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Michael Crichton 1942–

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(Full name John Michael Crichton; has also written under the pseudonyms Jeffrey Hudson and John Lange, and with Douglas Crichton under joint pseudonym Michael Douglas) American novelist, nonfiction writer, screenwriter, film director, and autobiographer.

The following entry focuses on Crichton's career from 1981 to 1995. For further information about his life and work, see CLC, Volumes 2, 6, and 54.

Crichton is best known as a novelist of popular fiction whose stories explore the limitations of a humanistic worldview in the age of advanced technology. Jurassic Park (1990), his best-selling novel about re-creating living dinosaurs from preserved DNA fragments, examines the dangers of exploiting and coming to rely on highly sophisticated scientific breakthroughs, like computers and biogenetic engineering, whose "inherent unpredictability" ultimately mocks humankind's belief that it can control its world. Although a number of critics fault Crichton for stereotypical characterizations and trite plotlines, many have praised his taut, suspenseful, and fast-paced stories, his entertaining narrative style, and his ability to convey technical information in a readable, exciting manner.

Biographical Information

Crichton was born in Chicago, Illinois, and raised on Long Island, New York. When he was fourteen, he wrote and sold travel articles to the New York Times. In 1964 he earned a B. A. in anthropology from Harvard University. Returning to Harvard in 1965 to pursue a career in medicine, Crichton began writing novels under the pseudonym John Lange in order to support his studies. While doing postdoctoral work at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, Crichton published The Andromeda Strain (1969), a popular thriller, and soon began a full-time writing career. Crichton is also a respected figure in the motion picture and entertainment industries. In 1972 he adapted his novel Binary (1971) for television and then began writing and directing his own films, including Westworld (1973), The Great Train Robbery (1979), Looker (1981) and Runaway (1984). He is also the creator of the critically acclaimed television drama E.R.

Major Works

Crichton has written on a variety of subjects and in a variety of genres: The Great Train Robbery, for example, recalls the history of an actual train robbery in Victorian England; the 1976 novel Eaters of the Dead explores the myths of tenth-century Vikings; the nonfiction work Electronic Life (1983) focuses on the practical applications of computers; and Travels (1988) is an autobiographical account of Crichton's life. He first established himself, however, as the author of Odds On (1966) and A Case of Need (1968), detective novels written under the pseudonyms John Lange and Jeffrey Hudson, respectively, while he was in medical school. Crichton is best known, though, for his work in the science fiction genre. Writing under his own name, he published The Andromeda Strain in 1969, a novel about a seemingly unstoppable plague brought to Earth from outer space; he has said that this story was influenced by Len Deighton's The Ipcress File (1962) and H. G. Wells's The War of the Worlds (1898). In his film Westworld, he depicted modern Americans as jaded individuals who depend on technology as a means of escaping reality. At the Delos theme park, guests live out their fantasies in various "worlds" populated by androids. Westworld guests, for example, stay in an "Old West" town where they win all their gunfights and brawls because the androids are programmed to lose. Computer programming problems occur, however, and the robotic cowboys begin to threaten and harm the guests. Congo (1980) similarly explores the dangers of technology, greed, and power. Likened to H. Rider Haggard's adventure novel King Solomon's Mines (1885), Congo tells the story of a behavioral scientist who attempts to return a gorilla capable of...

(The entire section contains 29906 words.)

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Crichton, Michael (Vol. 2)