Michael Crichton died on November 4. Perhaps you heard, but perhaps you didn't. Even though American history was made on that day, it's a bit sad to have a man as accomplished as Michael Crichton pass away with barely a blurb on the television news.
My experience with Crichton began, like many others, with Jurassic Park. Two of my 9th-grade classmates read it and couldn't stop talking about it, and when the film came out the following year, I couldn't help myself... I just had to see what the hoopla was about.
As great and wonderful as that movie was, the book blew me the fuck away.
And so, naturally, I continued my trek through Crichton's imagination. I bought every book he had written under his real name, and, starting with The Andromeda Strain, read them in order all the way through Rising Sun (or at least I think so... it's possible I read Rising Sun next, given that movie also hitting the silver screen).
Of his first eight "Michael Crichton" books (for he would write several under three different pseudonyms), The Great Train Robbery and Eaters of the Dead were my favorite, although picking a favorite out of those eight is next to impossible. The brilliance of Congo and Sphere is only diminished by less-than-stellar film versions, but the books themselves are must-reads.
These books kept my own imagination in good company throughout high school and my early years in the military. The technical detail, combined with not-so-far-fetched plots and loving (and hating) characters, bred in me a sense of purpose in writing. While I can't definitively attribute to Mr. Crichton my desire to keep fiction as accurate as possible, I can safely say that his works certainly nurtured that desire.
The Lost World was the last book of his I read, and, to be honest, I didn't much care for it. It was clear that, by then, he had (as so many other popular writers) "sold out" in favor of pending Hollywood book deals. I've always meant to check out Airframe, but after a horrifying film version of Timeline, I must admit that I'm a little reluctant to do so.
Still, the man who would go on to create E.R. knew his business, and it's a testament to any writer to keep up such a high standard of writing for as long as Crichton did. Of the first eight books of his that I read, each holds a special place in my literary heart, and one day, perhaps, I will see if his later works will fit there, as well.
American literature lost a giant. And far too early.
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