The Magazine

Chills & Thrills

Michael Crichton saves us-from those who want to save us from global warming.

Jan 3, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 16 • By DEBRA J. SAUNDERS
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The fastidious might take issue with Crichton's odd insistence on realism in science--in a novel to which the word "realism" doesn't exactly apply. But that's Crichton for you. Jurassic Park contained long monologues about the real-world dangers of biotechnology, in a story about scientists who clone a tyrannosaurus rex from the DNA found in the insides of a long-dead bug trapped in amber. State of Fear introduces fantastic methods for causing tidal waves, inducing flash floods, and breaking ice shelves. And for some reason, an aging millionaire philanthropist is tasked with a mission that would challenge a troop of well-armed Special Forces. The book often presents its characters in the style of an airport-bookstore bestseller: "Even by Los Angeles standards, Sarah Jones was an extremely beautiful woman. She was tall, with a honey-colored tan, shoulder length blond hair, blue eyes, perfect features, very white teeth. She was athletic in the casual way that California people were athletic, generally showing up for work in a jogging suit or short tennis skirt."

Well, so what? Crichton still somehow manages to keep you wondering about his characters. And while the people he invents are treated with a light touch, Crichton nonetheless manages to confer his ideas with heft. So he finds himself pushing science within the framework of science fiction and insisting on realism from a pedestal of fiction.

THE NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL criticized Crichton for his "peculiar contrarian take on global warming." It shows you how establishmentarian the environmental lobby has become.

Forget the notion of hard-core scientists who dissect the real world in a relentless quest to get to the truth, no matter what it is. The group used the term "contrarian" as though it were a bad thing.

Debra J. Saunders writes a nationally syndicated column for the San Francisco Chronicle.