I have always been a voracious reader, reading mostly science fiction and fantasy throughout my youth and continuing as a teenager and today as an adult. I count Arthur C. Clarke, George R.R. Martin, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien among my favorites throughout the years, but the one author who, for me, has escaped definition of genre and has completely fascinated me since I first read Jurassic Park in six hours on a Saturday afternoon was the late Michael Crichton.
John Michael Crichton (October 23rd, 1942-November 4th, 2008) was born in Chicago and raised on Long Island. At age 14, his interest in writing was apparent, as he already had a travel piece published in The New York Times. He enrolled at Harvard College in 1960 to study literature, later changing his focus to biological anthropology; he went on to earn his M.D. at Harvard Medical School in 1969.
Crichton began publishing in 1966 under pseudonyms John Lange and Jeffrey Hudson. His literary contributions have run the gamut from action thrillers to science fiction and bio-tech thrillers to medical fiction, and have included such well-known titles as The Andromeda Strain, Congo, Sphere, Disclosure and the aforementioned Jurassic Park. In addition to being a published author, Crichton was a producer, director and screenwriter; he was the first creative artist to be number one simultaneously in television (ER), book sales (Disclosure) and in film (Jurassic Park).
Choosing a favorite novel of Crichton’s is a difficult task, having read so many of them. However, having just read the final book released before his death in 2008, Next, I would definitely put it at the top of my list. While I have always found Crichton books to be a stimulating read, Next was one of those books I didn’t want to put down (which was a problem since I was reading it on lunch breaks at work). Part of its ease of reading was its short chapters – often three to five pages, which had me keep thinking “oh, just one more chapter” much too often. A bio-tech thriller about genetic research and its overreaching boundaries, Next includes an interesting disclaimer at the beginning of the book: “This novel is fiction, except for the parts that aren’t.” Crichton had a way of telling a story that made you wonder if it really was fiction – could there still be dinosaurs? Could there be transgenic animals roaming the rainforests? Could eco-terrorists really cause tsunamis? The best part of reading a Crichton novel was the wonderment it produced – a wonderment I will surely miss from this amazing author.