sci-fi great OSC? Card is usually funny in a wry, sarcastic way, not like Johnston. It seems to me that they became buds and decided to write a book together. Johnston had read lots of sci-fi and had a great idea for a book, so Card co-wrote it so it would make some money instead of dying of obscurity. But you can tell where Johnston's influences come from. "Invasive Procedures" is so close to a Michael Crichton novel that I'm surprised it didn't get misprinted with his name on the front. Let me tell you some key elements of a Michael Crichton novel:

1. Must be loosely based on a scientific principle or recent discovery.
2. Must rely on fear and ignorance of said principle to make it more easily believed.
3. Main character must be good-looking and highly intelligent, preferably with several college degrees.
4. Must have enough secondary characters to kill off, at least one of which the reader can easily despise and one that is goofy and lovable.
5. Must have attractive love interest for main character who is also highly intelligent.
6. The villain must be vain and also brilliant with a little splash of megalomaniac behavior to make it interesting.

Okay, so that describes a whole lot of books out there, but the way Crichton packages it, you can always tell when he's written a book. And all of his books have all six elements. I dare you to point out one that doesn't. I think I've read them all, so I'm probably safe in that assumption. Not that his books are exciting and a fun read, but predictable. Oh so predictable. In "Invasive Procedures" you have Frank Hartman, a virologist, fighting against George Galen, a deranged geneticist out to cure the world of disease by turning everyone into him. Then there's Monica Owens, the beautiful and (shocker) intelligent heart surgeon who Galen captures to help with the disturbing medical procedures he has in mind. Blah blah blah.

Why, Orson, why? I laughed my way through this book because it so utterly smacked of Crichton-ness and so devoid of Card-ness. Where were the moral dilemmas? Where was the villain that you could almost love? Aaron Johnston, I can only blame you. Stick to comedy next time. There certainly wasn't any in this book and maybe it would have been better if it had.

One funny side note is that I actually listened to this on CD, borrowed from the library. I listened as I worked in my kitchen over the course of a few weeks and when my kids would catch snatches of it, they were annoyed that I was listening to something so boring. But one night at dinner, my second daughter said, "Mom, I know what you're listening to. 'Frank was touched by evil.'" Yes, yes he was.

Another funny side note: the title of this book is also the title of an episode for "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." Finally, something funny!


  1. This is laying upside down on the floor next to my bed still unfinished. This is my 2nd time to check it out because I felt like I should read it. Now I know I am normal and it is boring. MOM

  2. The title led me to believe it was a comedy, because I saw Orson Scott Card's name on the front, and with a title like that it's either really funny or it's a B-grade horror flick. So what a shame to hear it's not really meant to be comedy. I agree with your comments on Crichton. So true, and so predictable. And exciting, too.