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While State of Fear is Michael Crichton’s most overtly environmentally-themed novel – and its denunciation of theories of global warming proved highly contentious on the book’s 2004 release – other of this prolific author’s works can be considered to have at least some element of environmentalism inherent in the plot. Until the publication of State of Fear, Crichton enjoyed considerable popular and critical support throughout his career, which included creating the medical television drama “ER.” Crichton’s scathing indictment of the science behind theories of global warming, however, alienated much of his fan base, although not enough to keep the book off best-seller lists. Lines from the novel like “Do you know what we call opinion in the absence of evidence? We call if prejudice;” “False fears are a plague, a modern plague;” and “When you have a strongly held belief, don’t you think it’s important to express that belief accurately?” all contributed to broad rejection of his thesis on the part of the American left.
While State of Fear was, as mentioned, the most overtly concerned with the environment, other of Crichton’s books can be considered to have sprung from the well of warnings regarding man’s interaction with his environment. Jurassic Park, for instance, depicts how horribly events can turn when man plays God: “God creates dinosaurs, God kills dinosaurs, God creates man, man kills God, man brings back dinosaurs.” Similar statements expressing serious reservations with man’s temptation to control his environment can be found in quotes from Jurassic Park like, “You know, at times like this one feels, well, perhaps extinct animals should be left extinct,” and “Discovery is always rape of the natural world. Always.”
One of Crichton’s earlier novels, The Andromeda Strain, confronts the environment from a vastly different, but still horrific, angle. The inadvertent introduction into Earth’s atmosphere of a deadly microorganism, the result of ill-considered efforts at securing a deadly virus or bacteria from outside of Earth’s atmosphere for the purpose of developing a biological weapon, unsurprisingly backfires when the microorganism escapes and proliferates, leaving many dead in its wake. The lesson, as with Jurassic Park, was clear: mess with nature at your own risk. As one character notes, “Human intelligence was more trouble than it was worth. It was more destructive than creative, more confusing than revealing, more discouraging than satisfying, more spiteful than charitable.”
Crichton wrote many other books before his 2008 death, but these three are perhaps the most important in terms of discussions of the environment.
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