Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Terminal Man

Michael Crichton passed away yesterday. His early novels and movies showing the potential dark sides of technology had a strong impact on me in my youth.

The Andromeda Strain deals with an extraterrestrial virus from a military satellite. The movie Westworld, written and directed by Crichton, is about a fantasy land where a gun-slinging robot, played by Yul Brynner, doesn't behave as he should.

The Terminal Man doesn't refer to someone about to die but direct connections between humans and computers. If I remember right people became addicted to stimulating themselves with these connections. Addicted to the network? You have to be kidding.

My favorite Crichton book is The Great Train Robbery about the meticulous planning and execution of a massive gold heist on a train in 1855. Not much technology but a very logical plot line. The movie, also written and directed by Crichton, not suprisingly follows the book quite closely.

I haven't enjoyed his later work as much. The mathematician Ian Malcomb in Jurassic Park comes off as a babbling philosophical know-it-all who happens to be always right. The ridiculous holographic database in Disclosure is just embarrassing. These later books often have gratuitous action scenes just so they might make better movies.

Nevertheless Crichton knew how to make technology very creepy. Even if these books were not quite that realistic they got the young me excited (and worried) about the power of technology and computers.


  1. Michael Crowley of The New Republic has a much less flattering view of the later Crichton:

    I didn't read Crichton's last book, but it sounds pretty pathetic in its position that Crichton himself knows more than the great majority of climate scientists.

    On the other hand, creating ER was a great accomplishment.

  2. Hmmm. I think I have only read his later books - I certainly haven't read the ones Lance mentions. I always had the feeling that these books were movie scripts in disguise...