Review

Next

by Michael Crichton



Michael Crichton needs little or no introduction, thanks to books
such as THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, THE TERMINAL MAN, JURASSIC PARK and,
most recently, the brilliant and controversial STATE OF FEAR. His
newest novel will scare the living daylights out of you, and there
isn't a vampire, rampaging dinosaur or clown under the bridge to be
had. NEXT is right now, and it's in your house. Heck, NEXT is you.
As Crichton points out in his very short introduction, "(T)his
novel is fiction, except for the parts that aren't." Yes,
indeed.

NEXT is about genetic research, the world that Aldous Huxley saw
coming over a half-century ago and that --- as Crichton so deftly
and enthrallingly illustrates --- is here now. This book is what I
might call an ensemble novel; it is a series of vignettes involving
a vast number of people in different situations whose commonality
slowly but inexorably comes together. There is a bioresearcher who
suddenly discovers that he is a mother and has no idea how to break
the news to his wife. A mother and child, meanwhile, are pursued by
a bounty-hunting team acting under the color of law, on the basis
that their client owns the mother's and child's genes --- and the
only hope of salvation for the hunted may be a parrot that can
perform basic mathematical functions.

The stories of these people, and others, are told against a
backdrop of ever-present and ever-threatening litigation that
unintentionally and by turns hinders research and allows it to run
rampant, creating a world that is breathtaking, encouraging and,
most of all, frightening. The narrative, which is never anything
less than a high-speed word chase, includes occasional excerpts
from scientific journals. Other sources appear at first blush to be
works of fiction created by Crichton. Try googling the more
outlandish ones. They're apparently real. But maybe they're not. A
seminal event in NEXT --- the introduction of Dave --- makes one
wonder.

As always, Crichton's research is impeccable, and his ability to
skewer his targets and roast them to a well-done turn --- there's
at least one political commentator, unnamed, who will recognize
himself herein --- remains intact after some three decades of
professional labors.

NEXT doesn't just tell a story, however. It raises issues. How
would you feel about a drug that, as a side effect, not only cures
drug addiction but also motivates the addict to become a productive
member of society? Should such a drug be made available
immediately? Or should those pesky clinical trials be completed to
see what else the drug might do? How do you feel about genetic
manipulation? Is it the key to utopia, or a Pandora's Box we
shouldn't be opening to begin with?

Crichton provides a helpful afterword if you would like his opinion
on these issues, but there is plenty here to give you pause, no
matter what side of each issue you might be on. NEXT will frighten,
worry and amuse you, and keep you thinking long after its final
words are read. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 12, 2011

Next
by Michael Crichton

  • Publication Date: November 28, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0060872985
  • ISBN-13: 9780060872984