Friday, November 14, 2008

A Tribute to Michael Crichton

For all you readers out there, you've probably heard by now that Michael Crichton passed away on November 4th after a battle with cancer. He was most famous for his novel, Jurassic Park, which was made into a movie with the same name, and the tv show he created, ER, which I watched with crack addiction-like fervor all the way up until they killed off Dr. Green. It went downhill after that, if you ask me. He also wrote The Lost World as a sequel to Jurassic Park and also as a demonstration of his ability to rake in money for a really lame book and movie, but let's not speak ill of the dead.

My first encounter with Crichton was in the form of a cute boy in my Spanish 2 class in the eighth grade. He was reading Jurassic Park during his free moments, and since I spent a lot of time staring at him while he was reading (or at any other time), I became curious about this book with the dinosaur on the front. Plus, I thought if I read it, I might have something to talk to him about. I had no idea that the book would be so completely over my head in vocabulary and content and that it would captivate me from beginning to end. I had never read anything like it, especially since I was in this Mary Higgins Clark stage and nothing could be more different from her books than Crichton's. I read all of his books I could get a hold of after that and even though some of them I liked less than others, I always looked forward to his next book.

I considered going through each of his books and writing about what I thought about each one, but I decided not to. The short version is that he wrote about topics that were current and controversial and on uncertain ground and most of the time, I had no opinion on the subject until I read his book. I didn't always agree with his opinion, but he forced me into thinking about it and coming up with my own. I loved how he would take ideas from the actual world and blow them up into awesome science fiction adventures. You knew there was some actual science being applied, but the rest was pure imagination.

When he wrote State of Fear, he was publicly condemned for claiming that there was no scientific basis for global warming. If it had been a hundred years earlier, he would have been tarred and feathered. "How dare he! Kill the beast!" was the common response. He didn't say there was no Holocaust, people. He pointed out how religious evironmentalism has become, with the young being indoctrinated early. This will point out how naive I am, but before I read this book, I had no idea that there was an argument against the validity of global warming. Like I wrote before, I don't always agree with what he writes, but he brought up a point of view I didn't even know existed. I admire how brave he was to write it, knowing what reaction it would cause. Kudos.

It was a sad day when I read that he had passed away. His books were always something I looked forward to and I'm sure if had been given more time, he could have kept me entertained for many years to come. He was a man of great talents and he will be missed.


  1. What a lovely tribute.

    But you still managed to crack me up..."let's not speak ill of the dead"!

  2. I actually hadn't heard he'd passed away. Once the election was over I turned off the TV and basked in the silence for a couple of weeks! I've never been interested in reading any Michael Crighton (a tendency I have when my introduction to an author comes through Hollywood). So this post enlightened me in several ways, and I would have been interested to hear your take on more of his works.

  3. Very good post Jenny! Alan had me read State of Fear with him so we could discuss it. The points he brought up made so much sense to me that I had to keep reminding myself that it was indeed fiction. And I second the ER vote. It went downhill after Dr. Green left. BTW, did you see it last night when he came back? It was amazing! I hadn't watched it in years, but I loved it.

  4. I was sad to hear about Crichton's death, too. I read Jurassic Park in high school, and got hooked on his books. Jenny, I think you told me once that you feel smarter after reading his books. Same here! And I agree that his books make you consider topics, even if you don't necessarily agree with his view on those topics. I stopped watching ER at the same time as you, too. Now I watch House.

  5. Having older brothers, I was introduced to Michael Crichton films early with Westworld & The Andromeda Strain. I even watched the horrible Looker and Runaway.

    But it was Spielberg's Jurassic Park that lead me to consider reading his books. After I read it, I read Congo and got really excited for the movie. Then they botched the movie by leaving out the most interesting plot point.

    Anyways, my fascination with Crichton was short-lived. His novels stopped the narrative to explain the science. I came to truly respect Tom Clancy's ability to interweave the explanation of science into the narrative (what? have one of the characters interested in the science?). When Crichton created E.R., he was forced to include exposition in the narrative; that helped immensely.

    I love his speech at CalTech in 2003 Aliens Caused Global Warming ( ), so I may want to check out State of Fear soon.