Friday, November 07, 2008

Combining Chilling Science with Mass Market Appeal

Crichton principally wrote to entertain, even if many of his books also carried messages he firmly believed in. But he never lost sight of the sheer art of storytelling and I am convinced that there is a whole generation of young boys out there, like mine, who discovered through Crichton that novels can be fun and exciting, and became fervent readers thanks to him. In an age when fewer and fewer children bother about books, I believe we must be mightily grateful to Michael Crichton for keeping the flame of reading alive.

Maxin Jacubowski on the Guardian blog credits Michael Crichton, who has died of cancer age 68, with being the author who got his son to read.

Ben Quinn profiles the novelist (whose most famous book is undoubtedly Jurassic Park) and creator of the popular TV series ER while Michael Carlson writes the author's obituary, pointing out that Crichton's greatest skill was his ability
.. to catch the interests of the mass-market audience with fiction that otherwise might be consigned to genre ghettos.
and Adrian Wooten praises his story-telling skill.

In the New York Times, William Grimes looks back at Crichton's life.

Crichton was one of my favourite authors when I was much (much!) younger and going through my sci-fi period. I particularly enjoyed (if enjoyed is the right word, because the book was chilling) The Andromeda Strain and Coma.


GUO SHAO-HUA said...

i can never understand why, just because it's "an age when fewer and fewer children bother about books,"so we should be grateful to the lowest common denominator.

so, to get more people to read, we should allow our intelligence to be demeaned and insulted by stuff like Jurassic Park and Harry Potter?

i've read Crichton, and there is no art in his storytelling. what he is is a man of interesting ideas, not a good storyteller. not by a mile.

Anonymous said...

i once saw this young lady at a warehouse sales...and she has a heavy box full of paperbacks by sophie fucking kinsella, danielle steele, harorld robins and the like and probably a crichton or two too...she certainly reads a lot but why i suddenly felt quite depressed?

ah pong

Anonymous said...

Because you are an elitist through and through? =)

X said...

He can't be an elitist.. they have better grammar :)

See, this is why you should read widely and not "well" :)

Crichton is still one of my favo(u)rite authors :)

KayKay said...

"No art to his story-telling"? That can only realistically be applied to his last book "Next" which was a mish-mash of ideas loosely strung together on a flimsy plot. Few writers could meld High Concepts into the breakneck pace of an Airport Thriller the way Crichton could. A man who could extract Dino DNA, lace it with Chaos theory and send you on a Theme Park Ride of terror is certainly a decent story-teller in my book. And his controversy-baiting "Rising Sun" and "Disclosure" (which I finished in a single sitting) is a text-book example of thriller-writing at it's finest.
Of course, you didn't exactly roll a Crichton prose or turn of phrase in your mouth after reading his books and the Crichton character never expanded beyond a functional device to prop up his ideas, concepts, plot and pace, but damn if the man didn't have you believing, even for a split second, that Japanese Businessmen were shifty, Female CEOs sexually rapacious, Chaos caused Dino Extinction, your wife could be a Nanobot, Global Warming is hogwash and that Blondes will soon be extinct:-)
RIP, Doctor....

X said...

Guo -

You're right, he's not an artist, he's an entertainer. He wrote books that can be compared to the "situation dramas" that are on TV today.

I don't see why Jurassic Park is an insult. It presents a situation which could credibly exist in the future, if someone had the money and inclination. Someone's already cloned a sheep, it might be entirely possible to clone a dinosaur in the future. He writes like your average stereotype guy, about science and mathematics and action and power and influence and death (that's a lot of "ands" :) )

IMHO he tells prtty good stories in that there are no "holes" in his plot, unlike Dan Brown. Now that was bad :P

He has the gift of "painting" a scene in very few words.

Damyanti said...

Every book has its place, and I'll be forever grateful to Crichton for making me forget about turbulence on a few bad flights.

I've never gone to his books for art and insight...... but I'm the sort who reads everything---from a brochure, to a chic lit to Albert Camus, because I simply have to read whatever is available, and will never turn up my nose at anything.

Even Dan Brown has something to not to "write", for example :)

Anonymous said...

oh good!! we have a proof reader here

ah pong

GUO SHAO-HUA said...


like i said Crichton is a man of ideas. its his style of writing that is an insult. writing that needs to explain everything, lead you by the hand every step of the way, and leave nothing to the imagination is just not respecting the reader's intelligence.

and when did having good taste become = elitism? ahem.

GUO SHAO-HUA said...

oh and if i remember correctly, there is indeed a gaffe in Jurassic Park. not exactly a plot hole, but bad enuff.

i think it's the pasrt when that hunter climbs into the drain pipe or something to escape the velociraptor. i think his ass should be facing the raptor, but Crichton had him miraculously turned around. correct me if i'm wrong, becos its been a long time.

there's something like that in Robinson Crusoe too. he took off all his clothes and swam to the shipwreck. there he found some stuff which he put into his pockets.

and you have to wonder which "pockets" exactly they were.

Barbara Carole, author of Twelve Stones said...

It's refreshing to talk with readers who distinguish between "art" and "entertainment." There's a place in for both, obviously, but at the same time, life is short: there are only so many books we can read and write. So I aim to read (and write) those that are both, art and entertainment. When entertainment reaches the level of art, it has the power to affect and change us, to incorporate a new experience and shape the person we are. That's why I find it so much more exciting than the passing, but pleasant experience of entertainment alone.
All that said, I sure have enjoyed Crichton, too!
Barbara Carole
author of
"TWELVE STONES: Notes on a Miraculous Journey"

walski69 said...

Hi Sharon - my apologies for not visiting here more often. And I've yet to find the opportunity to come to the readings... yeah, yeah... my bad.

I only found out about Crichton's death early this morning - I guess his passing was overshadowed by a bigger historical event...

For regular non-literati readers like yours truly - a geek to boot - a good read is a good read. And the few Michael Crichton books I have managed to consume were good reads. And yes, some of his novels do read like technical manuals (one example is Airframe). But then again, because of the subject matter covered, his overkill explanations can be forgiven. By me, at least - it takes a geek to like a geek :-)

One may not like his writing style, but I suppose the secret to his success has been, in part, his ability to make his works accessible (both on paper and off), but not to the point of intelligence-insulting (wrt substance, not writing style).

So yeah, with due respect to guo shao-hua... he'll definitely be missed by regular Joe Readers like me...

Incidentally, if anyone's interested, I went ahead and did an obit for the man...

X said...

Guo -

If it happened, that's still within the realms of possibility. It would be entirely possible for someone in a drain to be facing one way or another. Or he could have climbed in and turned around.

It's not like your Robinson Crusoe example, that's clearly impossible.