A couple weeks ago, I picked up a copy of Michael Crichton’s Next, and on a whim read it tonight. (I should have been reviewing proofs of an article, but so be it.)
Rarely do I think to myself, “I need to finish this book so I can throw it away,” but with about fifty pages to go, when it was clear that the only remaining drama in the book was whether the Dog the Bounty Hunter-style character who was trying to get the DNA from an 8 year-old boy would be thwarted by a super-smart African grey parrot whose gusto for one-liners and movie quotes rivals the combined talents of the judges on Project Runway, or the human-chimp mutant boy who had previously defeated a group of skateboarding middle school thugs by throwing poop at them, I thought, “This is not staying in the house.” Even though we spent much of the weekend rearranging the living room to fit a fourth bookcase, thus creating a genuinely Wagnerian Wall of Texts (or is it Phil Spectorian?), I knew I’d never keep it.
Indeed, given that the book has about six different story lines that only manage to come together in the most absurd ways possible, one might say that the book itself is an illustration of the dangers of breeding different kinds of species: in this case, it manages to combine the narrative coherence of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End with the structure and logic of a Dave Barry novel. With the Pirates movie, there reached a point where I thought to myself, I’m watching a movie featuring a guy with an octopus face, and that last plot twist made me think, ‘Boy, is that improbable.’ That should never have happened. With Next, I just couldn’t believe that the guy who wrote Jurassic Park could publish such a mess. It’s the worst final performance since Peter Sellers’ unwatchable Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu.
Though I love this description of Crichton from the New York Times review of Next:
Though the moment may lack the inherent gravitas of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s encounter with Abraham Lincoln, or even Elvis Presley’s private audience with Richard Nixon, surely history should reserve a special place for the day in 2005 when Michael Crichton was invited to the White House to meet with George W. Bush. Imagine: the modern era’s leading purveyor of alarmist fiction, seated side by side with Michael Crichton.
Ah, the New York Times.