Please summarize State of Fear by Michael Crichton.

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While his book State of Fear is a work of fiction, Michael Crichton based this novel on the science and practice of real-life global warming; any footnotes contained in the text are real, as is the data they substantiate. Fear of science being used as a political tool is one of the author's major themes in the techno-thriller published in 2004.

An eco-terrorist group called the Environmental Liberation Front (ELF) wants to draw attention to its cause (global warming) by creating chaos, in the form of "natural" disasters throughout the world. An environmental lawyer, Peter Evans, has one particular client (millionaire George Morton) who contributes heavily to the National Environmental Resource Fund (NERF). Morton suspects his donations are being mis-spent, and they are. 

The eco-terrorists are routinely (and in bizarre, unsuspicious ways) murdering anyone who interferes with their agenda. Morton publicly withdraws his money from NERF, an action which gets him killed in a car accident. Morton's will directs Evans to search for the truth about the environmental terrorists, which Evans and several others do.

The investigative group discovers that the so-called natural disasters are man-made acts of terrorism orchestrated by Nicholas Drake, the head of NERF. Evans and the others are nearly killed many times. In what turns out to be its final act of eco-terrorism, ELF creates a tsunami. Morton, who faked his death in order to investigate ELF, appears in time to save Evans and the others.

Evans and his team sabotaged the tsunami so it does not kill anyone but the ELF terrorists. Morton creates a new organization to promote environmental activism without any political agenda. Evans quits his job as a lawyer to work with Morton full time.

Of course, because it is a Michael Crichton novel, there are lots of action scenes, a few love interests, and plenty of oddities in nature (such as someone being killed by a blue-ringed octopus). This novel is a criticism of politicizing science, which Crichton believes is a dangerous thing.

“Nobody dares to solve the problems--because the solution might contradict your philosophy, and for most people clinging to beliefs is more important than succeeding in the world.” 

Crichton even includes an appendix entitled "Why Politicized Science is Dangerous."  

kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Author Michael Crichton’s 2004 novel State of Fear is about the politicization of science for the financial benefit of corrupt public policy advocates and scientists. Drawing from historical examples of the politicization of unverified or unverifiable hypotheses—examples that had extraordinarily serious consequences, such as the field of study surrounding eugenics, which was used by Adolf Hitler and his political movement, National Socialism, to justify genocide—Crichton posits a scenario in which the theory of global warming is similarly politically advanced despite what he considered a dearth of serious scientific rigor.

State of Fear is about the political and life-and-death battle between prominent global warming advocates and detractors, with millions of dollars in research funding at stake. As the two sides to the debate quarrel about the viability of the theory of global warming, Crichton injects the influences of avaricious politicians and ignorant, hypocritical celebrities on the side of global warming fanatics. Crichton himself was a graduate of Harvard University Medical School and his experiences in academia and in the medical profession instilled a sense of cynicism that permeates much of his work. State of Fear is a case in point. Global warming, the novel suggests, has become a cottage industry that has taken on a life of its own. One of the novel’s main characters is a sanctimonious television actor who portrays the president of the United States on a successful series. Another major character is a millionaire philanthropist, George Morton, who funds liberal causes (the character is clearly based upon George Soros) and whose money distorts scientific precision by forcing recipients of his largess to conform to the billionaire’s political agenda.

State of Fear’s protagonist is John Kenner, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is also something of a field operative for a national security agency. Kenner is the principal force opposing Morton and Nicholas Drake, director of an environmental organization modeled on the Natural Resources Defense Council, and it is through Kenner’s comments that Crichton’s voice is most distinctly heard, as when Kenner denounces the dubious science of global warming.

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State of Fear

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