Like a lot of people, I was surprised to learn that Michael Crichton passed away on Tuesday from cancer. The fact that he kept his illness a secret from the press and the public doesn’t surprise me. In numerous interviews he gave, he was always willing to talk about his books or the various social issues his books addressed but always seemed resentful when the interviewer asked him questions about his personal life.
I first read Crichton’s books in, of all places, a college literature class. The class was called “Technology and the Novel” examined different ways different writers wrote about technology in their books from the industrial revolution to the present day. We read Crichton’s Jurassic Park and had many lively discussions whether Crichton was trying to warn people about playing God with technology or championing the technological achievements.
Though I always thought Crichton did a horrible job in creating charters the reader would actually care about, I admired his courage for writing books like Disclosure and State of Fear where he took on the conventional wisdom on the topics of sexual harassment and global warming not because he had an agenda to shove down others’ throats but because he was at heart a scientist and was always questioning human behavior and the way the world worked (see first clip below). Many of the ideas for his novels came from questions he had and the reading and research he did to answer those questions.
I also enjoyed the way Crichton took complex technology and explained it in terms that anyone could understand. His books showed his great imagination and the research he poured into every novel. The result was page-turning stories that were fun to read.
In May 2009 his last novel will be released. If it’s like his other books, it should be worth reading.
Goodbye, Michael. You’ll be missed.