I note with sadness that Michael Crichton, the MD turned novelist, turned businessman, turned director, turned television producer, turned global warming whistle blower, turned naturalist and who-knows-what-else, passed away.
I won’t say he was a first-rate writer, but I will say he was a first-rate second-rate writer to paraphrase Strauss’s critique of his own musical standing.
It seemed to me Crichton’s modus operandi was to research a subject–almost anything–until he had mastered enough information to write four of five brilliant essays about it, plug in characters, settings and McGuffins, and then stretch a plot around it. The plot was his weakness in that he often stretched it far too thin for my taste–for instance his novel Timeline has learned things to say about the Middle Ages and quantum physics, but the plot revolves around an evil Bill Gates wanting to go back in time to build a history theme park. Okaaaay, again with the theme parks.
On the other hand, research insight and readability were his strengths. He loved history, science, and nature, and wanted other people to know about them as well. My favorite novel of his is Airframe. It is about the business of airplane manufacturing, the business of tv journalism, and the research and plot come together beautifully. And the book is worth it if just for the vivisection of 60 Minutes.
The other book I recommend is, of course, State of Fear. Aside from going through the forensic data of Global Warming theory, he does a masterful job of showing the iceberg tips of the colossal forces that are at work every day on our planet and just how trivial the physics of man are in comparison.
Finally, he wrote many excellent stand alone essays that should be read, some are included in his books, some can be found on his website HERE. And at least one is preserved in the digital amber of our friend Scott Thong’s website Buuuuuurrrrring Hot.com.