09 March 2007

Michael Crichton does genetics...again. "Next"

Michael Crichton novels have always been a nice piece of escapism. They are usually easy and enjoyable to read as well as adventuresome. Some are based in reality (Disclosure [IMDB]), and others in the absurd (Sphere [IMDB]?).

Next seems to be a story where Crichton wants to hit on every possible angle he can aim his pen (laptop?) at. The angles though, as the story proceeds, are ones of moral and ethical questions on the processes of genetic research and the laws that dictate what can and cannot be done. The author makes it quite clear what he thinks of modern law in the field of genetic and medicinal research, yet his opinions on the ethical questions is quite absent. Those answers are left up to the reader.

Unlike Crichton’s last novel, State of Fear, Next never seems to jump into an adventure that keeps the reader flipping pages, salivating for more. There is however, a lot of teasing. Many aspects of the story give us glimpses of possibilities that don’t go anywhere. Instead, each one ends with what appears to be open-ended questions… Should we? Shouldn’t we? What does the law state? Is there a law? Fun reading as long as you’re not expecting an adventure story.

My only problem with the novel was that through the first half of the book Crichton introduces so many characters I couldn’t remember who was who. At more than one point I found myself turning back a few chapters in order to remember what significance a particular character was playing. Dizzying. I think the inordinate number of characters is what made it possible for the author to end each scenario with questions rather than following them to logical conclusions.

As seems to be Crichton’s habit lately, he ends the book with notes on his own research and conclusions. Also included is a rather large bibliography giving the reader glimpses into what inspired the writing.

After all is said and done, I believe this novel is best summed up by Crichton’s own blurb in the middle of the title pages.

“This novel is fiction,
except for the parts that aren’t.”

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