REVIEW: "State of Fear", Michael Crichton
- BKSTATFR.RVW 20050815
"State of Fear", Michael Crichton, 2004, 0-06-621413-0, U$27.5/C$36.95
%A Michael Crichton www.MichaelCrichton.net
%C 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
%I HarperCollins/Basic Books
%O U$27.5/C$36.95 800-242-7737 f 212-207-7433 www.harpercollins.com
%O Audience i- Tech 1 Writing 1 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
%P 603 p.
%T "State of Fear"
Crichton is getting really sloppy in his old age. First there's the
plot. Silly, and seemingly pointless, it's just one darned thing
after another. Then there are the characters, who aren't very
sympathetic, and only develop as required by the (well-telegraphed)
story line. (I got the "surprise twist" about 400 pages before it
happened.) And I doubt, even in these post-9/11 days, whether just
showing a card with a fancy national security name is going to cut any
ice with the police. Although the bad guy plot is foiled, there
really isn't any resolution to the events.
The dialogue is either stilted, or long "is to/is not" sessions. The
characters seem to be quite dense, and the discussions serve only to
advance Crichton's hypothesis that most people don't know what they
are talking about, with respect to global warming, even when footnoted
The technology isn't getting much better. Theoretically some of these
things should function, but I wouldn't bet on any of them working the
first time anybody tried them, let alone a shadowy terrorist group
(which never does get identified). If I were trying to create a
lightning attractor, I might try something long and pointy, or a
capacitor capable of holding a really humongous static charge, but a
doctored cell phone just doesn't seem to fit the bill. (Oh, and if
you *do* want to kill someone with a lightning strike, Vancouver is
not the place to try it. We get a lot of rain, but lightning is a
Most of the book, as previously noted, is involved with global warming
and shady plots by eco-terrorists. (The phantom plots appear to be
publicity stunts in which it is assumed that thousands of people will
die in the name of fund-raising.) However, the central theme of the
book, as evidenced by the title, doesn't appear until the story is 75%
finished, and then gets a mere ten pages of outline. This is really
too bad, because the "State of Fear" concept; that mankind requires a
sort of fixed level of fear, and that when a real enemy disappears one
must be made up to fill the gap; is fascinating [footnote 2]! It
would explain a lot about current politics, and the willingness to
create a bogeyman out of the most tenuous evidence. Certainly those
of us in the security world (and particularly Schneier's "Beyond Fear"
[footnote 3]) recognize the phenomenon.
Crichton hasn't completely lost his touch. There is some suspense,
and a fair amount that would be of interest. It's a decent thriller,
but not a good one, anymore.
[footnote 1 - The "is to/is not" dialogue seems to be intended simply
as a structure to provide a place to put the footnotes.
Interestingly, Crichton seems to be quite willing to "cherry pick"
passages out of reports in the same way he has his non-preferred
characters do. (I recall a book that set out to prove that Karl Marx
was a Satanist, using Marx' own writings. In the book it was
credible. When the passages were read in context, it was nonsense.)
Even more intriguingly, some of the footnotes cited do not, in fact,
support the contentions of the preferred (it would be hard to call
them heroic) characters.]
[footnote 2 - Unfortunately, there are no footnotes to support the
"State of Fear" idea, particularly the more specific parts of it.]
[footnote 3 - cf. BKBYNDFR.RVW]
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