Thursday, November 13, 2008

Michael Crichton Dies at 66

Crichton has consistently been in my personal "Holy Trinity" of authors, alongside R.A. Salvatore and Bill Watterson. I've been reading his stories for almost 15 years, and hearing that he has passed away..

This man's work has always been dear to me. Since before I was old enough to understand what the words "genetic engineering" meant, I was working my way through his novels - barely understanding but thoroughly enjoying the complex situations and descriptions he was so fond of including. My first Crichton book was The Lost World, and I was about 10 years old.

After working through that one, I picked up Jurassic Park; I was obsessed with the film, and with dinosaurs, and was eager to see how the two mediums differed. I was blown away at how much better the book was.

By the way, this holds true for most films based on Michael Crichton's work; the movie versions rarely do the novels justice. The only decent films were Jurassic Park (even though it was considerably different than the original material), and The Andromeda Strain, which was actually kinda decent...a sad fact of many book-to-movie adaptations, I guess.

Since then, I've read and re-read every single one of his novels countless times; I own every single piece of literature this man has ever written, and I read a few of his books every year.

He had an incredible ability to turn science-fiction into eerily believable situations - providing concrete scientific explanations as to why these events were possible. May sound a bit strange, but I'll try to explain it.

After reading a Crichton book, you believed that resurrecting Dinosaurs was possible by discovering preserved DNA through mosquitoes trapped in amber; you believed that traveling through time could be done by manipulating quantum foam, disassembling your molecules, and re-assembling them to access alternate universes; you believed that the possibilities of an underwater alien craft bearing intelligence could be discovered, or that a deadly strain of extra-terrestrial organism could infect and wipe out entire towns and turn their blood to powder...

This man made you believe; believe in things that seem so off the wall, events too blatantly fantastical to fathom.

He was a Doctor, and as such had a distinct knowledge of medical science, something he used quite frequently in his work; he also spent an ENORMOUS amount of time studying scientific theories for every book, a fact easily verified by the overwhelmingly lengthy appendices following each of his novels.

Not only were his stories exciting, and intelligent...but also incredibly authentic-feeling. The scientific explanations, diagrams and jargon spread throughout his books actually enhanced the experience, and drew you in to the story.

That's most likely the reason his work was so interesting, because most of what he described and wrote about was actually possible. Scientifically and theoretically possible, that is. Time Travel. Dinosaurs. Intelligent, Free-thinking nano-bots. It could all "happen". The style in which he wrote also enhanced what you were reading; he'd open with introductions completely under the guise that the events to follow were fact; right from the get-go, you were sucked into a world that, as soon as you opened the book, was a real one. Often, Fact and Fiction were so intelligently and carefully woven together, you'd never be able to discern the difference.

Gripping someone with frightening, descriptive science-fiction, and then making them believe it's all possible. What a rare gem of an author...what a loss to the worlds within my bookcase.

In honor of his passing, I will now re-read each and every one of his novels in order, and I eagerly await the potential release of his last book...I check the bookstore every month or so for new releases from my favorite authors, and Crichton's section has been strangely empty...sadly, it will remain that way forever. His loss is a great one, no doubt, and I just hope that his final novel will one day see the light of day.

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