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Tag Archive: Michael Crichton novels


Review by C.J. Bunce

Every creator had to have their first work.  For Michael Crichton, that was Odds On, a heist novel written while he was in medical school, published under the pen name John Lange.  Odds On was re-released after nearly 50 years, before Crichton’s death, along with seven other “lost” novels, by Hard Case Crime (check out links below to my previous reviews in the series).  Odds On is both a classic product of its time and a study in writing, as we the readers get the benefit of hindsight, knowing what Crichton would later become.  In Odds On, we get to see the author begin to establish what would become his own unique storytelling style.

Although this is not Crichton at its best, every newfound Crichton book is a pleasure to read.  Some of his John Lange novels have better storytelling than a few of his later pre-Jurassic Park novels.  For all the commonality you can find among his five decades of works, the subject of each is varied and his characters also intriguing and different.  But Crichton novels often are gripping, unputdownable reads that ultimately fail to deliver a satisfying ending.  Odds On shows that quirk was there from day one.  Yet, if you’re a fan of the 1960s version of “trashy” pulp novels, with oversexed guys, oversexed gals, and a few crime twists, the ride is a good one.  This is the Crichton novel Doubleday rejected for being too “saucy.”

  

A twist on the pulp trashy novel, sex becomes a factor for each of the main characters in the book, and there are plenty of characters to get to.  Odds On follows a mastermind planning a heist of jewelry at a new luxury hotel in Spain.  He has enlisted two other men and this new-fangled contraption, a computer, and its “critical path analysis” program, to plan the heist.  The only thing the computer doesn’t tell him is he and his men would have better odds at success if they laid off the pregame sexcapades, or the actual habits and patterns of individuals who frequent high-end hotels.  Crichton deserves some credit–this is not the misogynistic fare of Ian Fleming and other contemporaries.  Sure, some of his characters are drooling, brainless Neanderthals, but the women all are strong, defiant, and intriguing in their own ways.  Crichton was certainly ahead of his time in this genre.  Unlike his later works, his leads are not as fleshed out as his supporting characters, here that’s four very different women who drive the story forward and keep the reader engaged until the final chapter.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After reading Michael Crichton’s groundbreaking science fiction novel Jurassic Park, I was hooked, and set out to read everything else he had written before and awaited each subsequent work with excitement.  I quickly learned that you can identify his work through his character choices and his storytelling, and not only were his ideas fresh and new (Crichton passed away in 2008), he knew how to spin a good yarn.  Yet, except for the Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World, each of his books is completely different from one another.  In common the books follow intelligent people who set about accomplishing something unprecedented.  Crichton’s latest (and perhaps final?) posthumous novel is Dragon Teeth, and in true form it is both a brilliant Crichton work, and also unlike anything he’d written before.  It arrives at bookstores later this week.

Shelf Dragon Teeth alongside Jurassic Park as the very best of Crichton.

Here at borg.com I’ve so far reviewed three of Crichton’s eight “lost” novels penned under pseudonyms.  In the early days of borg.com I reviewed Crichton’s Micro, a posthumously published novel Crichton hadn’t quite finished when he died, which included the technology that could shrink humans to half-an-inch tall beings.  With Dragon Teeth, there is no suspension of disbelief required as with many of his works.  This story is historical fiction, and a Western–easily one of the best Westerns I’ve read.  We meet a college student in 1876 named William Johnson.  He is an arrogant, self-absorbed son of a shipping magnate who takes on a dare and ends up accompanying a professor on a journey across the Old West in an early search for dinosaur bones–then newly-discovered proof that the planet is much older than previously thought.  The professor, one of the early paleontologists, is in a lifelong battle with another, competing paleontologist and their squabble becomes deadly as Johnson finds himself a pawn in repeated attempts at oneupsmanship.  Based on the feud of real-life 19th century professors, Dragon Teeth sucks the reader into every black and white Western movie where the heroes weren’t all that heroic, the dust was thick, the path was treacherous, and each new day could very well be your last.

Crichton stitched together all the Western spots you didn’t want to find yourself in as an outsider in 1876–Cheyenne, across the Badlands, into Montana and Wyoming territory, and the end of the line in murky Deadwood.  Dragon Teeth has all the atmosphere of Silverado, and reads with both the folklore of a Louis L’Amour novel and the peril and adventure of a Jon Krakauer true-life account.  You’ll find deceit and friendship as they existed beyond the frontier, Native American friends and enemies, and a look inside political and religious clashes that exist to this day.

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