Author: Michael Crichton
Page Count/Review Word Count: 516
I haven’t done the research to look into exactly when Michael Crichton died, but it can’t have been much longer after writing this one because it’s surprisingly recent. That’s a good thing, because one of my problems with the books of his that I’ve read recently was that the tech stuff in them was outdated and made the books feel super dated. That wasn’t the case here.
Conceptually, this book takes a look at genetics, genomics and gene editing, mixing that with some character and plot-driven stuff that mostly revolved around the ethics of gene experimentation. And of course, because Crichton has a habit of doing this, there were a bunch of talking animals in it. I’ve got to be honest, that stuff really challenge my suspension of disbelief, but what the hey. It was there, and that’s all we really need to say about it for now.
For the most part, this book can be classified as a techno-thriller, and so it had a lot in common with my own books, though Crichton and I have very different approaches to storytelling. It’s the kind of stuff that I nerd out on though, and so it was good to see Crichton doing something similar to the kind of thing that I like to do.
I also thought that the character work was pretty good, and it was certainly enough to keep me reading and wanting to know more about the people he’d created and the challenges and struggles that they were facing, both personally and professionally. They were well-rounded and believable, and it’s always interesting when the characters are facing a moral dilemma that you can wrap your head around.
Still, a lot of the science in it kind of stretches the limits of believability, even though it’s one of his more recent books and so it’s technically more up to date than his other stuff. I managed to soldier on through it and I think that the average reader might buy it, but it’s a bit like when Stephen King goes off on those weird supernatural tangents that leave you raising an eyebrow. King gets away with it because of the groundwork he puts into setting up whatever the supernatural equivalent of a magic system is. Crichton just about scrapes by.
But overall, I thought it was a pretty good read, and I particularly liked the little outro where he shares his conclusions on what he’s learned about gene editing and stuff through his research for the novel. It’s hard to not agree with him.
One of the cool things with this book is that Crichton doesn’t specifically tell you how to feel or what to think. Instead, he just uses the facts to build a narrative that highlights some of the issues, particularly around the idea of patenting genes. What you do with that information is up to you. And at least it never came across as preachy, which is always a bummer. And I’m glad.