In Which I Bid Farewell to an Old Friend

Earlier this week, one of my favorite authors lost his battle with cancer.  While I was elated by the election results on Tuesday, I was saddened that I’ll never again know the joy of picking up Michael Crichton’s latest novel.  A few months ago, in this post, I wrote about the summer I spent reading nothing but Michael Crichton novels and how I credit his books for fostering my love of the techno-thriller.  However, while reading through all of the articles and announcements about his passing, I realized what an important role Crichton, and his novels, have played in my life (that sounded a lot more stalker-y and wingnut-y than I intended…but just bear with me).

When I read a book or watch a movie, there are two things I love (nay, demand!) to see.  One thing is people obsessively doing their job.  The other is a team of diverse folks, all experts in their field, being called together to solve a problem (preferably obsessively).  Both of those stem from Crichton’s novels.  Hell, he didn’t even stick with people: Amy in Congo is a gorilla who happens to be an expert in sign language.  Take that, Koko!  Not surprisingly, these are also the things I like to write about.  If all of the planets align and the devils of the Outer Darkness don’t devour our plane of existence, then maybe at some point in the distant future, when people sit around talking about my books, one of the things they will talk about is my use of the “Experts-in-their-field-assembling-to-obsessively-do-their-job” theme.  It’s a good theme.  It works.  It can work in a lot of different genres, too.  Thrillers, sure.  Action-adventure stories, duh.  But, did you know it can work in sci-fi?  And, if you’re feeling particularly sassy, you can make it work in fantasy, too.  Regardless, I owe it all to Crichton.

But, ignoring the ways in which they eventually inspired me as a writer, Crichton’s novels have had a far deeper impact.

I first read Jurassic Park in the winter of 1992.  The following summer, the one after my junior year of high school, I read almost everything else Crichton had written.  About a year ago, I went back and re-read all of those old novels–Sphere, Congo, The Andromeda Strain, Eaters of the Dead–and, you know what?  I’ll be damned if they didn’t bring back all sorts of memories.  Memories like helping my mom go food shopping in the summer–the Pathmark where I bought Crichton’s novels was located in the same shopping center as the supermarket.  Or sitting in our backyard on a Saturday afternoon reading in the shade.  Or the week every July that me, my parents, and my older sister would spend in Lake George (I have very clear memories of reading The Andromeda Strain on the beach).  So, Crichton’s books are always going to remind me of that particular summer, and what it was like being a kid.

Rest in Peace, Michael Crichton.


10 responses to “In Which I Bid Farewell to an Old Friend

  1. Isn’t it funny how that works? Every time I pick up The Secret Garden I remember two very specific, almost meaningless things: sitting on a porch swing in 50 degree weather in the mountains, and hiding amid a pile of furniture during moving day.

  2. The weird part is how totally random it is. Why these books? Why that particular summer? I can’t remember what I had for breakfast, but I can recall something that happened 15 years ago.

  3. i also read all his books. i was a huge fan. i remember going to the movies on opening night to see Congo, and it being horrifically bad. I loved the book, it scared the hell out of me.
    I have enjoyed all his books since. I dont usually reread books, but i recently reread the Andromeda Strain, cuz it is just that good.
    I’ll miss y0ou, Michael Crichton. I enjoyed your wonderful books, and enjoyed laughing at the horrifically bad movies that came of them.

  4. Oh dear God…the movies that they made out of his books were heinous. Even Sphere, with its Dustin Hoffmans and Samuel L. Jacksons, sucked major ass. I think the best of the bunch is The Thirteenth Warrior (a.k.a. Eaters of the Dead).

  5. I remember discovering Crichton in 92 as well, an old box of books was found an inside was a copy of Terminal Man. From there it was reading everything I could.

    Fun thing was I was a huge fan of movies like Andromeda Strain, The Great Train Robbery and Terminal Man as a kid and then I discovered the books of the man that wrote those stories.

    His books never failed to entertain. They also made me research the ‘facts’ he stated in his books to see how much was fiction or fact. It led to me being more informed.

  6. …..everything the man did turned to gold. It always amazed me that he upped and directed Great Train Robbery and made a pretty darned good job of it. It moves along nicely and tell the story well, what more do you want from a first time director right? THEN out of curiosity I check out IMDb and find he wasn’t a first time director having already directed Westworld, Coma and Pursuit. Westworld??? Who knew??? Well someone did but I didn’t- guy was constantly one-upping himself and kept moving…I like that…..

  7. And, let’s not forget all the books he wrote as John Lange back in the day (currently being reissued by Hard Case Crime).

  8. I think one of the reasons I re-read Lord of the Rings every few years is to submerse myself in memories of childhood — reading it for the first time in a log cabin in winter. I didn’t want to go out skiing with my family. I just stayed in bed all day by the fire and read. The first books I ever devoured…

  9. Hey Dan,

    Remember a few months ago we were talking about Crichton and his views on Global Warming? Here’s a link to a lecture he gave at CalTech in 2003 where he lays it all out. Very intersesting stuff. He doesn’t seem to really question whether global warming is real, but whether science is capable of confirming it. He seems to have been critiquing the rise of “consensus science” which he sees as threatening since it takes scientists into the realm of politics and public policy. Very interesting stuff. Thought you might enjoy…

  10. I actually thought about that conversation as I was writing this post. That was a pretty interesting piece, and it certainly seems to sum up what he was getting at in STATE OF FEAR.

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