Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Michael Crichton, Carl Sagan, and Next

It was quite a surprise that Michael Crichton passed away. He and his writing were always so vital. I remember reading The Andromeda Strain when and because I heard it was going to be a film. It was interesting to note how closely the film followed the book, unusual as that is.

A few years later, re-reading the book inspired me to write to Carl Sagan to query about the possibility of microbiotic life that might live in Mars' upper atmosphere being carried to the planet's surface by the Viking I Mars lander. Sagan wrote back with a term for what I was asking about: "back-contamination." His response to the question was to tell me in effect that nothing could be done to prevent it, so they'd just have to take the chance.

There continues to be speculation about microscopic life forms from elsewhere making it to the Earth's surface. Lots of scenarios are offered--there's even a theory that life on Earth might have evolved from microscopic life forms or the spores thereof that arrived inside meteorites. (Or maybe there was some "back-contamination" from the Earth's upper atmosphere.)

In any event, I was looking forward to what Crichton would write next. I remember reading that he maintained his medical practice in New York, and whenever he worked out an idea for a book he traveled to a condo in Florida and wrote the book in six weeks. I envied that! (He gave up medical practice in the Seventies.)

Crichton’s most recent novel was not well-received. I enjoyed it, though the technique was bothersome. It was a good book, though I believe that some reviewers panned it in knee-jerk fashion; they couldn't get past their feelings that anything that didn't toe the so-called "politically correct' line had to be bad. Some felt obligated to toe the line, themselves. Perhaps Crichton knew that global warming was a reality, in which case he took on the more difficult path in writing Next. (I hope there is at least one more novel waiting in the wings.)

Re-read Next. Suspend your belief in the tenets of global warming, and I think you'll find it an entertaining read.
Copyright © 2008, Michael A. Banks

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