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Book of the Month:

Michael Crichton, medical doctor and author of such fantasy thrillers as Jurassic Park and Airframe, creator of the TV drama “ER” brings his savvy for thorough research and objective data to the forefront in State of Fear, published in 2004. At first I was skeptical about reading a novel about global warming, since as a scientist of sorts myself, I am simply skeptical about everything in this arena of “debate”. Especially since “the debate is over- scientists agree- the earth is warming- and it’s our fault.” As a scientist, generally I am a little skeptical about everything, however, I thought it might be fun to read this book. I have always enjoyed his books in the past, so I felt this would at least be entertaining.

As it turns out Crichton went so far as to include references for most of the scientific data that he presents through the characters in the tale. At the end of the book he included an annotated bibliography, preceded by a couple of personal essays about his own thoughts about the subject; thoughts that are again in keeping with the scientific references. The references themselves are interesting in that the authors of the journal articles and texts are often scientists who believe that the earth is warming, but whose works neither support the dogma that it is something we can change nor that it is leading to any sort of inevitable catastrophic climate changes. Moreover the scientists often conclude that change is occurring due to human impact, despite evidence to the contrary from their own research.

The book itself is a real page-turner, and like his other novels, I went through this this one in short order. I think I started reading it on Sunday, and I finished its 600+ pages on Thursday. It is a really fun story to read, and at the same time both informative and somewhat objective in its coverage of the issue of climate change and global warming.

I think that my favorite part in the book is a conversation between Kenner, the MIT scientist, and a wealthy Hollywood wife, who is an ardent supporter of “the environment.” She accuses him of being a corporate shill, while he tears apart her weak and uninformed arguments with actual scientific data with skill and even genuine desire to help her understand. She believes that he whole-heartedly cares little if at all for the environment, a conclusion she believes naturally follows since he does not believe in her “cause.” He explains that he does believe that the environment is both important and worth caring for, but only by using scientific evidence and not mere speculation and fear-mongering that is more based upon mythic ideals and biased reports. Truly, as a person who loves a healthy debate, this one warmed my heart. There is nothing I can’t stand more than a person who refuses to consider that his emotional belief, that which he so wants to be true, may in fact not be true. All this talk about being open-minded is often lost in the hypocrisy of blind faith leading the blind masses, if only because they refuse to take off the blindfolds that they think are so lovely. Being willing to question one’s convictions is the mark of open-mindedness, while refusing to consider that one’s conclusions might be inaccurate is the mark of arrogance and leads to a religious narrow-mindedness and ultimately to fascism of sorts.

Read this book if you want to be entertained, don’t mind having some ideas challenged, or if you just would like a non-Al Gore sponsored education about this topic. I think you will thank yourself in the end, no matter what side you are on. Even if you believe that Aliens did it.


Comment from m.
Time: 1 December, 2007, 3:29 pm

I agree. It’s a great book, well done. Much better than some of his (and better supported by facts than “E.R.,” I think). I
enjoyed it immensely, and probably read it faster than you.
But I am no scientist, so I don’t have to analyze as much.

Comment from Rob
Time: 4 December, 2007, 2:07 pm

I enjoyed the book as well, though Kenner’s character to me felt like Crighton projecting himself into the story. Should be required reading after hearing anything that Algore says.

Comment from steven
Time: 5 December, 2007, 5:35 pm

I enjoyed listening to this one on cd, while driving from Brownsville to Laredo to San Antonio to Houston. (That was a long night, having worked all day in B-ville.)

Anyway, I liked it. I also liked the links you provided to other essays and his official site. Pretty cool. I should certainly hope to read another novel-as-non-fiction asap.

The A-Strain perhaps? Anything but State of Fear, as I know that one too well.

The description of his work as fiction written like non-fiction hits close to home. I’m glad someone can write that way and actually find a publisher.

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