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Michael Crichton

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Michael Crichton Essay, Research Paper

For almost three decades, Michael Crichton has written novels that appeal to his

reader`s imagination and take a firm hold of their pocketbooks. Crichton`s

writing stands out as much as his 6=9 frame. He has become one of the most

widely read and bought science fiction authors of the past three decades. From

his first novel The Andromeda Strain, which he published while in medical

school, to his most recent Airframe, Crichton has captivated his readers and

left them craving more. What makes Crichton`s novels unique are their topics.

Criction`s fiction novels have topics that range from little known historical

events to indistinct scientific topics, such as cloning and primate

communication. Crichton`s novels intertwine factual information with his own

fictional ideas to produce stories that sell. Crichton`s research is very

accurate and detailed. This fact can be traced to Crichton`s extensive

education, both formal and informal. Born John Michael Crichton in Chicago,

Illinois, he was raised in Roslyn, New York. Crichton graduated from Harvard

University, were studied to become an English major, but converted to studies in

anthropology. After graduating summa cum laude, Crichton taught anthropology for

one year at Cambridge University in England. After his tenure at Cambridge,

Crichton attended Harvard Medical School, where he earned his doctorate.

Crichton also completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Salk Institute in

California. (Jaynes 1) Crichton`s writing experienced a dry spell in the early

eighties, when he said, A Writing was very difficult for me. Instead of writing

Crichton traveled the world. Being an anthropologist, Crichton explored

civilizations that are hard to reach. He traveled from Malaysia to Pakistan. He

also made a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, and spent time in the South Pacific. (Jaynes

2) Crichton has had many experiences and gained enormous amounts of knowledge,

which he employs in his novels, and uses to create stories that climb the best

seller list quickly. Crichton also experimented with psychic phenomenon and

became a professed spiritual pilgrim. Crichton admits to participating in

practices such as acupuncture and Aaura-fluffing. (Jaynes 2) Crichton himself

says, A Sometimes I thought, You`ve been in California too long, and you`ve gone

from a perfectly O.K. doctor to a guy who lies on a couch while someone puts

crystals on him and you actually think it means something, but it`s nothing but

a lot of hippie-dippy-airy-fairy baloney. (qtd. in Jaynes 2) Crichton has

explored the landscape of the mind and the planet, and uses what he has

discovered to create stories that sell. Michael Crichton is the author of eleven

thrillers under his given name. All eleven of these novels have made the

best-seller list, and earned Crichton a notable reputation. Crichton`s first

novel The Andromeda Strain was written as a means of income for Crichton while

he was in school. When the novel was published Crichton experienced minimal fame

around the Harvard campus. More importantly, however, this novel established

Crichton=s reputation as a writer. The novel itself is about an alien virus that

lands in the remote New Mexico desert, and the scientists that study and

ultimately get rid of the virus. This novel contains subtle hints comparing it

the alleged alien landings in Roswel, New Mexico and alien studies conducted in

Area 51 in Nevada. Crichton puts his own creativeness into this work using the

general public=s curiosity concerning alien matters, only this time the invader

is a virus. Another aspect of this novel that makes it so compelling is as

Richard Shickel of Harper=s Magazine states, AMr. Crichton has spared no effort

in his attempt to make us believe that The Andromeda Strain could happen here.@

The factual information and even the fiction aspects of this work are a product

of Crichton=s exposure to the medical field at school. Crichton uses computer

printouts, biological references, and fictional government documents to lend

authenticity to this story. (Marowski 1) This is the first of many instances

where Crichton uses his knowledge and experience to excite his readers. Another

Atechno-thriller@ that Crichton is more popular for is Jurassic Park. In an

article for the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Andrew Ferguson stated that

Jurassic Park=s Areal virtue@ is A its genuinely interesting discussion of

dinosaurs, DNA research, paleontology, and the chaos theory.@ This work does

indeed display an acute knowledge of the scientific fields mentioned above.

Crichton incorporates factual information into his story of cloning actual

dinosaurs. Crichton writes, A Y in 1953, two young researchers in England, James

Watson and Francis Crick, deciphered the structure of DNAY.@ (Jurassic Park)

This event is used to grasp the reader=s attention and is the basis for the

book. Although the story line may seem outlandish, Crichton writes in a manner

that makes almost anything believable. He includes an account of paleontologists

excavating a site in search of dinosaur remains, and also of geneticists cloning

dinosaurs in a laboratory from blood in a mosquito preserved in amber. The novel

as a whole is filled with suspense and scientific marvels. Again Crichton=s

success comes from his ability to give his readers what they want and again

using his vast knowledge of scientific and medical fields to create a

masterpiece. In the Eaters of the Dead, Crichton uses history as base. Crichton

gathered the majority of his research from an ancient manuscript written by an

Arabian man by the name of Ibn Fadlan, and is currently on display in a Viking

museum in Oslo, Norway. The manuscript chronicles Fadlan=s travels from Bagdad

to Turkey and Russia in 922 AD. Fadlan goes on a journey with a clan of Norsemen

who are going to help a neighboring clan defeat an unseen evil called wendols.

These Aneolithic cannibals@ come by night covered by dense fog and wreak havoc

on the inhabitants of the Norse villages. (Weeks 1) Fadlan survives with two of

the other members of the war party. This novel is very reminiscent the epic poem

Beowulf. In Crichton=s story the hero=s name is Buliwyf, which is similar to

Beowulf. There are many parallels between the two works. Jack Sullivan of the

New York Times Book Review calls Eaters of the Dead A a tale of sword and

sorcery,@ and Aa change of pace for Crichton.@ Crichton uses the knowledge he

gained while studying anthropology and traveling the world to depict the Vikings

in an accurate manner. Crichton again uses a historical account to create a

best-selling story. One of Crichton=s most popular novels is The Great Train

Robbery. This story is loosely based on a robbery that took place in Victorian

England in 1855. This work has been praised for its authentic recreation of

Victorian lifestyles. It gives the reader a view into the life of everyone from

the poor to the rich. It also shows the life and dealings of a master criminal.

Crichton writes from the point of view of the criminal, whose name was Edward

Pierce, who was an upper-class wealthy man, who was very intelligent and very

patient. Pierce thought of every possible problem and made adjustments

accordingly. The goal of the robbery was to steal the army payroll with a value

of about 12,000 pounds in gold bullion on its way to Crimea. Crichton=s work

seems more authentic with the incorporation of street slang that was used in the

Victorian era. Words such as Alay@ meaning job and Acrushers@ meaning policemen

are used extensively throughout the text. Crichton did a lot of tedious research

to produce such a story. Doris Grumbach in an article for The New Republic

writes, A Crichton has produced a narrative that which involves the reader in

the step-by-step strategies of a master criminalY.@ This fact alone makes for a

story which is appealing to a wide range of readers. Grumbach also writes, A The

Great Train Robbery combines the pleasures, guilt, and delight of a novel of

gripping entertainment with healthy slices of instruction and information

interlarded.@ Crichton does not leave out a single detail of the robbery plan.

His tiring commitment to detail leaves the reader with a nagging curiosity for

what is to come next. In the end the extravagant heist is achieved, but the

Pierce is captured about three months later. He is found guilty of grand theft

and sentenced to do time in Newgate Prison in London. Before he arrives at

Newgate, Pierce escapes and the British government never recovers his stolen

prize. None of Pierce=s accomplices were ever caught and the robbery was

considered a success. Again Crichton uses his love of history and his knowledge

of other eras to weave a story of mystery and adventure. Edward Weeks, a

journalist for Atlantic Monthly, describes The Great Train Robbery as A an

exciting and cleverly written piece of fiction.@ Crichton=s ability to mesh

science, technology, and suspense is not limited to novels. Many of Crichton=s

stories have been made into motion pictures because of their exciting content

and, most of all, their success as novels. (Chapman 5) Probably the most popular

film made was of Jurassic Park, which broke many of the box office sales records

that stood at the time of its release. Many of Crichton=s other novels were also

made in to movies such as The Great Train Robbery, The Lost World, Congo, and

Andromeda Strain. Crichton has even directed some of these films. To most

readers of science fiction the thought of reading historical or purely

scientific topics is not pleasant. Crichton writes in a manner that creates a

mood and takes his readers into the story. After the first few chapters the

reader is Ahooked.@ Just as people pay extravagant prices to watch sporting

events every year, people also pay millions of dollars annually for novels that

take them to places deep in their imagination. Michael Crichton=s stories have

always provided plenty of stimulation for the reader=s imagination. To uphold

the realism of his work, Crichton often displays scientific data and historical

information in the form of graphs, charts, maps, and computer printouts. These

visual aides are used throughout his novels to add to the scientific or

historical tone. In an article for Book World-The Washington Post Alex Comfort

writes, A Science fiction has undergone an unwelcome change. It used to minister

to our need for prophecy; now it ministers to our need for fear.@, as is the

case in Crichton=s novels. People seem to enjoy being scared. In many of

Crichton=s novels, as noted previously, the subject that involves something we

as human beings fear but are curious about at the same time. Deadly invaders

from space, creatures that come from the mist to kill us while we sleep, and

even enormous flesh-eating dinosaurs have long been the objects of our fears and

those objects which run wild in our imaginations. To totally grasp the scope of

Crichton=s success, it is beneficial to see actual sales figures. Crichton=s

most popular book, Jurassic Park, has sold nearly 10 million copies. In addition

to this book, Crichton has written 24 other novels of which 20 made the

best-seller list. (Jaynes 1) Three movies spawned from Crichton=s books did very

well at the box office. Congo, Jurassic Park, and The Lost World were each

popular in their respective seasons. It is quite obvious that Michael Crichton

has found a niche in the science fiction world. Whenever adventurous,

knowledgeable, and exciting storytelling is desired Michael Crichton delivers.

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