Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Michael Crichton's "Next": Good writing, messy presentation

An anthology of stories built around social & ethical issues concerning genetics. But presented as a novel rather than story collection; that is what makes it a somewhat tedious reading. Some 25 untitled stories running in parallel - 2 pages at a time, & may be 100 characters between them - that merge into 5-6 stories towards the end of the book.

Most of the stories are unremarkable, but there are two exceptions:

1. A horror story based on gene patents.

True fact: There are genes inside your body that are now patented & owned by someone else! Legally, you do not own all of your own body.

Story summary: A dying cancer patient is cured by a competent doctor. What he is not told is that he was actually cured by a rare gene he has that is apparently effective against some cancers.

The wily doctor makes him visit for several years after cure, & keeps collecting his body tissue. Eventually, doctor isolates his cell line & sells it to a pharma company.

Rest is court room drama, kidnapping & chase that is both bizarre & typical Hollywood. And very plausible.

2. A comedy built around a talking parrot that has been injected with some human genes.

I might have rated this book higher if it was presented as a story collection rather than a novel. In the present form, it takes a paragraph or two into every section before you figure out which of the many stories is being continued!

Fact sheet.
Next, novel, review
First published: 2006
Rating: B

See also.

  1. Arthur Clarke's "An Ape About the House" (1962): Story of an engineered chimpanzee that can speak like humans, & is sold as a servant & babysitter - but turns out to be more talented than anyone suspected. Can be read alongside the story in "Next" where an engineered baby has a chimp mother & a human father.
Note: This post, originally dated 26 Jan 2006, is moved from my catch-all blog elsewhere - now abandoned.