Michael Crichton Sucks Eggs (Spoilers!)

Well I signed up so I could chat about books I read and I’m finally getting around to it!

I just finished Crichton’s Terminal Man. I actually think he’s an OK writer except I think he’s disgustingly against a) technology and b) likeable characters, Let’s break it down.

Jurassic Park. Grant & Ellie are mostly likeable. Hammond is an old son of a bitch that gets irritated with his grandkids because they are broadcasting the T-Rex roar, he yells at his employees, doesn’t listen to their advice, doesn’t keep enough weapons on the island even though the dinos are dangerous, man. Malcom is a snot who comes to the island as a guest, and goes around telling everyone how the place is going to fall apart any moment. (and I still kind of liked him, but damn if he wasn’t annoying). The little whiny girl is annoying and distracting, I wanted to slap her silly. The fat guy at least we were supposed to dislike. And the lawyer is a skank. The world is on its way to being destroyed because of misuses of technology- this time because of meddling with genetics.

Lost World. I barely remember this book except - there wasn’t one character in there that was halfway likeable. Everyone was arrogant, snotty, stuck-up, assholish, etc. The world is on its way to being destroyed because of misuses of technology- also meddling with genetics, but this time the meddling’s already been done.

Andromeda Strain. All the doctors think they know absolutely what’s best. The only one I really liked is the one who does the autopsies on the rats, and he is shown to make a major screw-up. (Slight hijack: I loved the electronic doctor, I’d rather go to that than any real doc). Anyway, they’re completely arrogant to the old guy, the babyl Also to the ‘fifth man’ because he wasn’t a scientist, just a doctor - the one who was unmarried and therefore crucial to the nuclear shutdown switch (or whatever it was). The world is on its way to being destroyed because of misuses of technology- this time because of the hunt for a biological superweapon.

Terminal Man. I liked Ross, the female doctor. I didn’t hate anyone else but man they had no personality, so how could I? And the book totally tricked me - there was a large bibliography at the end so I thought I still had several pages to go when she shot him. The world is on its way to being destroyed because of misuses of technology - this time because we are trying to control the violence caused by psychomotor epilepsy.

Why do I continue to read him? Well, I keep hoping. The concepts are very cool, and I am 110 % for technology. But Chrichton acts like he’s the only thing holding us back from excesses of science. Does anyone feel this way?

Also, why do authors think they can write bad characters and people will like them. Notice I don’t buy Crichton books, I borrow from the library. The only one I’ve ever bought was Jurassic Park, because that truly was a very good book.

Any thoughts?

Ever since Andromeda Strain (or maybe Coma) every Crichton book has been a thinly-disguised movie script. Jurassic Park was no exception and it was a rotten book. Flesh out the characters just enough for casting purposes (hot female scientist? Check. Eccentric millionaire? Check. Cute kids? Check.) Sketch out enough of a plot to wrap some special effects around. Mail it to your agent.

I found JP to be particularly annoying because he did so little with the concept. Man clones dinosaurs and finds out what? That they’re intelligent, gentle creatures capable of forming a complex society? Nah, let’s just have them break loose and eat people. There’s a plot twist no one will have been expecting!

Read Crichton’s Airframe, and if you don’t come away from that falling to your knees and banging your head on the floor and thanking Almighty God for the noble efforts of the harried engineers of the Aeronautics industy, then you’re obviously an ungrateful commie.

It’s clearly not an anti-tech book. If anything, it’s anti-all the schmucks who are anti-technology because they’re idiots and/or short-sightedly greedy.

I liked Jurassic Park OK, although The Lost World was a truly awful book. The movie wasn’t that good, but it was way better than the book simply because it was nothing like the book. Crichton wrote the book simply because Spielberg wanted to make a sequel. They thought it sucked so much that they disregarded the book.

What I didn’t like was the major plot hole of the whole other island. He clearly states that everything was bombed in the first book----all the dinosaurs, equipment, etc. But oh wait nevermind, there’s another island! Why don’t you just have Ian Malcolm wake up and say, “It was all a dream!”

Finagle: I think you’ve put your finger on it. He always goes for predictable plots. I like to be surprised and provoked into thought. The reason I liked the book, though, was not because of the characters but because a lot of the science was fleshed out and it was fascinating.

Bryan: I am planning to go to the library again in Monday, as I just went on Monday. I’ll pick it up then.

One of the criticisms of the Star Trek franchise is that the casts tend to be groups of happy, shiny, well-adjusted people who love their work and get along great with everybody.

Crichton doesn’t do that. Be thankful. Consider: If he had written JP with all likeable characters, it would have sucked pretty badly when they started dying. Oh, wait. They did that one. It was called Alien.

I’ve been annoyed with Crichton ever since I read The Andromeda Strain shortly after it came out. He was brazenly trying to “wow” the reader with a description of … binary code!Crichton gets obsessed with some element of technology, researches it, and flaunts it in front of the reader. He throws a bunch of these together to create a story. Hey – nifty computer algorithms plus electronics on Type II diamonds plus animal communication gices you Congo! Except his descriptions of Africa are maddeningly vague and unconvincing. I later learn that he deliberately avoided learning about this, and am not surprised.

Not like technology? He loves it! What he hates are technologists. He typicaqlly sees them as short-sighted and arrogant. They never consider alternatives, or ramifications beyond their own narrow view of the world, or the Deeper Meaning of what they’re playing with. and they never admit they['re wrong. I find these people extremely unconvincing – I don’t care how sloppily you’ve programmed your dinosaur-counting software, you’d notice that the numbers didn’t add up before they started crunching your bones.

There’s a reason that Crichton, despite his apparent popularity, has never even been nominated (As far as I know) for any science fiction awards.
Finally, I hate the fact that he’s re-used the idea of someone using high tech to create The Ultimate Theme Park, but is done in by hubris. He’s used it at least three times – Westworld, Jurassic Park, and Timeline (at least in the book). That’s not convincing, either. Hell, all amusement parks have problems (as they pointed out in JP the book and movie)-- you don’t close them down. You solve the problem, usually long before it becomes a problem. You can write imaginative fiction around this concept without having the Park break down – look at Larry Niven and Steven Barnes’ “Dream Parlk” series.

There are a few Crichton works I like – Andromeda Strain (which made a pretty good movie), the movie Terminal Man, which I think is underappreciated. The Eaters of the Dead (and the movie The Thirteenth Warrior), and The Great Train Robbery (and its film). But I’m annoyed by the rest of them.

I thought Lost World was the worst novel I ever read by any accomplished author – until I read Timeline. I’ll never read another Crichton.

Finagle has it right – all he’s doing is churning out (bad) movie scripts. After reading the first 25 pages of Timeline I could have told you how the rest of the book would turn out. Cliched, underdeveloped characters, questionable science, and tired plot devices that you can detect coming more quickly than a roaring tyrannosaurus. It’s just begging for Michael Bay or someone to make a giant summer special effects stinkbomb out of it.

Coma was by Robin Cook, not Michael Crichton.

Oh wow, I totally forgot about the horror that was Congo. I didn’t even like the ape. My mind must have erased it in self-defence.

I didn’t know Eaters of the Dead was by him, though. I loved the 13th Warrior. May have to check out the book.

I liked his older stuff. I read and re-read him up until about the mid eighties, then it started to get old. I still think Five Patients is a pretty good book.

I liked *Congo * the book. The movie sucked all kinds of ass, however. *Jurassic Park * was good, in my opinion. Would’ve been better if I hadn’t seen the movie first.

Airframe . BORING! I remember trudging through that book hoping it would get better. And the ending was so…lame.

*Andromeda Strain * I also enjoyed. Didn’t he write The Sphere also? I vaguely remember liking those.

God, those books were so long ago!

Yeah, his latest tend to suck.

I read the first two pages of Rising Sun. I found the writing to be leaden and the dialogue amazingly flat-footed. It sounded like he learned out how detectives talk from watching TV shows. Actually, I got a good laugh from it.

That’s it for my Crichten reading experience, but I can say that movies based on his work are awful. Congo, I’m looking at you. Sphere, where are you going? Unless these scripts are radically different than the books upon which they are based, his stories leave a lot to be desired. It seems like he does some light research into some subject (dinosaurs, nanotechnology or whatever) and writes an implausible tale around it.

Question about JP.

Didn’t Malcolm die in the book? How was he is LW?

The thing that has always bothered me about Crichton is that all of his plots seem to hinge on a Fatal Flaw[sup]TM[/sup]. Every one of his stories seems to have one key failure that causes problems to occur or has a major character Do Something Stupid[sup]TM[/sup] that causes the crisis.

Take, for example, The Andromeda Strain. The base is designed in such a way that if there is a release of material then airtight doors will seal the base into sections. If the release is not contained, then a nuclear device will destroy the base.

Now, there are override consoles in the base to stop the explosion. But, not all sections have an override. (They weren’t finished installing them or something.) So, of course, when the device threatens to explode everyone is trapped in a section without an override, forcing Our Hero[sup]TM[/sup] to go through the central core to reach one. Fatal Flaw in action.

Or, how about The Terminal Man? The plot revolves around using electrodes to stimulate the brain to stop someone from having murderous siezures. But, for inexplicable reasons they decide to have the electrodes trigger the pleasure center of his brain! Then, apparently never having heard the word “reinforcement”, they seem surprised when he goes into murderous rages more and more often. Doing Something Stupid at work. (Heck, I was in high school when I read the book and even then I knew enough about basic psychology to know what was going to happen long before anyone in the book caught on.)

Jurassic Park? So many examples of Fatal Flaws and Doing Something Stupid that it’s useless to even count. But, for starters, haven’t these people ever heard of backup systems? Or containment systems that fail closed instead of open? Yeah, a lot of the problems came from deliberate sabotage (which comes close to the Doing Something Stupid category) but the plot seemed as if it was supposed to be a cautionary story about genetic engineering but none of the problems had anything to do with it! Instead, it was all about Fatal Flaws and Doing Something Stupid.

Now, I realize that you have to have some sort of problem or crisis in order to have a plot. I just wish that the reasons for the problems or crises didn’t feel so painfully contrived.

Not to nitpick, but Coma was written by Robin Cook, not Michael Crichton.

I first got into Michael Crichton with Timeline. Being a history nut, it appealed to me and I am unashamed to admit I liked it then and would probably like it now if I were to read it again. From there, I read some of his older novels, like Jurassic Park, Congo, Sphere, Lost World, and The Terminal Man. All were at least decent but I really, really loved *Sphere * and thought *Congo * was pretty good too. I’ve since read Prey and thought it was passable and rather inoffensive.

My point? I really don’t know. I guess just to say that while he isn’t the best author around, he definitely isn’t the worst either.

Oops. Crichton did the screenplay for Coma. So I guess I have to give him a pass on that one being just a script :slight_smile:

He did die in Jurassic Park. But in The Lost World Crichton makes some lame excuse like, “Well, they all thought Malcolm was dead and had been reported as dead, but he really wasn’t.”

I can’t believe the movies make more sense than the books, but they do.

My point exactly. And the arrogant Technicians never catch it, because it’s not on their checklists, and they have no imagination, and they think they know it all anyway.

This doesn’t gibe with people I know in cutting-edge fields. If Crichton had written 2001: A Space Odysset, HAL would have been the Fatal Flaw. The astronauts wouldn’t have had an idea about how to cope, they would’ve put all their effort into getting an escape pod running, or something, and they’d have gone straight home. Phew! That was a close one! Too bad we never found out what that big black monolith was about, though.

:smiley: I found this hilarious for some reason.