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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Michael Crichton is best known as the author of THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, a science-fiction novel which was made into a successful motion picture in 1970. He has since written other novels that have been adapted to the screen and has gradually been drawn into filmmaking himself, both as a screenwriter and director. His Hollywood success has enabled him to indulge his passion for travel and adventure. TRAVELS offers glimpses of places he has visited, including Tanzania, Pakistan, and New Guinea. He favors spots that are off the tourist track and does not mind roughing it.

The book is not entirely about traveling--it strikes one as being a patchwork of pieces salvaged from a writer’s bottom drawer. The first eighty pages describe Crichton’s experiences as a student at Harvard Medical School. He completed the three-year course and then decided to become a writer instead. His description of his medical training shows how he became disillusioned with science. He believes it contains only half-truths because it focuses on the “how” of nature and ignores the “why.” For the past twenty years, he has been looking for answers to the bigger questions of existence. “’Whence come I and whither go I?’” he asks, quoting the distinguished German physicist Max Planck. “’That is the great unfathomable question, the same for every one of us. Science has no answer to it.’”

In addition to travel sketches and autobiography, Crichton writes about what he calls “inner travels.” He has been involved with almost every kind of mystical experimentation, including aura reading, spoon bending, exorcism, and out-of-body trips. His scientific background lends authority to his judgments on these paranormal phenomena. Some he dismisses as bunkum; others, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition, he accepts as authentic without being able to account for them theoretically. His inner travels make up the largest and most interesting portion of the book. Crichton’s combination of creative open-mindedness and scientific skepticism seems exactly right for the New Age intellectual. He is a likable writer who knows how to hold the reader’s attention by focusing on the dramatic aspect of his experiences and not dwelling on anything too long.