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Remembering Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton in December 2004. (AP Photo)

Michael Crichton in December 2004. (AP Photo)

For four decades in America and around the world, when technology ran amuck and humans ran scared, you could look for the hand of Michael Crichton.

In blockbuster bestsellers and movie thrillers across decades, Crichton unleashed reconstituted dinosaurs, deadly viruses, nanotech swarms, killer gorillas and more human threats to the status quo — female sexual predators and fiendishly clever bank robbers.

He created “ER” and “Jurassic Park,” “The Andromeda Strain,” “Congo,” “Prey,” “State of Fear.” This week he died at 66.

This hour, On Point: The man who gripped us, Michael Crichton.

Guests:

Lev Grossman, book critic for TIME magazine. Earlier this week he wrote an appreciation of Michael Crichton as “A Master Storyteller of Technology’s Promise and Peril.” He’s the author of the novels “Codex” and “Warp.”

Lynn Nesbit, Michael Crichton’s literary agent for 37 years. She signed him in 1965 while he was still a medical student.

Chris Mooney, contributing editor to Science Progress. His forthcoming book, “Unscientific America,” deals in part with science and Hollywood. He’s also the author of “Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming” and “The Republican War on Science.” He blogs at The Intersection.

More links:

The official Michael Crichton website has a tribute to the author and information on all of his books and movies.

NPR.org remembers Crichton here.

The New York Times’ Charles McGrath offered an appraisal of Crichton this week, headlined “Builder of Windup Realms That Thrillingly Run Amok.” The Times’ obituary is here, along with an archive of features on his work.

Last May, Slate’s Jack Shafer wrote that Crichton’s 1993 Wired magazine essay, “Mediasaurus,” in which he predicted the extinction of mass media, now looks to be on target.

The Atlantic’s James Fallows sounds a similar note, and offers a thought for his friend Michael Crichton.

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  • Sarah Curi

    Shortly before my father died of cancer last year, he shared with me a memory about Michael Crichton.

    My father was a Fellow at Children’s Hospital in Boston when Michael Crichton was a med student at Harvard.

    My father was 6’3″ – he spoke of Michael Crichton’s height, how he was already a famous writer, and how very smart he was. Then he added that Michael Crichton was the only medical student he met at Harvard who seemed bored.

  • Lisa

    I remember reading Jurassic Park and at the time I was studying writing code. I thought it was brilliant that the computer code used to count dinosaurs on the island was written to only recognize the specific number expected, not any more! I saw right away the fault in coding that would not allow for deviation, and saw the irony in expectations that we cling to as humans!

    When the Jurassic Park movie came out, I took a British visitor to our local drive-in theater to watch it. During the rainy scene when the camera pointed to the liquid vibrating in a glass in the SUV as the T-Rex was approaching, the sound was also creating that same effect for a beverage sitting on our dashboard! Campy, yes, but fun for a Brit who had never been to a drive-in theater!

  • Jim Crick

    I read Andromeda Strain over and over as a teenager in the 70s. This was before I had any idea of the dawn of modern molecular biology. I received my PhD in Mol Bio in 1988, and I think my interest in the field began with that book. He’ll be missed.

  • Michael Tobin

    I read the Rising Sun not long after I emigrated to the US and found it to be very educational/informative along with being enjoyable. He should have gotten into writing text books it would have made my education much easier.

  • dave panzarino

    There is a scene in State Of Fear where protagonists drive a snow cat into an isolated crevasse in Antarctica during a snowstorm after losing radio contact… it’s terrifying! But that book washed over global warming in a very pseudo-scientific way.

    Having learned of his cancer, I wonder if the author was diagnosed around the time that he wrote this and whether, like so many others, his personal fears prevented him from accepting what his giant intellect obviously would have made so obvious to him, i.e. the dangers and potential consequences of global warming.

    His story is one of the highest education (Harvard Medical) and also of family connections to advertising and the corporate ‘Disnification’ of contemporary American culture. It’s disappointing that, in the end, he didn’t have the character to use his notoriety for the public good, or at least decided that entertainment was the best he could do for people.

  • Andrew Koenigsberg

    I loved reading Michael Crichton’s work especially Andromeda Strain , Jurassic Park and Timeline.

    However, as an earth scientist, I was very disappointed in his attempt to debunk anthropogenic climate change, especially when it became obvious that he was cherry picking and distorting the research of dedicated climatologists. Science fiction writers can do that to advance the story line, but not when they are testifying before Congress. Mr. Crichton stepped over the line there and that is sad coda to his legacy.

  • AV

    I read many of his books as a teenager and enjoyed them thoroughly – “The Great Train Robbery”, “Amdromeda Strain”, and “Rising Sun”. Movies like “Sphere”, “Jurassic Park” etc. based on his novels were enjoyable too. I didn’t read any of his last seven novels, and he lost the plot when it came to AGW. Still, I’ll remember him for the excellent “The Great Train Robbery” if nothing else.

  • Victoria Roper

    I met Michael Crichton initially in 1966 when my sibling married one of his siblings. At one point I stayed a week with him and his then wife, while he was interning at a Boston hospital, and coming home to write delightful passages for a suspense novel under his pseudonym. This took place on an old typewriter, and at great speed! Though he didn’t develop characters in depth in his books, he was an empathic listener and could draw people out one on one. He was gentle and rather shy in a touching way. In simple conversation, his interest and wonder about the world came through. His early autobiographical Travels seemed somehow detached regarding his own emotional life, yet his personal thirst to explore & experience were evident as a life theme. He will be missed.

  • S.E. Beckmann

    His books were always SO much better than the movie. If only Hollywood could have followed the JP books closer. “Twister” still one of my favorites, being from Nebraska, and without Mr. Chrichton, I would never have “seen” dinosaurs in my lifetime. He inspired me to go on several digs and start my website-
    http://center4cretstudies.tripod.com and it’s sister site-
    http://cretaceousland.tripod.com
    With all due respect to one of my favorite sci-fi/tech authors, job well done Mr. C.

  • bc

    I honor him for his creation of ER, and wish he’d put more of his time into TV and movies. Apart from Jurassic Park, I’m not drawn to his books. “Sphere” was like a dumbed-down, bland mish-mash of Stanislaw Lem and Dean Koontz, and “Congo” is one of the worst, dumbest novels I’ve ever read. But I loved The Great Train Robbery, and still love ER. I’ve got a copy of French translation of Timeline on a shelf, collecting dust. Maybe I should give it a try — perhaps the translation will improve his prose.

  • R. J. Herman

    I strongly suspect that Michael Crichton will not be fully appreciated until some time from now, especially with regard to some of his later “views.” Views he poised merely as questions for us, as society, to further evaluate. We get you Michael Crichton. Thank you for inspiring generations of scientists to take on where you have left off. Thank you for the legacy you have left behind.

  • M. E.

    The “Listen Now” Link is missing from the “Remembering Michael Crichton” page. Please fix this for the fans!

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