Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The NEXT Big Thing!!!

Anything is possible with Genetic Engineering. This is the crux of Michael Crichton's newest novel.

Crichton has once again excelled in giving the mix of fact and fiction in the right proportion to his readers. He did that with Jurassic Park, with The Lost World, with Congo, with State of Fear, and now the master story-teller has returned with NEXT!

Although, if he were smart, he’d disassociate himself from “Timeline” but that’s a different thing altogether, we’ll talk about it in another post.

About NEXT, I found a lot of Congo and Airframe in it (not in the strict sense); what with the talking ape (remember Amy from Congo?) and of course, a LOT of technology (Airframe had tonnes of information; I had to frequently revisit some pages to understand how the mass of information was used later in the book.) Although the storyline seemed a little like it was forced to merge into the technology part of the book, NEXT is a good read all the same.

Imagine one of the following scenarios:

Scenario I

Your genes are someone else’s property.
You’ve taken a blood test, your tissue samples are with the hospital; now they not only use your tissues for research purposes, they later on sue you in court and ask of complete ownership of your tissues/cells/blood for more research, simply because you signed some form at the hospital and you don’t even know what was written in that tiny font which when translated into simple English merely means “you’ve agreed for your tissues to be used commercially.” Not just yourself! Your children and grandchildren too, since they carry the same genome as yours, the hospital can now claim ownership of their tissues as well!

The hospital of course sells your tissues to labs that conduct research on them, for millions!

Scenario II

You have children you don’t even know of!

Anonymous sperm donors, ring a bell?
In an age where people resort to all kinds of medical techniques in order to have children, a lot of young men (mostly students) choose to donate their sperm (anonymously) with the sole objective of helping infertile couples have children (and of course pocket a little easy money themselves). And that leaves you with? Yes, you’re the biological father for God knows how many children around the world.

Scenario III

Insert a little gene here and a little gene there, and lo, you have a smarter rat, an intelligent parrot that can do math, and an ape that can think, talk, and behave like a human being!

Crichton has presented all of the above and more scenarios in his book and concluded some of them with disastrous results.

- Too many medical terms (genetic disorders); indecipherable scramble of codes; Vogelman’s paresis, Hypertrichosis, Aminocarboxymuconate paraldehyde decarboxylase, Chimerism?!?

- Way too many characters; half way through the book I figured I’d been misinterpreting some of the new characters with the ones already introduced!

- Possible genetic behaviors you didn’t think is possible; Giant Cockroaches, Permanent Pups, Bio-Terrorism, Blondes are smarter, Humans and chimps interbred, the works;

- Events that are beyond your comprehension, at least initially, which he tries to clarify later in the book with proof to back them up.

- Poorly knitted storyline.

Bottom line: Much better than Airframe, but not as good as State of Fear.
Michael Crichton has concluded NEXT with a lot of complex questions. I don’t wish to wrack my brains trying to answer any of them. If we know most of them are going to happen anyway, or maybe happening already, then what’s the use of fretting over it? One un-put-down-able book that is worth the read from the technology perspective, if you don’t want to spend too much time answering his questions that is.

PS: The paperback version of NEXT was a New Year gift from Aarathi and Allen.


dharmabum said...

a very detailed review, no? just like the works of the author himself, i believe. have read a couple of crichton's works, but off late, have not been too much into fiction - it has just begun to feel a lil boring :)

supernova said...

Aah! I'm in line for it!

dharmabum said...

funny, i just said it and now i'll have to take it back - about what i said on fiction.

just reading this book, only coz it was specifically recomended by a fellow blogger - its called 'einstein's dreams' - and am enjoying it quite a bit :)

Miss Iyer said...


Its not so much of a review, really. Cos, honestly, I didnt like the way Crichton brought the storyline around, toward the end, it appeared more like he was forcing the story to stick with technology. That aside, I liked the book.

And yeah, I agree with you about fiction, I will be moving into the "I'm done with fiction" zone soon. You can take only soo many crime scenes and so much of suspense, rite? :)

And about 'Einstein's Dreams' I read the excerpt, and yep, I'm starting to like it. Will read it sometime soon.

Miss Iyer said...


I'm sure u're in line for it. How about returning the James Patterson first? ;)

Chandramohan Kannan "CM" said...

I am sure I left a message here... not sure what it is though... but I am sure I did... :)

You deleted my message :( grrrrrr!!

Miss Iyer said...

oh! And I'm sure I didnt delete any comment CM :)

For some reason it would'nt have gotten saved.

Not all there said...

Good lord woman!!!

I was just going leave a note to tell you that i've finished the book n was not too impressed with it and what do i find???@!@@@!!!!!

first of all that my name is in here and worse, the cursor turns into a pointing finger over it!!! i didn't even know u have seen my blog forget add a link to it from yours!!! would have appreciated a heads up!! >:P

Miss Iyer said...


Well, I remember telling you that I bumped into your blog soon as u created it. Your husband did the honours of letting me knw :)

About blogrolling you, I just didnt think you'd have a problem ;)

PeterW said...

I loved it - just finished 2nd reading.
Airframe was good too, Congo just OK.