Sunday, March 18, 2007

Book Review - “State of Fear” by Michael Crichton

"State of Fear" is a thriller that delivers serious lessons on environmental issues, including and especially ‘global warming’. Call it an ‘eco-thriller’. It uses a fast-paced fictional plot to keep your attention while delivering commentary on the science, art and politics of environmentalism. One theme that pervades the book is the harmful consequences of politicizing science.

Though the plot’s a bit flakey and the characters cardboard (like a John Grisham novel) I thought the book worked very well - it keeps your interest as intended. And if you want to skip the fictional part (at the expense of missing some interesting scientific commentary) you can go directly to the back of the book where Crichton summarizes all the serious stuff he wants to impart. As I said before, the back pages are an excellent source of information and ideas and are worth the price of the book by themselves.

If there’s anything I disagree with in Crichton’s ‘messages’ it’s his ideas on relieving world poverty which he thinks is a big cause of environmental distress. He’s vague, because this is a novel and not a social science text book, but it seems his solution involves designing "delivery systems that work". Delivery of what and by whom? On the surface this sounds a bit like the classic socialist delusion that you can solve poverty by redistributing wealth from rich to poor. But this soul destroying exercise only perpetuates the problem. The only permanent solution is for ‘the poor’ to become self sufficient, starting with food supply - in other words to become productive and create wealth for themselves. However, considering the whole book, this is a minor quibble.

The bottom line: excellent book, highly recommended reading.


Anonymous said...

I agree the book is very entertaining. However it was published over three years ago!

JR said...

Well, I guess I'm a just late bloomer. Anyway, given recent events such as "An Inconvenient Truth" the book is even more relevant now than then.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Thanks for the book review. I plan to get it from the local library. Sounds like a good read.