Tag Archives: michael crichton

A Case of Need: A Novel by Michael Crichton

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A Case of NeedAn interesting (though somewhat boring book in places) about a young girl who dies or is killed from a botched abortion. At least that is the idea of A Case of Need as we begin working our way through the story. John Berry, a practicing pathologist is alerted to the fact that, Art Lee, an obstetrician friend of his has been arrested. Supposedly Lee performed the abortion that had ended up killing Karen Randall.

It seems that she was brought to Lee by her uncle, Peter Randall, and she requested the procedure. Lee claimed that he told her she was too far along (four months) in her pregnancy and that an abortion could not be performed safely. He says she left and then later died from a botched abortion.

After hearing Lee’s story, Berry gets somewhat crossways with the police, especially a Captain Peterson, when he decides to do some investigating himself. First off he does not believe Lee did it and secondly he realizes that the Randalls are not only an influential family but also a group of well-known doctors that gets their way, one way or another.

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

The Andromeda Strain

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton is about how people react in unusual and challenging circumstances. This sci-fi thriller presents humanity facing the risk of extinction by the hand of a minute alien bacterium.

As the author says in the book, humanity has encountered many types of crisis, but so far, a biological one was not amongst them. So, Michael Crichton confronts humanity with the prospect of a biological crisis.

The Terminal Man by Michael Crichton

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Imagine a future where brain seizures can be controlled through a miniaturized computer installed in the human body. This would be especially important in controlling the extreme violence often associated with a condition known as Acute Disinhibitory Lesion syndrome, or ADL, “an organic illness in which the patient periodically loses his inhibitions against violent acts.” Millions of Americans have ADL to various degrees, and experience blackouts during which they commit violent acts they would never do if it weren’t for the lesions in their brains. That’s what the late, great author Michael Crichton did, and he wrote about it and an operation that the fictional character Harold Benson underwent in 1971 to install just such a computer into his brain and body, so that Benson, in effect, became a computer terminal. He wrote about it in a novel he called The Terminal Man, and this review is about the latest paperback edition of it, released by Harper Fiction, an imprint of Harper Collins.

Like all Michael Crichton books that involve the medical community and scientific advances at all (which is the majority of them), Crichton makes what he writes about seem very plausible because he backs up what he writes by facts. He includes mentions of advances in neuropsychiatry and surgery, for example, in a timeline in his Author’s Introduction. He doesn’t allow the scientific and medical references and charts and timelines to bog down his novels, though – they are there to add a much-needed sense of reality and to tell his readers that no matter how far-fetched they might think the story is that they’re reading, it’s based on solid science.

Harold Benson is a highly intelligent computer specialist who appears to be very mild-mannered on the surface, yet he has committed vicious, unprovoked acts of violence on people. After the attacks, he has no memory of what he’s done – they have been wiped out, just as if they were recordings on a computer tape. The violence is preceded by Benson believing he’s smelling something bad. He attacks people he associates in some way with computers, like auto or airline mechanics, or stewardesses, because he believes they are behind a conspiracy to bring about the eventual takeover of humanity by computers, similar to what happens in the Terminator novels and movies, which came out after Crichton’s book was first published.

The book opens with Benson being admitted to the University Hospital in Los Angeles. Despite certain things about him that indicate he might not be the ideal choice for an operation in which areas of his brain are supposed to be stimulated by shocks to alter his behavior, such as his theories about and hatred of computers, he’s been chosen to be the first person to be operated on to try to stop his violent acts from occurring.

The novel is very thought-provoking, even today, years after it was first released. It raises philosophical and moral implications, and questions if such an operation might be considered to be a form of mind control. Also, the very definition of mind control is written about – our parents and society mold and control our belief systems, attitudes, life experiences, our minds, right from birth onwards, often with unforseen, deleterious effects on us and our future lives and chances for success and for love. At least, the intent of Benson’s operation is not to change him in a bad way, but in a way to protect himself from legal retribution and society from future people getting attacked and possibly killed.

The Terminal Man is a novel that makes you think, is action-packed (at least, once Benson escapes from the hospital, and the computer stimulates him more and more often) and is a suspenseful, page-turning read like all of Michael Crichton’s novels. Is it as good as what might be considered to be Crichton’s best novels, like Jurassic Park, Coma, Prey, or The Andromeda Strain? Honestly, I liked these novels better, primarily because I thought they included more action even than The Terminal Man, and the motivations and family lives of many of their key characters where explored further. Still, The Terminal Man I would say doesn’t rate far below them, maybe a four on a scale to five where the others would be fives. It’s a very good novel I’d recommend to fans of Crichton’s books and to anyone who likes reading novels that cross the lines between science fiction and science fact.

State of Fear by Michael Crichton

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

State of Fear flies in the face of most of the current scientific theories and certainly contradicts popular opinion on the subject of global warming. Is the planet really warming or have we, the public, been sold a bill of goods by groups seeking funding and politicians needing an issue? Crichton’s take is that this is an example of scientific data being manipulated by politicians and activists to sway the public’s opinion and funding, to their causes.

Fans of Crichton’s work are used to having doses of science blended in with fiction to create heart stopping thrillers. While the thriller plot line is there, this book has much more scientific jargon thrown in as the author tries to convince readers that the global warming hysteria is based on a sort of pseudoscience of half truths and misinterpreted or partial data.

The basic plot begins when philanthropist George Morton, who has made a substantial pledge to the National Environmental Resource Fund (NERF), begins to suspect that Nicholas Drake, NERF’s Chairman (and shadow member of the ecoterrorist group known as ELF), is diverting funds to other organizations. Shortly after he demands a full audit of the organization’s books, he is killed in an accident. After is death, his attorney, Peter Evans decides to continue investigating. What the reader knows but Evans and his assistant Sarah Jones slowly uncover, is that Elf is actively working to bring about some major climatic events to help sway the public opinion and therefore private and government funding, toward such environmental groups as NERF.

Sarah and Peter’s globe trotting investigations are rich with all the larger than life adventures Crichton fans expect. They literally go to the ends of the earth in their quest to save the planet from ELF’s terrorism. Unfortunately, their thrilling adventure is bogged down with long, often heavy handed and preachy passages debating the issues of the environmental movement versus actual science. There is more than a few studies cited complete with charts and graphs which make for slow reading.

However, Crichton does raise some interesting points as he attempts to “debunk” the global warming issue. The public has become accustomed to receiving information, presented as fact, from not only politicians, but the news industry as well. By the time readers have finished the book, they will have been given much to think about. Whether the readers change their opinion on global warming or not, I’m fairly confident that they will at least look at the information they receive and who provides that information, differently.