Vamshidhar Kommineni

December 27, 2006

Book Review: Next

Filed under: Books — Vamshi @ 7:46 pm

2 stars

Great concept but very flawed execution is my one line summary.

At this point, I pretty much read Crichton and Grisham out of force of habit than anything else. Both authors make good reading for a flight or an afternoon of vegetating on the couch. I bought the book on impulse to do the latter since I’m taking a few days off from work. I used to think that Crichton was better because he at least introduced a new concept in every book rather than the same legal drama rehashed like Grisham. The quality of writing in this book is making me rethink that.

What’s good about this book is the concept of dealing with genetics, particularly genetic patents, ownership of tissue cultures and the general corruption of the scientific community by corporate interests. Crichton has definitely done his research as indicated by the decent Bibliography. Unfortunately, the bibliography and the Author’s note at the end are the best parts of the book.

The actual plot is a mish mash involving too many characters, none of them with enough character development. Characters like the rich billionaire who brings the transgenic parrot to the US are completely besides the point and randomly strewn throughout the book. Crichton wants to write a thriller, but can’t focus enough for it to actually be gripping. And he can’t resist the temptation to drop every reference around the subject into a contrived little vignette or story in the middle of the book. Where’s a good editor when you need one?

The other thing that really annoyed me was the length of each chapter and the amount of context switches involved. The 415 pages are split into 95 chapters and a prologue. I’m pretty sure the prologue at 16 pages is the longest chapter in the book (though I didn’t have the patience to go back and look through each chapter). Does Crichton think this is avant garde writing at its best? Or does he imagine that in our ADD age, the audience needs to be context switched every 2-4 pages or they won’t finish reading the book?

Even at his worst, Crichton is somewhat readable, which is why the book still gets 2 stars. But if you want to read his best work, pick up his non-fiction works, Case of Need and Travels for thoughtful, analytical books by an author who could write entertaining books while still being clear and readable. Sadly, it seems Crichton has forgotten (or has no need for) those skills.

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