Sunday, 24 October 2010

Life Will Find A Way [Review: Next]

Michael Crichton's novel Next is about genetic engineering and has an unusual structure, somewhere between a short story collection and a novel, as the minor characters from one chapter become the heroes or anti-heroes of the next. While there is a clear narrative, timeline and ending, each chapter deals with a new consequence of genetic science or a new twist on a previous event. This structure is perfect for the topic as it suggests that genetic science is running out of control with each development leading to several others, and as with Jurassic Park there is a sense of chaos overturning order.

I'm not going to go into Crichton's beliefs about global warming in this article except to make the general point that, despite being a highly intelligent writer, Crichton isn't always right. For example, the world hasn't been taken over by robot cowboys. Yet. Next takes a scattershot approach so no doubt some of these wild predictions will come about - indeed, some may already be happening.

A recurring theme is the legal status of genetic science - the point about how far behind the law is and how little it reflects reality is exaggerated heavily. Another is the creation of transgenic animals with human genes - such as Gerard and Dave the intelligent parrot and chimp respectively - they're not at all realistic but make for a great read, and ultimately the comedy wins out over the scientific or thriller elements.

The novel Next by Michael Crichton bears no relation to the film Next, which stars Nicholas Cage as a Vegas conjurer who actually does have magical powers. I will be returning to the theme of psychic powers and reviewing this film in a later post.

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