Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Finished "State of Fear", By Michael Crichton

[ 6/3/2010 ... I never went back and re-read this after its initial post ... It was written late at night during an insomnia kick (usually a 3-5 day stretch with little (maybe 2 hrs. of non-deep sleep per night) or no sleep. I read it again now, for the first time and just cringe ... talk about COMMA OVERLOAD?!!? ... Hah ... I think each comma overused represents an actual brain stall on my part at the time. ; ) Oh well, I have corrected the annoying overuse. Please re-read and forgive ... ]

I've finished reading "State of Fear", by Michael Crichton. It was a good book and a quick read. Crichton did a lot of research for this one -- three years, he admits at the end in the 'Author's Message'. After reading this modern day thriller, you can read this last section of the book to find out what Crichton really believes regarding environmental issues and 'global warming' in particular.

The baseline event for this book is the preparation for a lawsuit to be filed by a large environmental group, NERF (National Environmental Resource Fund), on behalf of a tiny South Pacific island nation called Vanutu. The suit is to be filed against the EPA of the United States of America. The lawsuit claims that ocean levels are rising at an alarming rate and in the near will future entirely engulf the tiny island nation. The suit claims that the cause for the rising ocean levels is none other than the infamous 'global warming', with the culprit being none other than the EPA of the United States.  Why?  For failing to enforce stricter carbon emissions controls on its industry.

The characters in "State of Fear" aren't well developed, but they are developed enough that you have a feel for where they are coming from. Good plot and overall storyline. The end was a bit predictable, save for one gruesome scene -- could have done without that image in my mind. Still sends chills down my spine, just writing about it again.

Crichton doesn't put a lot of stock in conventional wisdom regarding environmental issues. In "State of Fear", he challenges environmental zealots to clearly state their beliefs and the basis for these beliefs. Then he hammers them with the facts which are documented throughout the book, in countless pages of footnotes and references -- hence the three years of research, I guess. I plan on looking into a few of his references myself, for some additional reading (e.g., references to DDT, as given on page 536, Avon Books, Copyright 2004). Crichton's book also finds the notion that some individuals truly believe that we possess the knowledge, or the ability, to control the environment absurd -- especially in light of the fact that we live in a dynamic world which is in a constant state of change and has been for the last 4.5 billion years.

The individual doing the 'hammering' in "State of Fear" is an enigmatic MIT professor, named John Kenner. Supposedly, Kenner is on sabbatical and working for the NSIA (like NSA?). I liked this character. He was succinct, somewhat cold-hearted, and quick on his feet. Wish Crichton had developed this character more. It did seem a bit unbelievable that such an individual did not have more resources at his disposal -- specifically, that Kenner kept dragging the young lawyer and secretary (of the millionaire philanthropist providing the financial backing the Vanuatu lawsuit) into the throws of peril instead of using some of his own agents. Guess that Kenner was trying to keep a low profile? And maybe Crichton wanted to humanize the story by involving his central characters: Peter Evans (young lawyer) and Sara Jones (young secretary)? One character kind of drove me nuts: Peter Evans. He was a bit flaky, but you grow to like him after a couple hundred pages.

There are a lot charts and graphs in this book and some parts are just plain preachy. But if you can get past these 'preachy' parts, this is truly a good story and well worth the effort to read. My husband stopped reading "State of Fear" after the first 100 pages -- because of the 'preachy parts', he said. Now, that I've made it through to the end of the book: he's going to give it another shot.

What I liked best about "State of Fear" is that it made me stop and think about the basis for my own beliefs regarding environmental issues. I wondered: Could I clearly state what I believe, with regards to 'global warming' -- and other environmental issues? Further, could I defend, with documented facts, why I believe what I hold to be truth? Thankfully, I've never put much stock in conventional wisdom. I'm an information junkie; I need to do my own research and get the facts before I draw a conclusion. So what about you? What do you believe? Are you just content to be herded ... like cattle ... along with the masses, into a 'state of fear' by the PLM (politico-legal media complex) machine (Avon Books, Copyright 2004, page 501)?

Here's an excerpt from my favorite part of the book (also on page 501, as noted above):

"Has it ever occurred to you how astonishing the culture of Western society really is? Industrialized nations provide their citizens with unprecedented safety, health, and comfort. Average life spans increased fifty percent in the last century. Yet modern people live in abject fear. They are afraid of strangers, of disease, of crime, of the environment. They are afraid of the homes they live in, the food they eat, the technology that surrounds them. They are in a particular panic over things they can't even see -- germs, chemicals, additives, pollutants. They are timid, nervous, fretful, and depressed. And even more amazingly, they are convinced that the environment of the entire planet is being destroyed around them! Remarkable! Like the belief in witchcraft, it's an extraordinary delusion -- a global fantasy worthy of the Middle Ages. Everything is going to hell, and we all must live in fear. Amazing."

In sum, if you've overlooked "State of Fear" -- as I had done -- you should take the time to read it now. It's a fast-paced, entertaining adventure that actually makes you stop and think. Good read! I would highly recommend this book to anyone willing to temporarily suspend their established beliefs, in order to think outside of 'the box' for awhile.

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