State of Fear by Michael Crichton


Rating: ★★★★

This book was not quite what I expected. I mean it’s all there in the plot summary: environmental extremists are running around the globe trying to cause or amplify “natural” disasters. Peter Evans, lawyer for billionaire and environmental enthusiast George Morton, is unwittingly sucked into the race to expose the bad guys and foil their plans.

Usually climate fiction strives to warn people of the dangers of global warming. I read Kim Stanley Robinson’s, New York 2140 this year, which imagined a New York underwater. In Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, the world outside the walls of a Navajo reservation is drowned in rising tides.

Crichton, interestingly enough, argues not that there is no such thing, but that it doesn’t pose the dangers we think it does, and that even if it does, we have no idea how much of global warming is caused by human behavior and how much of it is caused by natural climate cycles. The media has put the civilized world into a “State of Fear” based on random, targeted, singular research studies, conducted perhaps by scientists whose funds are granted via organizations who have a stake in global warming.

I’m not saying I agree or disagree here, but I do think his argument is one worth examining. It is worth noting his bibliography is 27 pages long. 27 pages. In the author’s note he claims he studied climatology for three years. He has footnotes, charts and graphs littered through out the text. Having read the book, it’s really hard to just ignore that. Clearly- he knew more about the topic than I did.

As for the book itself- I won’t lie. The plot felt pretty ludicrous, almost to the point of being comical. Poor Peter Evans is caught in life or death moments every five chapters. But it was a fun thrill ride, and the settings were awesome. We get to see the jungles of New Guinea, the desolate landscape of Antarctica, the majestic Sequoia forests of California. The conspiracy isn’t exactly twisty turny. The one twist there is you do sort of see coming.

The characters were great. I have a lot of respect for the way Crichton wrote the women in his novels. I mean… I haven’t by any means read all his work, but The Lost World gave us Sarah Harding, and here we get Jennifer Haynes and Sarah Jones. Neither ever plays the damsel in distress role, and spend a good deal of time being braver than the men. I absolutely love that about his female characters.

It wasn’t a full five star read for me- I did think it was a little slow in places, too caught up in the details, and the ending was mildly unsatisfying. An epilogue would have fixed the ending right up.

I definitely recommend this for fans of Crichton, or anyone interested in climatology.

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