Essay, Research Paper: Michael Crichton

Literature: Beowulf

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For almost three decades, Michael Crichton has written novels that appeal to his
reader`s imagination and take a firm hold of their pocketbooks. Crichton`s
writing stands out as much as his 6=9 frame. He has become one of the most
widely read and bought science fiction authors of the past three decades. From
his first novel The Andromeda Strain, which he published while in medical
school, to his most recent Airframe, Crichton has captivated his readers and
left them craving more. What makes Crichton`s novels unique are their topics.
Criction`s fiction novels have topics that range from little known historical
events to indistinct scientific topics, such as cloning and primate
communication. Crichton`s novels intertwine factual information with his own
fictional ideas to produce stories that sell. Crichton`s research is very
accurate and detailed. This fact can be traced to Crichton`s extensive
education, both formal and informal. Born John Michael Crichton in Chicago,
Illinois, he was raised in Roslyn, New York. Crichton graduated from Harvard
University, were studied to become an English major, but converted to studies in
anthropology. After graduating summa cum laude, Crichton taught anthropology for
one year at Cambridge University in England. After his tenure at Cambridge,
Crichton attended Harvard Medical School, where he earned his doctorate.
Crichton also completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Salk Institute in
California. (Jaynes 1) Crichton`s writing experienced a dry spell in the early
eighties, when he said, A Writing was very difficult for me. Instead of writing
Crichton traveled the world. Being an anthropologist, Crichton explored
civilizations that are hard to reach. He traveled from Malaysia to Pakistan. He
also made a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, and spent time in the South Pacific. (Jaynes
2) Crichton has had many experiences and gained enormous amounts of knowledge,
which he employs in his novels, and uses to create stories that climb the best
seller list quickly. Crichton also experimented with psychic phenomenon and
became a professed spiritual pilgrim. Crichton admits to participating in
practices such as acupuncture and Aaura-fluffing. (Jaynes 2) Crichton himself
says, A Sometimes I thought, You`ve been in California too long, and you`ve gone
from a perfectly O.K. doctor to a guy who lies on a couch while someone puts
crystals on him and you actually think it means something, but it`s nothing but
a lot of hippie-dippy-airy-fairy baloney. (qtd. in Jaynes 2) Crichton has
explored the landscape of the mind and the planet, and uses what he has
discovered to create stories that sell. Michael Crichton is the author of eleven
thrillers under his given name. All eleven of these novels have made the
best-seller list, and earned Crichton a notable reputation. Crichton`s first
novel The Andromeda Strain was written as a means of income for Crichton while
he was in school. When the novel was published Crichton experienced minimal fame
around the Harvard campus. More importantly, however, this novel established
Crichton=s reputation as a writer. The novel itself is about an alien virus that
lands in the remote New Mexico desert, and the scientists that study and
ultimately get rid of the virus. This novel contains subtle hints comparing it
the alleged alien landings in Roswel, New Mexico and alien studies conducted in
Area 51 in Nevada. Crichton puts his own creativeness into this work using the
general public=s curiosity concerning alien matters, only this time the invader
is a virus. Another aspect of this novel that makes it so compelling is as
Richard Shickel of Harper=s Magazine states, AMr. Crichton has spared no effort
in his attempt to make us believe that The Andromeda Strain could happen here.@
The factual information and even the fiction aspects of this work are a product
of Crichton=s exposure to the medical field at school. Crichton uses computer
printouts, biological references, and fictional government documents to lend
authenticity to this story. (Marowski 1) This is the first of many instances
where Crichton uses his knowledge and experience to excite his readers. Another
Atechno-thriller@ that Crichton is more popular for is Jurassic Park. In an
article for the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Andrew Ferguson stated that
Jurassic Park=s Areal virtue@ is A its genuinely interesting discussion of
dinosaurs, DNA research, paleontology, and the chaos theory.@ This work does
indeed display an acute knowledge of the scientific fields mentioned above.
Crichton incorporates factual information into his story of cloning actual
dinosaurs. Crichton writes, A Y in 1953, two young researchers in England, James
Watson and Francis Crick, deciphered the structure of DNAY.@ (Jurassic Park)
This event is used to grasp the reader=s attention and is the basis for the
book. Although the story line may seem outlandish, Crichton writes in a manner
that makes almost anything believable. He includes an account of paleontologists
excavating a site in search of dinosaur remains, and also of geneticists cloning
dinosaurs in a laboratory from blood in a mosquito preserved in amber. The novel
as a whole is filled with suspense and scientific marvels. Again Crichton=s
success comes from his ability to give his readers what they want and again
using his vast knowledge of scientific and medical fields to create a
masterpiece. In the Eaters of the Dead, Crichton uses history as base. Crichton
gathered the majority of his research from an ancient manuscript written by an
Arabian man by the name of Ibn Fadlan, and is currently on display in a Viking
museum in Oslo, Norway. The manuscript chronicles Fadlan=s travels from Bagdad
to Turkey and Russia in 922 AD. Fadlan goes on a journey with a clan of Norsemen
who are going to help a neighboring clan defeat an unseen evil called wendols.
These Aneolithic cannibals@ come by night covered by dense fog and wreak havoc
on the inhabitants of the Norse villages. (Weeks 1) Fadlan survives with two of
the other members of the war party. This novel is very reminiscent the epic poem
Beowulf. In Crichton=s story the hero=s name is Buliwyf, which is similar to
Beowulf. There are many parallels between the two works. Jack Sullivan of the
New York Times Book Review calls Eaters of the Dead A a tale of sword and
sorcery,@ and Aa change of pace for Crichton.@ Crichton uses the knowledge he
gained while studying anthropology and traveling the world to depict the Vikings
in an accurate manner. Crichton again uses a historical account to create a
best-selling story. One of Crichton=s most popular novels is The Great Train
Robbery. This story is loosely based on a robbery that took place in Victorian
England in 1855. This work has been praised for its authentic recreation of
Victorian lifestyles. It gives the reader a view into the life of everyone from
the poor to the rich. It also shows the life and dealings of a master criminal.
Crichton writes from the point of view of the criminal, whose name was Edward
Pierce, who was an upper-class wealthy man, who was very intelligent and very
patient. Pierce thought of every possible problem and made adjustments
accordingly. The goal of the robbery was to steal the army payroll with a value
of about 12,000 pounds in gold bullion on its way to Crimea. Crichton=s work
seems more authentic with the incorporation of street slang that was used in the
Victorian era. Words such as Alay@ meaning job and Acrushers@ meaning policemen
are used extensively throughout the text. Crichton did a lot of tedious research
to produce such a story. Doris Grumbach in an article for The New Republic
writes, A Crichton has produced a narrative that which involves the reader in
the step-by-step strategies of a master criminalY.@ This fact alone makes for a
story which is appealing to a wide range of readers. Grumbach also writes, A The
Great Train Robbery combines the pleasures, guilt, and delight of a novel of
gripping entertainment with healthy slices of instruction and information
interlarded.@ Crichton does not leave out a single detail of the robbery plan.
His tiring commitment to detail leaves the reader with a nagging curiosity for
what is to come next. In the end the extravagant heist is achieved, but the
Pierce is captured about three months later. He is found guilty of grand theft
and sentenced to do time in Newgate Prison in London. Before he arrives at
Newgate, Pierce escapes and the British government never recovers his stolen
prize. None of Pierce=s accomplices were ever caught and the robbery was
considered a success. Again Crichton uses his love of history and his knowledge
of other eras to weave a story of mystery and adventure. Edward Weeks, a
journalist for Atlantic Monthly, describes The Great Train Robbery as A an
exciting and cleverly written piece of fiction.@ Crichton=s ability to mesh
science, technology, and suspense is not limited to novels. Many of Crichton=s
stories have been made into motion pictures because of their exciting content
and, most of all, their success as novels. (Chapman 5) Probably the most popular
film made was of Jurassic Park, which broke many of the box office sales records
that stood at the time of its release. Many of Crichton=s other novels were also
made in to movies such as The Great Train Robbery, The Lost World, Congo, and
Andromeda Strain. Crichton has even directed some of these films. To most
readers of science fiction the thought of reading historical or purely
scientific topics is not pleasant. Crichton writes in a manner that creates a
mood and takes his readers into the story. After the first few chapters the
reader is Ahooked.@ Just as people pay extravagant prices to watch sporting
events every year, people also pay millions of dollars annually for novels that
take them to places deep in their imagination. Michael Crichton=s stories have
always provided plenty of stimulation for the reader=s imagination. To uphold
the realism of his work, Crichton often displays scientific data and historical
information in the form of graphs, charts, maps, and computer printouts. These
visual aides are used throughout his novels to add to the scientific or
historical tone. In an article for Book World-The Washington Post Alex Comfort
writes, A Science fiction has undergone an unwelcome change. It used to minister
to our need for prophecy; now it ministers to our need for fear.@, as is the
case in Crichton=s novels. People seem to enjoy being scared. In many of
Crichton=s novels, as noted previously, the subject that involves something we
as human beings fear but are curious about at the same time. Deadly invaders
from space, creatures that come from the mist to kill us while we sleep, and
even enormous flesh-eating dinosaurs have long been the objects of our fears and
those objects which run wild in our imaginations. To totally grasp the scope of
Crichton=s success, it is beneficial to see actual sales figures. Crichton=s
most popular book, Jurassic Park, has sold nearly 10 million copies. In addition
to this book, Crichton has written 24 other novels of which 20 made the
best-seller list. (Jaynes 1) Three movies spawned from Crichton=s books did very
well at the box office. Congo, Jurassic Park, and The Lost World were each
popular in their respective seasons. It is quite obvious that Michael Crichton
has found a niche in the science fiction world. Whenever adventurous,
knowledgeable, and exciting storytelling is desired Michael Crichton delivers.
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