Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Via Doghouse Riley, I came across David Itzkoff's opening lines to a review in the New York Review of Books of Michael Crichton's new novel, "Next:"
Though the moment may lack the inherent gravitas of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s encounter with Abraham Lincoln, or even Elvis Presley’s private audience with Richard Nixon, surely history should reserve a special place for the day in 2005 when Michael Crichton was invited to the White House to meet with George W. Bush. Imagine: the modern era’s leading purveyor of alarmist fiction, seated side by side with Michael Crichton.

Itzkoff didn't like the book, about the evils of genetic research, and the chances seem good that I wouldn't either, as indications are that Crichton is still deep in his demagogue period. Some of Itzkoff's criticisms, though, seem pretty lame. For example,
Throughout “Next,” Crichton divides his competing plotlines — a trial lawyer fleeing a bounty hunter who wants to claim the lawyer’s valuable genetic material; a pedophiliac biotech worker beset by a 16-year-old girl savvy enough to fake her own rape — with chapter breaks that are meant to read like authentic newspaper articles and press releases. Some of these reports are based in reality, but they often play fast and loose with the facts: while it is true, for example, that the Australian performance artist Stelarc has sought to grow a quarter-scale replica of his own ear from living cells, it is not true, as Crichton suggests, that the project was successfully completed at M.I.T., or that hearing-aid companies were interested in licensing the technology. The author makes no attempt to distinguish his extrapolations from established fact, and even seems to relish the ambiguity.
Goodness me, how could any self-respecting author of fiction fail to telegraph to the reader which parts of the universe described in his book are real and which parts are made up?
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