I don’t know how many of you reading this know, but my favorite author is Michael Crichton. This man had a gift at taking real world concepts and taking them to the next level. Or finding things that were in the zeitgeist and looking at them from another way. Then there were his books about medicine, for which he graduated from Harvard. As well as his books about crime and corporate espionage. The man even took a stab at historical fiction, and with the exception of the lost manuscript that just got released (I genuinely didn’t like Dragon’s Teeth. At all. I thought it was boring as fuck. Perhaps there’s a reason it was a lost manuscript), he nailed it! Crichton was a master of the craft, and while I didn’t always agree with everything in his novels (such as in State of Fear, where he makes clear his belief about climate change and what he believes in mankind not being involved in it), I could always read them and be engaged, left with things to ponder. Here is my list of my 10 favorite.
10. The Terminal Man
It’s so interesting to read this book. It was written in 1972, and the concepts within it are more terrifying now than they were then. But Crichton says outright in the beginning that while these concepts are scary, they’re real. A story about a man who has seizures that cause him to be both violent and stronger, he is brought into a hospital for a new kind of treatment. It will put wires into his brain to stimulate the parts of his mind during a seizure to stave it off. However, this man has a twisted psychosis that leads him to escape after the procedure, with a dark plan. This book is violent, tense, and the concepts within it terrifying. Mind control is a concept that people talk about today, and mechanisms that could cause it existed then. Think about that.
9. Rising Sun
A combination book of two things that Crichton does very well – crime novels and corporate espionage. A story about two detectives who are investigating a murder at a Japanese corporate party. This book looks at Japanese business, in a way that is not always flattering. You have two different perspectives on it, so you can see the juxtaposition in approaches to how people treat the Japanese. It’s also interesting with this stuff and the time period that it was written in, vs how things are now. The west likes to believe that we get things, but in reality, the countries that aren’t our own are often as alien to us as life on another planet would be. This is a book of intrigue and culture, and only Crichton could get skate on ice this thin without falling through.
8. A Case of Need
It’s ironic the timing of this. During a new Supreme Court nomination, where countless people are wondering if Roe v Wade is going to be overturned. This book also looked at abortion, but during a very different time. Published in 1968, this book tells the story of a man who is framed for a botched abortion which results in the death of a young woman. He gets a dear friend to investigate and find out the truth, saving both him and his reputation. Before abortion was legal, where unsafe abortions killed countless women, this book took a look at the concept with an eye of critical skepticism. It’s clear that Crichton was on the side of those who wanted legal abortion for women, but he decided to give this book a hard medical approach, along with a decent mystery. In today’s climate, this book is definitely worth checking out.
A corporate espionage story through-and-through, this book holds a special place for me because of the subject matter. Neat fact – I’m afraid of flying. I hate it. It ties nicely into my fear of heights. A fact that many have sniggered at due to how unfathomably tall I am. Yes, this fact does amuse me to some degree. Telling the story of an airplane manufacturing company (do they even have these in this country anymore? I figure all that shit was outsourced years ago) who is tasked with investigating the cause of a horrifying accident, it is a story of corporate greed, corruption, and why people REALLY should be more afraid of being in airplanes. It’s mired in corporate speak, but Crichton takes you through it. He loves to have little digressions to talk about whatever subject matter is in his books. Partly to help you understand, and partly because he clearly wants to show off how much research he did to write them. This book is among the best in this genre, and if you aren’t afraid of flying, it will help with that.
6. Pirate Latitudes
When I was given this book, 1st Edition, for Christmas one year, I was unsure what to think. A historical fiction book by Michael Crichton? I mean, Timeline was great and all, but this just seems a little outlandish. Then I started to read, and all my doubts evaporated. Telling the story of a privateer who is given a task to raid an island that has equal parts danger and opportunity, this story is mired in Crichton’s ability to show off his research, and the adventure factor of a great pirate story. It genuinely shocked me how good this book is. These characters and their adventure feels so grounded in what could actually happen. It doesn’t have the rosy view of pirates. No, these people are gross, immoral people. But Crichton has a gift at making those you shouldn’t like feel so fun to get to know. A trip to the high seas you won’t forget.
This novel is a little bit different. Instead of Crichton showcasing his research, he wanted to show off his ability to use mood and setting to his advantage. Telling the story of a man who once made a plan on how to deal with first contact with aliens, he gets a chance to do just that as a craft has been discovered at the bottom of the ocean. What follows is a supremely suspenseful novel about terror at the bottom of the sea, and a device that has powers that defy all comprehension. Crichton is able to make the deep ocean seem more threatening than anyone though possible. Telling a story with tons of The Abyss before that film was a thing, it’s a novel to make your skin crawl.
This novel really seemed ahead of its time, looking at where we are now in terms of gender politics. Combining a VERY touchy subject with his corporate espionage style, this novel tells the story of a man who works for a computer company. A woman is hired that he used to be involved with. After she tries to make a move on him and he rejects her, she comes after him with a sexual harassment suit. From there, he does something that would be ballsy even to this day – files a sexual harassment suit right back, getting a lawyer who is a big-time feminist. Taking on the concept of gender politics in the time when this was written could EASILY have blown up in his face, but Crichton doesn’t back down from his perspective. He shows that it is possible for women to abuse their power and sexuality as a man, along with be corrupt and vile. He doesn’t shy away from the implications. It’s a daring novel, and I think that it has more relevance now than it did when it came out.
3. The Andromeda Strain
The novel that helped put Crichton on the map. The first work of his to be adapted to film, and probably the only one done right. This story was revolutionary for its time, and it has aged exceptionally well. It takes the perspective that what if alien life that comes to our world isn’t some big monster, but rather something so small that you can’t see it with the naked eye? A probe crashed back to Earth after having gone to find alien life, and it came back with something in tow. An alien pathogen that kills the entirety of a small town. Now, a group of some of the best scientists in the world comes together to try and figure out how to stop it. This novel is tense. The process of learning about this infection and what it is will leave you on the edge of your seat. It’s a mind-bender, to say the least, and I am still shocked by it even to this day, because of how it takes concepts from time gone by and takes the next step in terms of technology. A first contact story unlike any other.
2. Jurassic Park
Definitely the most famous of Crichton’s books. A novel that tells the story of an eccentric billionaire who used cloning to create an island full of dinosaurs. However, there are several things about the novel that separate it from the movie and make it far better. For starters, this novel builds up the reality of dinosaurs existing in a way that the film doesn’t. It’s a process of the world getting hints about them, only for a small team of people to be given the full reveal. Not only that, but it looks at the creatures themselves, and what they would be like. This isn’t just some monster movie. It’s a tale about animals from 65 million years ago being brought back to life, thrown in the mix with mankind. It’s a story where survivors are trying to get everything sorted out, and learn what they are up against. The parts of the story examining what these animals are are fascinating. It’s a shame the film didn’t take the time to really dive into that. But you gotta entertain the dim-witted American audience (I do like the movie, by the way. However, my point stands). Not nearly as violent and creature-feature as the film, with some amazing science every step of the way.
And my favorite of Crichton’s books is…
Some of you saw this coming if I have any readers who read my post about my top 10 favorite books. Not only is this my favorite book by Crichton, it’s my favorite book of all time. This is him at his best. Him taking real science and going the next step the way that only Crichton could. It’s a nightmarish, fascinating, tense story about a corporate that creates nanomachines and how swarms of them get out into the wild. Now, an out of work father who wrote the code that these machines are governed by has to get back into it, to solve the mystery of what his wife was doing away from home, and to save the family he has worked so hard to cultivate. This book is a masterpiece, plain and simple. It has Crichton showing his research like never before. Though, if you find that stuff self-indulgent, you will hate this book. There are long sections where he gets into some scientific or philosophical concepts and will carry that on for some time. It’s pretty great stuff. These machines, how they are created, and what they become, is a story that will have you spellbound, turning pages like it’s nobody’s business to get to the end.
What are some of your favorites? Let me know in the Comments.
Until next time, a quote,
“They didn’t know what they were doing. Sometimes I wonder if that will be humanity’s epitaph.” – Jack Forman, Prey