Book Review: Next

Posted by Peter Hall - December 26th 2006 @ 10:36 pm

Written by Michael Crichton, 2006

Next, by Michael Crichton

You may be wondering why I’m reviewing a Michael Crichton book on a horror website.  The man writes almost exclusively in the vein of corporate thrillers based around some wacky, out of control, fringe science of the very near future.

Well, if you must know, I happen to like wacky, out of control fringe science.  Especially when it is set in the corporate world!

Plus, I have a soft spot for Crichton.  He was my favorite author as a child (what kid wouldn’t have their mind blown by the likes of Sphere or Jurassic Park).  He usually publishes a book every winter and I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss one just because I’m now an adult (and an amateur writer myself) and can realize that Crichton never writes characters with any measure of depth or personal interest.

But he can manipulate science to fantastical revelations and with Next he has picked a topic that does just that while inspiring genuine fear in any sensible person’s heart.

Opening with Crichton’s standard bit of corporate espionage, Next soon winds a tale of extreme wrongs that could possibly be born out of transgenics and patenting of the human genome.  I won’t even bother telling you exactly what the plot is about, because it is engineered to be all over the map, but trust that the intersection of many different plot threads eventually does happen.

Unless you wear a tin foil hat at all times, chances are you never give much thought as to what happens to your blood after you donate it or give a sample.  But the early stages of Next paint a picture so out of one’s control that the mere thought of giving a tissue sample to anyone becomes horrifying.  Who knows what the hell kind of liberties are taken with your cells.

They could be sold for billions of dollars and harvested against your will thanks to a bullshit legal ruling!  Or they could be used to make a super smart parrot!  Or a humanzee!  And then you could be reunited with your long lost humanzee son and you could kidnap him and enroll him in middle school!

Okay, that’s when Crichton starts to bend reality to a wholly unbelievable level.  And yet the entire point of the book, magically, isn’t lost.  Unless involved in the field, gene patenting and transgenics is something you just don’t ponder on your own.  But the implications of it are, frankly, fucking scary.  There are ideas contained in Next that made me skin crawl.

It isn’t the blockbuster novel that Jurassic Park was, but it isn’t the paranoid, agenda driven bias that State of Fear was, either.  Read it.  It gets silly and ends very lazily, but it gets the point across all the same and still finds time for some science running wild.

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