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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Next by Michael Crichton

Many hated it but I think it may be Crichton's best book

Published in 2006 by HarperCollins

Michael Crichton (1942-2008)
I have not read all of Michael Crichton's books but I have come close. His best books are generally warnings about the dangers of science without the guidance of ethics: Just because you can do something - does that mean you should do it? 

Next delivers that theme in spades. It is all about genetic manipulation - not just genetically modified corn or houseflies. No, Crichton is talking about genetically modifying people to eliminate certain behaviors and even splicing human DNA into animals.

The book comes at the reader in a kinetic mish-mash of bits of plot from several plotlines, news headlines and news articles. This mess finally coalesces into a real story about halfway through the book and I assumed that Crichton's writing had deteriorated when he wrote this thing and he was just not able to juggle it all.

Then, I got it.

This out-of-control story is supposed to be out-of-control. It is haphazard, random and full of too many crazy coincidences that work together. This is the way that Crichton saw our current state of research and funding in science - it is a crazy mix that is working towards "sexy" discoveries but not thinking about their consequences. It is Jurassic Park, but not just restricted to an island. Instead, it is being shotgunned into our everyday lives. As Jeff Goldblum notes in the movie Jurassic Park: "Life finds a way."

Crichton is warning that a willy-nilly rush into these discoveries cannot be reversed.

Yes, the plot is contrived. Yes, there are too many coincidences. Yes, the characters are often shallow. But, Crichton also demonstrated that through coincidence, accident and fraud there will be consequences that we have not imagined.

It is a warning worth considering.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Next.

Reviewed on February 25, 2012.

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