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Sting In The Tail
JEREMY SMITH looks at Michael Crichton’s final literary effort, which is the latest Guide Book of the Month.
THE BOOK: HERE’s the list – Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, Congo, Sphere, Rising Sun, Disclosure, The Lost World, Airframe, Prey, State of Fear, Next...
It’s a fairly astonishing pedigree by anyone’s standards.
Indeed, maybe only Stephen King can match him in the books-made-into-films category.
Sadly, Crichton died unexpectedly in 2008, aged only 70, leaving his last book half-written.
As such, his publishers turned to science author Richard Preston to complete the novel (Preston incidentally, wrote the astonishing – and true – Hot Zone about the spread of Ebola to the outskirts of Washington).
And this collaboration resulted in Micro, which is now out in paperback.
Practically all of Crichton’s work, starting with the publication of The Andromeda Strain in 1969, concern the issue of man versus nature. For instance, The Andromeda Strain, which catapulted his writing onto the best seller lists, concerns a deadly extraterrestrial micro-organism.
But in addition to tackling the boundaries of science fact, albeit with brilliantly creative licence, Crichton also possessed an innate ability to tap into whatever the world’s current zeigeist was, as he demonstrated with both Disclosure (on sexual politics) and Rising Sun (corporate politics).
Expectation then for Micro was high, especially given that the book was finished posthumously.
And in many ways, Crichton has delivered – it is a real page-turner, and as expected, pits man against nature.
The story concerns a group of graduate students hired by a shadowy biotech company to undertake secret research in the Hawaiian rain forest. But as with all thrillers, things are not as they initially appear...
It’s fair to say this isn’t Crichton’s best book, but as an introduction to his work, it ticks all the boxes.
Sometimes his writing can get rather bogged down in the technical detail of the science he’s attempting to popularize, but with Micro it’s a straightforward yarn.
Think The Borrowers meets Indiana Jones with a slice of TV’s MacGyver thrown-in for good measure (and hopefully that hasn’t given too much away).
But where the science becomes science fiction, the adventure part of the tale takes off, with a narrative that will excite children as it much as it does adults (maybe more so).
Our group of graduates gets slowly whittled down, some in truly horrible but comic book ways, while the villain of the piece cackles with delight. There’s murder, dismemberment, and a particularly enjoyable death by wasp.
Which means in short, it’s a beach read, full of ludicrous plot devices but unputdownable nonetheless.
Two days of sunning, supping cocktails and more sunning should close the deal, leaving you both satisfied as a reader and sun worshipper.
What’s not to like?
THE AUTHOR: Not only did Michael Crichton’s books almost all get turned into blockbuster movies, but so too did his TV formats.
ER may ring a bell, which he created in 1994 and ran until 2009.
In addition, he was a highly successful film director, penning and directing Westworld, Coma and The Great Train Robbery.
And if all of the above weren’t enough, he also happened to be graduate summa cum laude from Harvard before becoming a physician.
In short, the last kind of person you’d want to sit next to at a dinner party if you felt the slightest bit insecure.
One of the most popular writers in the world, his books have sold more than 200 million copies worldwide and 13 have been made into films.
* Michael Crichton's 'Micro' is half price at Waterstones Oxford and Waterstones Witney with our special Book of The Month voucher available in Thursday's edition of The Guide, the entertainment's supplement of the Oxford Mail. Offer ends May 17.
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