Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Michael Crichton

The ironic tale of how I unwittingly found Michael Crichton's successor on the same day he passed away.

At Toronto airport last month I decided to break my rule of "no more books" and buy something riveting to read on the plane back to NYC. I usually skim for any Michael Crichton book I haven't seen yet.  Not easy.  So I picked up a medical thriller called Cold Plague by Daniel Kalla, apparently a rising star in Canada. The moment one of the reviews on the back compared him  to Michael Crichton I was hooked.  I have been jealous of actually running out of Crichton's works so was hesitant to finish the ones I haven't read yet.  (Robin Cook is also good but hasn't captured me in the same way.)

I devoured the book in a day. Kalla's writing indeed rivals Crichton's in that as you turn the pages, you lose sight of the author, his words, his craft, and any trace of self consciousness on his part - you see only the characters and the story.  Look out for Daniel Kalla. He needs to break out of the Canadian market to keep us literary nerds enthralled for years.

The next morning, amid the post-election results, I was surprised and saddened to hear that Michael Crichton had lost his short battle with cancer. It's tragic when a doctor succumbs to disease, and the loss of a respected cultural talent is disappointing.  He was only in his 60s but has had a significant impact on popular culture over the past couple of decades, and in spite of Hollywood's depictions good or bad, his books are highly technical, educational, engrossing, and addictive.

I hope many other teenagers are introduced to his works as I was.  Too easy for them that most have been adapted into film (~21 so far).  In the spring of 1993, our 10th grade Biology teacher assigned us the book 
Jurassic Park a few months before the movie came out and it changed the literary landscape for me forever - yes, Crichton succeeded in becoming my first favorite contemporary author.   

Additionally, that was the summer we moved to The Woodlands, a master-planned community nestled in the great Jurassic forest north of Houston.  (The tail end of the Piney Woods region of the Southeastern US.)  Coming from the arid prairies of Dallas where we'd been living, the first time we visited I believe my jaw hit the ground.  For months after moving down, every time we crossed the bridge over Lake Woodlands, I held my breath half expecting a brontosaurus to raise its giant head over the misty tops of the towering pine trees along the shore.

Thank you, Dr Crichton...

Lake Woodlands sunset

George Mitchell Preserve, named in honor of the founder of The Woodlands

Texas Piney Woods


If you follow this City Data link, you will see why my standards are still high, as proven in previous posts.  Even I can't believe this is where I lived for one-third of my life!  Is it possible to envy oneself?


Happy Thanksgiving Y'all!


Anonymous said...

Lovely lovely photos, Olivia. It does have a Jurassic feel to it. I read Crichton's Abyss years ago and liked it. When I heard of his passing, I learned a little more about his life and was looking forward to reading his other works. And Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

Flighty said...

As Nikki says lovely photos.
It was sad news about Michael Crichton, and surprising as he was only in his early 60's.
I see that Daniel Kalla is a doctor in Glo's part of the world! I'll certainly keep an eye out for his books as they're the sort that I do read now and again.
Happy Thanksgiving! xx

Selba said...

I watched the movies from Michael Chrichton and my favorite is Disclosure beside Jurassic Park.

Happy Thanksgiving, Livie.

Glo said...

Hi Liv ~ the book sounds like a perfect find for you :) Interesting that the author works as an emergency doctor in a hospital. I wonder if he eyes each patient as a prospective character in a novel... His books look fascinating, although they might be a bit too blood chilling and thrilling for me! I'll watch for his books though!

meimei said...

hey, happy thanksgiving

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving sugarpops! It was SO lovely to hear your voice the other day! :o) Miss you and love you lots xxxxxxxxxxxx

Olivia said...

Nikki - I went to B&N looking for one I hadn't read and couldn't find any. Well, there was Sphere but I guess I am still putting it off.


Flighty - actually I believe he was 66, still too young of course.

The database terminal at Barnes & Noble said Daniel Kalla was out of stock. I ended up buying an Edith Wharton. No similarity whatsoever eh? xx


Selby - look out for the other movies too, I believe all of them except the last few have been adapted.


Glo - I wish I had read more but the one I did read I'd think of more as medical detective/conspiracy theory.


Mich - thanks sweetie.


Divs - and I giggled to hear your voice message tooooooo! Thanks lovely! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

The Moody Minstrel said...

I liked Michael Crichton until he started getting political toward the end. (Quickly puts bucket over head.)

First you change my image of New York forever, and then you blast my image of Texas into little, tiny, arid, tumbleweed-infested pieces. (Then again, I was aware that Houston is one of the rainiest places in the U.S.. I know that because western Oregon has been competing against Texas and Maine for the title of "most rain-sogged place in America".)

I envy you for envying yourself, m'lady.

Olivia said...

Minstrel - are you referring to his book State of Fear, about the global warming conspiracy? I think he was rather brave to make such a stand, imagine the research involved to write a novel on the other side of the hottest topic.

Yes, everyone who visited us in The Woodlands, especially the Brits, thought we were lying when we said there were trees, till they came to visit and their jaws too hit the floor! No cacti, no tumbleweed.

And you're right, behind the Pacific Northwest, Houston is the second rainforest, though it doesn't seem to rain that much and it can get pretty dry in August. But when it does rain it rains hard and then the trees perk up and turn emerald.

When we moved there in June 1993, there was a short rainburst every afternoon all summer, which kept the temps down pleasantly. But then we had La Nina and it got dryer for a couple of years on and off, though still a very green place.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I didn't know he passed away until I read your blog post!
I've read a good number of his books...I particularly enjoyed Timeline. I can't believe he's gone! Sometimes I forget authors are human and just subconsciously assume their books are omnipresent and will keep coming.
Gosh. ):

MattJ said...

i've read some Crichton, it didn't hit me the same way it did you but I suspect that's down to when you start to read someone's work. A lot of the authors I read when I was 11+ were all like David Gemmell, Eddings, Tolkien - the first 2 very formulaic but great reads nonetheless!

I think I was put off Michael Crichton when I read a book of his where the plot was something to do with nano-bots? It's harder to suspend belief when it's something you have some knowledge of I think. Which is strange as I don't really have a problem with sci-fi lol!

You're right about Robin Cook, I find he comes across as, I dunno, contrived. Like he's heavily telegraphing each stage of his story?

Anyway. hello. I am return-ed!

beginninghere said...

Beautiful photos Liv. I am glad you have found a new author to supply your reader's thirst though I am sure you will miss MC. A belated Happy Thanksgiving to you too.

Um Naief said...

love the pics... especially the first one and the one of texas. love the mist in the trees! it's actually turned a bit colder here... so waiting for the full blown cold to arrive!

not a big michael crichton fan... might be interested in this book. once i finish a few that i have, i may have to give it a read.

Um Naief said...

altho.. in saying that i'm not a big fan... i so loved jurassic park!!! the movie.. never got to the book.

Jo said...

You know, even though there are strip centers popping up everywhere from Willis down through Houston, the drive through Normangee to Huntsville is some of the most beautiful country in Texas.

I missed those towering pines!