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~~*~~ Michael Crichton: Next ~~*~~
I go through phases of reading a load of books and then nothing at all. Recently I made my way through 4 in a weekend and 'Next' was one of them. I'm not particularly fussy about the genres I read though I generally avoid girly rubbish as I find little substance in them. Similarly I'm not keen on short stories as they're too short, unfortunately this almost fits into that category.
I can't be doing with things that have no real ending - I don't mind having unanswered questions or books that make you think but to say that this book hardly gets going is an understatement. In my opinion a book should have a central character or at least a link between one story and the next and yet this jumped from one genetic parable to another - a coroner stealing body parts, a cure for drug addiction, a talking ape... all merely linked by 'genes'. Imagine an A-Level essay on Genetics and How They Affect Us and you get the picture - don't get me wrong, it was all fascinating as an insight of how the future may transform but it was almost as though Crichton had a load of stories in his head about genetics and then vomited them into a 500 page book. I'm not new to the world of Mr Crichton; I enjoy learning (he goes into great scientific research in many of his books) and I loved Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, Congo and Sphere but this was pretty annoying.
What was even more annoying were the conclusions at the end of the book which Crichton surmises is the way forward for the world, for example, Establish clear guidelines for the use of human tissues. Although he's obviously a very well read man with knowledge and opinion but I felt like I was being preached to. The back of the book read as an exciting novel which in some ways it was - each story was fast-paced and intriguing but with no particular end. I can't tell you about the characters and how they affected me as there were that many and they were hardly featured for long. Each story would take a break whilst there was an introduction of a new line only for them to reappear later, the most notable was the chimp-human hybrid though confusing due to far too similar character names and although the reason for this becomes apparent at the end when two of the stories are vaguely linked together, there is no discovery of an overall big picture. The novel also had newspaper clippings thrown in between chapters although I couldn't tell whether these were fact or fiction but nonetheless got me thinking.
I picked this up for 75p on the market and for that price I really shouldn't complain, however, it's what I do best - I would advise you not to pay the £6.99 rrp though ultimately it is up to you: I wouldn't want to preach to you.
NB: The version I have doesn't have a red monkey on the front, but a boring blue sky and cloud effect thing going on.
Me, Pig & Puddle.
Review will more than likely appear elsewhere.
I really enjoyed Michael Crichton's book 'Prey' so it was just natural that I bought next as soon as it was published. Disappointing is surly to strong but honestly, I wouldn't spend that money again on it. It is less the content of the story that disappointed, no the layout of the story is the real problem.
It is one of Crichton's favourite topics 'when technology goes wrong'. The base is good, incidents that can happen when gene technology is not monitored/regulated enough.
Unlike his other books there's no real storyline in 'Next' - it's a mix of separate stories combined by the main topic about failed gene technology.
Topics like unauthorized misuse cells, transgenic animals and irresponsible use of modified genes are red-hot. The stories were quite interesting although the sometimes seamed to be too far fetched.
Most of the characters are unappealing, dull and not really worked out; that makes it quite hard to be interested in their future - a major criteria for a good read. Due to the sheer number of characters introduced it's hard to remember all the names/who's involved in which story. Some characters disappear for 50 pages, some never turn up again, and after the 10th substorie you just don't want to concentrate on it anymore.
'Next' has the potential to a good read. If he'd chosen to write several short stories without combining them it would have been a lot more enjoyable and easy to read. I like his style of writing, short, laconic and witty. The single stories are interesting and with newspaper articles included in the book almost seam to be too real.
But as I cannot rearrange the chapters I have to say next to 'Next' - I'm sorry for that horrible joke, it just had to be :-)
I gave up on Michael Crichton books a while back. His plots became dull, confused and predictable - essentially just endlessly recycling his idea of "when technology goes bad". Then I came across a copy of State of Fear cheap, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. So, buoyed by that success, I moved straight on to Next.
Sadly, Next proved a disappointment. Its plot centres around biotechnology and its potential effects on the future of the human race. It's obviously a controversial subject and one which you feel Crichton never really gets to grips with from an entertainment point of view, producing a turgid, plodding novel that has plenty in the way of techno-babble, but little in the way of fun.
The plot focuses on several different characters, many of whom have either been affected by biotechnology, or are employed by biotech companies. The trouble is the characters are all very unevenly handled and are never really developed into complete, real feeling people. Characters are either dislikable or dull and it's difficult to care about their fate. There are also far too many people introduced at times - so many that I lost count of them all - and Crichton struggles to juggle them all successfully. It becomes very confusing, as a procession of characters wander in and out of the plot - seemingly with little or nothing to do with each other. This gives the whole thing a very muddled and disjointed feel.
Because Crichton introduces so many characters, they inevitably suffer. Some characters disappear for several chapters, often reappearing 50 or more pages later - by which time it's difficult to remember who they are or what situation they were in last time we met them. It's instantly off-putting to have so many characters floating around with apparently little relevance. True, towards the end of the book, the various characters do start to come together and it becomes clear that there are at least some links between some of them. Even so, these links often tend to be highly artificial and unlikely; there's no real sense of a sudden "dawning" as you see the bigger picture and realise how it all fits together. In truth, Next's various parts never come together to form a particularly coherent whole.
As well as the mass of characters, most of them aren't terribly sympathetic. They are selfish and unpleasant, making it difficult to care about any of them. In fact, you really wouldn't care less if biotechnology turned out to be the downfall of them all. In fact, it's difficult to know exactly who you are meant to be rooting for. Not just because of the sheer mass of characters, but because there's no "hero" in a traditional sense and the lack of a lead character leaves the book with a vacuum that it struggles to overcome. The same is true of the "villain" too. Again, to a large extent, there isn't one - no evil scientist looking to manipulate genes, no even evil corporation putting profits before people. Lacking a hero to root for and a villain to despise, Next struggles to raise any kind of emotion to engage the reader.
There's also too much science in the book too. Crichton's books have always been science heavy, and the massive bibliography at the end shows how much research Crichton did for the book. Whereas in State of Fear, this research was carefully integrated into the plot, here it just seems to be used in a highly artificial way. At times, you really do feel like you are sitting in a dull science lecture of which you only really understand about one word in every 50. Unless you're a scientist yourself, you probably won't have much idea (other than in a general sense) what is happening at most points. Again, this impacts on the potential enjoyment levels. Crichton never really appears to get to grips with some of the science himself, so is in no position to try and explain this to his readers and his efforts to do so often come across as clumsy and confused. Attempts to make this slightly more interesting, by disguising bits of science as newspaper reports does add a bit of variety, breaking up the otherwise dull prose at least a little. It's still not enough to render the book completely readable, though.
The truth is that, burdened down by so much science, such dull characters and a confusing mess of a plot, the book just drags and becomes very difficult to read. Crichton has a very readable style and keeps his chapters short, which does give you some incentive to plod through the book slowly. However, it very much becomes a book you get to the end of only because you've started it, not because you're really enjoying it. Boring, unengaging and confusing, it's hard to find much to recommend Next.
I picked up a hardcopy of the book for just 70p from a charity shop, so wasn't too worried that I didn't enjoy it too much. However, had I paid full price - even for the paperback - I would have felt very disappointed with it.
ISBN: 978-0007241002 (paperback)
Available from Amazon new from £4.89 or second hand from 1p
© SWSt 2008
What an amazing book. It was Michael Crichton at his best, going into way too much detail about the subject matter but never failing to entertain. This could be his most complex and strange book to date (and I won't even go into the talking monkey too much). It is told from multiple perspectives and I am not sure where to begin in trying to explain what the book is about. So I will say it in two words - "The future". I suppose the title gives that away to a certain extent. Michael Crichton proves to the world once more he is so much smarter than we are but is able to explain things in such a way that his adoring readership know what he is talking about and don't feel patronised about the whole thing in the slightest. The reason it takes so long for him to release books - so much faster than say, James Patterson, who can write books faster than some people seem to be able to read them - is because of the overhwelming amount of research that must go into every aspect. But you have to pick this book up and see just what I am talking about.
Michael Crichton is a highly successful writer with over 150 million books in print, going back 40 years. He is probably best know as the creator of ER and author of Jurassic Park, which became a hugely successful multi-million dollar movie. However, to his fans Crichton is much more than the creator of Jurassic Park and the release of his latest novels create a rush of both excitement and anticipation as to what it is going to be all about.
I therefore couldn't wait to read Next when it was released as hardback in November 2006. In many ways it is similar to many of his other books in terms of covering a very controversial subject head on but in the form of a fictional novel. A lot of his novels explore scientific advancements and what can happen when they go spectacularly wrong (Jurassic Park) and Next is no different in this regard.
However, in other ways it is very different to his previous work in terms of characterisation and overall plot.
This is a book that could have gone spectacularly wrong. Whilst a book of fiction it is based around the highly specialised, complex and sometimes over-whelming subject of genetic research (or specifically transgenics) and the book treads a very fine line between being utterly boring and being brilliantly done. There are not many authors who can put a book together like Next and get away with it and this is not because his loyal fan base will support him but more through the cleverness of his research and writing and the blending of fiction & fact is done so convincingly that you would swear that they were true or about to happen.
This is not a book about the characters. It has no real beginning or end and little by way of plot line and so, on the face of it, holds little appeal. It is a book covering numerous short sub plots with transgenics (for example what happens when you breed man & ape) the central theme. Each little story doesn't quite end or just disappears completely but underneath everything is brought together beautifully and convincingly. Each story covers a different element of genetics and presents a situation to the reader as to how this can go awry. It combines bizarre possibilities with frighteningly disturbing viewpoints and as a reader you are constantly forming opinions on the subject which for a work of fiction is a remarkable achievement.
The book covers some well publicised areas of genetics such as gene therapy and presents a worst case scenario as to what could go wrong if this becomes the norm in the world. It challenges our sense of reality and also makes you question the moral side of this.
At times it appears far fetched but I was always thinking that the picture he painted, in some cases, is more of a possibility. Given the subject it would have been easy to bog the reader down in scientific mumbo jumbo but this is one of the strong points of the book for me. The scientific explanations are done beautifully. The technology is explained in a very easy to understand way and whilst the subject is serious, the book has a light hearted theme throughout it. It is extremely well written and researched and demands your attention throughout.
Opinions on this book will avoid the middle ground. You will either love it or hate it. You will either think it is a novel of almost limitless imagination or a factual documentation of what is happening in genetic research around the world. However, it is not Michael Crichton throwing his opinions down the throat of the readers but giving a view of what could go wrong in a spectacular way.
In this book Crichton has delivered something that is very rare. He has turned a boring, scientific subject into a fictional novel but still got the readers believing it to be true and saying "What if...."
This is a man who got half the world believing that dinosaurs could make a comeback so to convince them about a talking monkey should be easy.
I would thoroughly recommend this book but you would need to have an open mind on the contents beforehand. I was gripped and read it quickly and will re-read it in later years to compare notes then.
Four stars for me. It is clever, unique, different, controversial and has you questioning the ethics. It's Michael Crichton at his best.
Amazon £4.84/Marketplace £0.01.
* Paperback: 528 pages
* Publisher: Harper (6 Aug 2007)
* Language English
* ISBN-10: 0007241003
* ISBN-13: 978-0007241002
* Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 11 x 3.6 cm