Michael Crichton Dies at 66

  by  |  November 8th, 2008  |  Published in All, Blog

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Michael Crichton was only 66 when he succumbed to cancer this week.

Not to be insensitive, but considering how good he was at spinning yarns about the dangers of biotechnology, you’d think he could have written a better ending for himself than: destroyed by a group of rogue cells.

Or maybe that is exactly the ending he would write. His books – like Jurassic Park, Prey, Next, and The Andromeda Strain – were thrillers meant to scare. People lost control of their own destinies because the forces of nature, including human greed, were too powerful. And what’s scarier than cancer, a disease we have known about for centuries but which still kills more than 7 million people per year. (On websites like fark.com and elsewhere, it’s a sardonic joke to add, at the end of the description for any given new scientific advance, that there’s "Still no cure for cancer.")

On the other hand, many scientists felt that Crichton’s portrayal of science and scientists harmed the research enterprise by emphasizing the warts and ignoring some of its strengths. Others also felt he used his popularity and status to promote a misguided agenda.

What do you think Crichton’s legacy is – science popularizer, moral technologist, or science villain?

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  1. wishie says:

    November 10th, 2008 at 3:45 pm (#)

    The “misguided agenda” link didn’t take me anywhere having to do with this, but I assume you were referring to “State of Fear?” I’ve been referred to that book by more people who haven’t read ANYTHING ELSE about global warming than that (otherwise nice folks– exasperating!! That said, he certainly contributed greatly & entertainingly to the science/policy consciousness. Godspeed!

  2. Glenjamin says:

    November 12th, 2008 at 3:22 pm (#)

    As a kid, I loved Michael Chrichton's books. He was one of my favorite authors. As an adult I can still enjoy them, though perhaps without as much enthusiasm, for they are very simple, straightforward thrillers in many ways. Sure, he inserted his agenda within his books, oftentimes in not very subtle ways, especially in his later novels. But, I never felt that detracted much from the actual plot in any of his works, which were good fun regardless of whether or not you agreed with Mr. Chrichton's point of view.

    But the science aspect of his books is what I think Chrichton should be applauded for above all. How many fiction authors out there are promoting interest in the sciences and science education, in any way? How many authors write stories that use cutting edge technology as the basis of the plot, not just a convenient deus ex machina? As a kid, I learned more about new discoveries in chaos theory, genetic engineering, under water exploration, the computer revolution, and time travel in Michael Chrichton's books than I ever did watching the news. And I'll always be grateful to him for that.

    I think we should applaud

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