Of Dinosaurs, Train Robberies And Sex Politics

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So, can you think of anything common between dinosaurs, a train robbery and new age sex politics?

No? (If yes, then you probably know what this is about).

There is one common link among the three. A 6’9”, extremely talented and intelligent guy. Someone who became the first creative artist ever to have his works simultaneously chart at #1 in television, movies and books. Yeah, he was that awesome!

If you haven’t guessed till now, that guy is John Michael Chrichton, more popularly known as Michael Chrichton (pronounced cry-ton, as in frighten).

Michael Chrichton’s most famous works include the books Disclosure, Prey, State of Fear, The Andromeda Strain, The Great Train Robbery and Rising Sun (among others). And who can forget the awesome Jurassic Park. He was also the man behind the famous TV series ER.

Chrichton’s books usually tackle some kind of issue. Mostly, human-machine interactions and/or man’s inability to control the world around him. Most of his books are techno-thrillers, i.e., they are thrillers and heavily feature technology.

Allow me to take you through a brief tour of his more famous works:




1. The Andromeda Strain (Fiction)

The Andromeda Strain was the book that helped establish Chrichton as a bestselling author. The book documented the efforts of a team of scientists who try to investigate a deadly extraterrestrial virus. Once a person is infected, the virus clots human blood causing death within few minutes. A whole town is infected (and killed) by the virus – barring a few survivors.

The novel uses a false document literary technique. Wherein, Chrichton produces these ultra believable scientific documents out of thin air. You think they actually exist. But they really don’t.

The New York Times's Christopher Lehmann-Haupt said "Tired out by a long day in the country, I was awake way past bedtime. My arms were numb from propping up my head. By turning from side to side, I had driven the cats from their place at the foot of the bed, and they were disgruntled. I was very likely disturbing my wife's sleep. But I was well into Michael Crichton's THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN. And he had me convinced it was all really happening."



2. The Great Train Robbery (Fiction)

The great train robbery is a documentation of a massive gold heist that took place in Victorian England around 1855.

It isn’t all that great. Chrichton has done better. The novel was later made into a film in 1979 starring Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland





3. Eaters Of The Dead a.k.a The 13th Warrior (Fiction)

Eaters of the dead was written like a scientific documentary of an historical text. It has foot notes and all. Mid way through the book you actually think there exists such a document. But guess what, you have been fooled!

The novel is set in the 10th century. The Caliph of Baghdad sends his ambassador Ahmad ibn Fadlan to the kin fog Volga Bulgars. He is captured by a goup of Vikings on the way, who are sent on a heroic quest to the north. Poor Ahmad ibn Fadlan is taken along as the 13th warrior – for good luck!

The book is not complete fiction. The first three chapters of the book are based on the personal accounts of Ahmad ibn Fadlan. But after that, the story is largely based on the old English poem, Beowulf (seen the movie?).



4. Sphere (Fiction)

Sphere, initially, might seem like a sci-fi book. But it soon transforms into a psychological thriller that will keep you guessing and wanting to know what happens next. It’s bizarre, it’s fun, it’s simply un-put-down-able.

The main plot revolves around a craft that is found on a coral bed by the US Navy. A team of scientists is brought in to investigate the craft. The craft is thought to be of alien origin since it has been dated 350 years old and a sphere of seemingly extra terrestrial origin is found in the craft. Giving away more would spoil the book for you. Hence, I refrain.

Sphere was well received by both critics and book readers alike. Although some parts of the book are predictable most of the time it takes you completely by surprise.





5. Jurassic Park (Fiction)

Haven’t heard of Jurassic Park? Pour three bottles of wine over yourself. Light a matchstick. Throw the matchstick on yourself. BURN!

Now I wrote that because I know everybody knows about Jurassic Park. If you really don’t know, then please don’t follow the above steps. In the wise words of Wikipedia :

Jurassic Park is a 1990 science fiction novel written by Michael Crichton. Often considered a cautionary tale on unconsidered biological tinkering in the same spirit as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, it uses the mathematical concept of chaos theory and its philosophical implications to explain the collapse of an amusement park showcasing genetically recreated dinosaurs. In 1993, Steven Spielberg adapted the book into the blockbuster film Jurassic Park, which won 3 Oscars, 19 other awards, and 15 nominations.

Although scientists have established that cloning dinosaurs using the methods suggested in the book is impossible, Chrichton’s narrative had people believing it can actually work. The book was well received by book readers around the world and till date it is among the most famous works of Chrichton.



6. Rising Sun (Fiction)

Chrichton has this unique style of writing books where-in he mates a complex issue to an entertaining story. Rising Sun is a book that epitomises that style.

Rising Sun, at first glance is murder mystery. A murder is committed at the launch party of Nakomoto’s (a Japanese company) headquarters in Los Angeles, USA. The Japanese connection does not end with the company being from the land of the rising sun. The book explores the controversial subject of Japanese-American relations. It questions the idea that foreign direct investments, especially in high tech sectors, from Japan are a good thing. Throughout the book, Chrichton also brings to light the various differences among Western and Eastern cultures in various areas.

The novel is controversial, entertaining and didactic all at the same time.




7. Disclosure (Fiction)

Disclosure is another Chrichton book that addresses an issue in an entertaining, interesting and controversial manner. He even manages to include some really high tech stuff into the plot!

In Disclosure, the gender roles are completely reversed. A man accuses a woman of gender harassment! The protagonist works in a high tech company. He is about to get a promotion and become ultra rich through the stock options he will get. Enter the ex-girlfriend who not only beats him to the promotion but presses sexual harassment charges against him when he refutes her advances. Sanders , the protagonist, decides to counter-sue for sexual harassment thus putting his future in the company, his family and his career at stake.






8. Prey (Fiction)

Prey is by far the most awesome Chrichton book I have read. This is the book that got me hooked onto him. I read the book through the night even when I was on the verge of wetting my pants. This book can be scary but you just can’t put it away.

This book is about nano-robots (the scary kind) gone wild. Like Jurassic Park, Prey is a cautionary tale about uncontrolled scientific developments.

I could go on about how awesome this book is. Trust me, I could never stop. But I’d rather you go and buy this book and READ IT!





9. State of Fear (Fiction)

State Of Fear is another very controversial book from the house of Chrichton. He questions the whole premise behind the science and idea of global warming. And he does so in his signature techno-thriller style.

Chrichton was heavily criticised by scientists and environmentalists from around the world. According to them, he has distorted the facts and wrongly presented them to the reader. The book contains many graphs and footnotes, two appendices, and a twenty page bibliography, which have given many people the impression that the book has scientific authority.







Travels by Crichton is anther must read. It is non-fictional book, mostly auto-biographical about his attempts to leave medicine, his travels and experiments with spirituality.


Given the private way in which Crichton lived his life, his battle with throat cancer was not made public until his death. According to Crichton's brother Douglas, Michael was diagnosed with lymphoma in early 2008. He was undergoing chemotherapy treatment at the time of his death. Crichton's physicians and family members had been expecting him to make a recovery. He unexpectedly died of the disease on November 4, 2008.