Like a sucker, I recently finished reading a book. I’ve always had a firm anti-literature stance, but boredom will cause even the staunchest resolve to weaken. The book was Next, a novel by Michael Crichton (pretty much the only author I’ve ever read). It is basically concerned with genetic engineering and gene transfer and their impact on our society.
The book involves pedophilia, adultery, corporate greed, and copious amounts of profanity. But the coolest parts center around a parrot with advanced communication abilities, and a transgenic orangutan. I won’t review the book like I did The Ruins, because it’s not that bad and it doesn’t deserve such scrutiny. I’ll just mention a couple of things.
As a fictional novel, it’s pretty weak. The various side-stories never really come together despite a rather feeble attempt by the author to make them do so. The characters are all obnoxious and fatally flawed, but I believe this is a comedic device employed intentionally by Crichton. The pace of the action fluctuates greatly throughout. Regardless, the stories and characters themselves aren’t the main point of the book. The real “take-home message,” as it were, concerns the procedures and rapid scientific advances which, apparently, aren’t too far off from the real world.
Even with a stupid storyline to rival State of Fear, Crichton again does a good job of raising awareness of issues many people would never think of. He shows that not just corporations, but universities and private laboratories, can be crooked and ruthless when it comes to new scientific breakthroughs. I guess I have a new appreciation for the kind of power individual licensing and patenting of genes creates, and I’m thankful things aren’t yet as bad as his fiction suggests they will become. But check it out – the subject matter of Next is one of the things I hoped to get to witness in my lifetime in a post I wrote over a year ago.
But mostly, I’m just glad I had something to look at the last few trips to the toilet.