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Friday, February 19, 2010

The Terminal Man

The Terminal Man by Michael Crichton
352 p Harper Publishing 1972

After going back for a second look at my favorite book from the seventh-grade, Sphere, I figured I would dip into the bucket of unread Crichton novels. I had not read a novel by Crichton in a decade, the last being Timeline. Shortly after reading Timeline, I began college, read The Sun Also Rises, decided maybe my life would be better enriched by reading more "serious" fare, and slowly forgot about Crichton's work. After going back to Sphere, I can understand his appeal--that book is a seventh-grader's fantasy put to paper. A recent couple of afternoons with one of Crichton's lesser works, The Terminal Man, reminded me of why I moved on. The Terminal Man includes pretty much any problem one can find with Crichton's fiction. Paper-thin characters make forehead-slapping decisions for the sake of the plot. An undercurrent of sexism runs throughout, which may actually only be a lack of attention to detail. Crichton's great strength, combining cutting-edge technological marvel with a shocking skill at page-turning efficiency, is only in its infancy here. The science at the center of The Terminal Man is far more exciting than say, Airframe, but Crichton hasn't quite put together the blueprint he enforces in that later work to make what he is saying gripping. The pages turn, but I found myself looking at my watch more. Though I was disappointed in this book, and despite my proclivities for a challenge (again, I read Ulysses for fun and had fun reading it), I can still see myself returning to Sphere or Congo or Jurassic Park for a delightful, relaxing time. If you can't enjoy a tub of popcorn and well-rendered explosions every now and then, you need a joy-injection.

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