Crichton Delivers Again with ‘State of Fear’

Michael Crichton is famous for his techno-thrillers, which he has been writing since The Andromeda Strain, a generation ago. He’s discussed time travel, alien life forms, computer technology, genetic cloning, and nano technology, among other topics in the past. In his latest The State of Fear, he takes on the greenhouse theory and the conservation movement at large.

Like most Crichton novels the basics of the story can be easily explained, but a succinct synopsis is almost impossible. The plot of the book revolves around Peter Evans, a late twenty something Los Angeles lawyer, who becomes involved a law suit on behalf by the island of Vanutu against the United States EPA. His client George Morton supports NERF, an environmental watchdog organization. Morton begins to have doubts about the concept of global warming when he meets a mysterious MIT professor John Keener.

Morton dies in a car accident after making a scene at a fundraiser. Soon Evans is whisking around the globe with Keener (and others) as they try to stop eco-terrorists from creating disasters. NERF and it’s more militant side try to cause major weather events to galvanize the world against global warming, and attempt to time these incidents to coincide with one of their conferences in Los Angeles to get the most publicity possible. So if you want to visit the Antarctic, read about huge lightning storms, and have heroes try to stop tsunamis you won’t be disappointed.

It’s not his best written book as far as combining action/adventure and science (see Jurassic Park or The Terminal Man), but this was perhaps the most engaging of his novels for me to read. What caused most of the uproar when the book was released six months ago was Crichton’s stinging attacks on the environmentalist movement, or rather the people purporting the greenhouse effect. His Socratic method sections in which Keener takes on the questions/theories presented in environmental talking points are great. In the book’s most fascinating chapter Crichton argues that the West and particular the US is obsessed with fear. He goes onto say that after communism fell we latched onto global warming as our next boogeyman (it’s amazing how much less play the environment has gotten since 9/11, it makes you kind of wonder).

The breadth of information cited is truly remarkable in a fiction book. But Crichton goes further. He knows what he’s saying is controversial and supplies an author’s message, and two appendixes where he talks about how he arrived at his current beliefs and invites readers to see what conclusions they draw. It’s by far his most ambitious novel, and depending on what we know about the climate of Earth in the next 25 years- could be revolutionary. Not bad for a book where one of the minor players is eaten by a village of cannibals. But hey, that’s the Michael Crichton we know and love.