Thursday, November 6, 2008

Crichton's Creative Chronicles

Michael Crichton passed away Tuesday at the age of 66. A medical doctor, Crichton's first big success came with The Andromeda Strain (1969), a sci-fi thriller featuring non-standard invaders from space (in the form of microorganisms).

My first memory of exposure to the creative works of Crichton is the 1973 film Westworld, written and directed by Crichton and starring the inimitable Yul Brynner as a gunslinger. But Crichton is probably more popularly known for Jurassic Park (1990), as well as being the creator of the television series E.R.

I've read many of his books over the years including Jurassic Park, Airframe, Timeline, and others, and have watched a number of films based on his work. A few months ago I read his 2006 book NEXT.

Unfortunately, I found NEXT lacking in many areas -- a disjointed mess in some parts. However, what I gained from it as being one of his underlying themes, if not the main theme, has to do with the dangers of bioethics questions such as gene patenting, eugenics, etc., in the form of something of a reductio ad absurdum argument. In the bibliography for the work he lists, among many other books, Chesterton's prescient work Eugenics and Other Evils (1922).

Crichton has left behind some truly creative works. I particularly enjoyed his explanations of "time travel" in Timeline, wherein stabilized wormholes are used to enter parallel worlds that conveniently are identical to our own, and his now famous conjecture in Jurassic Park that scientists could gain enough dinosaur DNA from amber to clone them.

At any rate, Crichton knew how to write the proverbial page turner and quick read. He also knew how to write with an eye towards film, making some of his books more script-like than book-like.

Despite many criticisms of his works both in the area of the quality of the literature and his sometimes questionable science, Crichton served up entertainment in print and on screen for nearly 40 of his 66 years. His voice will be missed.

No comments: