Under the category of recommended summer reading you will find Michael Crichton’s State of Fear. As is often the case Crichton delivers a fast paced, easy read with interesting if somewhat two dimensional characters and an intelligent story while offering up some interesting insights into the science of the day.
As a plot device Crichton starts with a simple fact: In 2003 the Pacific island nation of Vanutu announced that it was going to file suit against the E.P.A. The lawsuit was supposed to be filed in 2004 but it never happened. The questions are: Why did the lawsuit never happen? Who was responsible? Why hasn’t Vanutu been flooded by the rising oceans?
The gist of the story centers around millionaire philanthropist George Morton who is also an environmental zealot (of the Gulfstream jet kind) and his involvement with NERF (National Environment Research Fund – a group of lawyers) and their campaign against global warming. Things get interesting when Morton starts to wonder where his money is being spent.
Crichton’s long suit is in his grasp of the technical and scientific. Since this is a novel which features global warming as a central topic the characters involved all have an opinion on global warming and not all of those opinions are in lock step with popular opinion on the matter. In point of fact the most compelling characters can best be characterized as deniers of global warming (there are currently about 32000 scientist who have signed a petition stating that there is no convincing scientific evidence that human activity is causing catastrophic global warming see – http://petitionproject.org/). It is Crichton’s grasp of all these things technical that is also his downfall in what is an otherwise good read: He pontificates far too much by setting up straw men (to represent John Q. Public) with ideas about global warming and then has an expert shred the ideas with solid scientific data.
State of Fear is still a good read and worth your time on several fronts. First, and most importantly, it is entertaining and the story is good. The science is sound whether or not you agree with it is quite aside from the point it is still ultimately a good thing to hear dissenting views and understand where those views are coming from. Last but not least Crichton does us all a favour by talking about the artificially generated state of fear created by the media, multinationals and the bastions of restrictive thinking known as universities. State of Fear isn’t a great novel it falls into that category of Rand like works that are more important for their ideas than the prose but is still entertaining.