ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
Novelist Michael Crichton is known for taking on sensational topics, and his latest work of fiction, titled “Next,” embraces the subject of genetic technology.
Alan Cheuse has a review.
ALAN CHEUSE: Maybe this novel should be titled “Almost,” because Crichton's not quite writing about the future. Believe it or not, just about everything he dramatizes in this story of intertwined genetic research projects - some gone wrong, some right - takes place in the present world. A world in which, as some of his protagonists discover, a university can patent the very genes you carry, and companies hope to brand nature with the same alacrity that they take to putting their names on football stadiums and ballparks.
We call this genomic advertising, says a British executive at a presentation, where he tries to sell clients on such possibilities. So, says someone in the audience, this is the black rhino, brought to you by Land Rover? The jaguar brought to you by Jaguar? Says the advertising exec, I shouldn't put it so crudely, but yes.
Crichton doesn't put it so crudely, either. He takes the novelist liberties with a lot of his material, but he also polishes with the sheen that only an imaginative writer can bestow. The search for talking birds and monkeys in Indonesia, the travails of a researcher's family when they adopt a humanzee, the half ape, half human product of some DNA experiments gone askew, the perils of a family whose genes a major California University has patented and wants to protect.
Crichton creates a series of fascinating dramatic situations that hold a reader's attention right down to the last page of the story. And next, after that, comes an extensive bibliography that Crichton has compiled to demonstrate from where he has taken his ideas, with comments by the novelist that are often more entertaining and enlightening than most trashy thrillers, a stage down on the evolutionary scale from his own.
SIEGEL: The book is “Next” by Michael Crichton. Our reviewer Alan Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
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