Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An Appreciation of Michael Crichton

By John J. Miller:

Mr. Crichton, who had just turned 66 when he died of cancer last week, was a pop-culture phenomenon. Perhaps for this reason, many critics refused to take his books seriously. When they bothered to read them at all, they complained about cardboard characters and preposterous plots. They regarded his novels as highly putdownable -- that is, worthy of putdowns.

Yet selling more than 150 million novels is nothing to mock. Mr. Crichton's success certainly owed a lot to skillful storytelling. At the same time, he aspired to be more than a mere entertainer. Mr. Crichton was fundamentally a novelist of ideas -- a public intellectual who wrote potboilers. He took on big subjects, such as bioengineering and climate change. He wasn't afraid of slowing down the action to teach a scientific concept. When he wanted his readers to understand something, he would devote a couple of paragraphs to explaining it.

I've enjoyed a lot of Crichton's work and I was surprised, and saddened, to learn of his passing. I've yet to read his latest - I'd picked it up from the library shortly after it came out and couldn't quite get into it. Though that was more my problem of not finding much interesting to read than Crichton's.

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