A series of deaths is traced to the toxin of the blue-ringed-octopus. An MIT prodigy goes on an unexplained hiatus. A playboy businessman donates $250,000 to an environmental fund, the check is deposited to buy war weapons. A crew shows up to film hundreds of children drown in a flash flood, 30 minutes before rain begins to fal... (See the whole review)
It is so similar in ways to Atlas Shrugged, that I am surprised no one here has read or at least commented on this book. Indeed, energies put towards filming AS might do much better to make this into a thriller summer blockbuster.
I did read it. Didn't comment because I didn't really agree with your review. Since I disagreed with you on another book review recently, thought I'd give it a rest. But since you ask...
I thought it was interesting, and there were some good parts to it. If I remember, one of the heroes really came off like a Galt type. A hero not by accident, but by supreme confidence. So in some ways, I can see where you're coming from.
My biggest problem was the main character, who gets dragged along in this adventure. I kept thinking, why would they bring him with on this one? He doesn't have the necessary skills. It was like the author had some cool adventures in mind, and wanted the main character to go along so we could see things through his eyes, but it bordered on absurd.
Did you ever see Space: Above and Beyond? It was a very interesting (and short-lived) series. I liked it at the time (haven't seen it since it first aired). But one thing that bothered me is that they main characters, a set of space fighter pilots, were also sent on ground missions. They're the best pilots in the fleet, but they're still sent into caves to flush out the enemies like common,expendable foot soldiers.
That was my impression of this book. Since he's the main character, he has to go on all the missions, no matter how crazy it is.
The other thing I slightly disliked about it is how they made the environmentalists so explicitly evil. And also highly sophisticated and intelligent with their technology and plans. Even though I'm very sympathetic to the science, it came off as too much of a stretch. I see most of the movement as mindless dolts who think they're enlightened. Combining the anti-man with the clarity of thinking necessary for the plot makes them just look mysteriously evil.
I don't want to detract from the book too much. It was a good read and might convince some people. Maybe it just didn't live up to my expectations.
Any thoughts on my criticisms? It's been awhile since I read it, so maybe you're impression was different?
The main character, John Evans, is a lawyer for George Morton, the philanthropist whose car runs off the California highway. Evans is not a prime mover on his own, but he does logically fit into the story due to the fact that he is Morton's lawyer, and does have a professional duty to him. Evans begins as a mediocrity and apolitical. But as he becomes enmeshed in the plot, he does use his judgment and develop as a person. At one point he remarks to himself that this is actually serious, I might die and he comes to see the banality of most people's everyday petty concerns. He has different epiphanies in the book where he earns his heroism.
As for the ecomaniacs, one of the good guys actually comments that most greens are not all that smart. But dummies don't make good foils. The actual number of smart bad-guys is not large. But I don't have a problem with seeing evil people as potentially highly functional or efficacious. If one is very smart and well integrated, but absorbs one bad premise, that premise may have not an additive but a multiplicative effect. An evil genius with an IQ of 150 who accepts an evil premise of value -1 doesn't become a force for good of 149, (150 - 1 = 149) but a force for evil of 150 (150 x -1 = -150).
The book to me was a fast-paced thriller, and had a good message. I wouldn't classify it as high art. And I find it difficult to believe that Crichton wasn't influenced by Atlas Shrugged.
I agree with your assessment of the main character. I didn't mean to imply that he stayed non-heroic. My view was more like "what the hell are they sending this guy off on this mission for?".
I think I can see how you see a connection between this and Atlas. The main character starts of honest, but without a good understanding of the moral nature of his enemies, so that he thinks they're the good guys. Through seeing their choices in action, and having a Galt like character to help him see the facts, he grows to recognize the nature of the evil and acts against it. Something like that?
As for the ecomaniacs, I don't rule out a strong enemy in a story. But it diverges from Atlas Shrugged in this way. If the eco-nuts had just been mindless idiots, I think he could still have the same kind of moral growth. First believing them to be honest, then slowly understanding the nature of their beliefs. By choosing the very sophisticated enemies, I thought it weakened the message. But if you thought otherwise, I think I can understand.
Actually, making the case for the parallels between Atlas and State of Fear would reveal to much of the plot. I think we can both recommend the work - and I don't wish to give away more than I have in my purposefully vague summary.
Crichton's book was great fun and a quick read. Atlas was a work of art that made me cry and took me a month to read.
I also read Crichton's Timeline and Prey very recently and enjoyed them both - the first the moreso. I had read Andromeda Strain in about 1980 and Jurassic Park when it was released. Those were also great page-turners.
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