Sunday, December 09, 2018

51. State of Fear by Michael Crichton

State of Shit
Writing this post will be a ceremony of cleansing, to help put this awful book behind me.  State of Fear is the worst book I have read in a long time, quite possibly one of the worst I have ever read.  The problem with bad books is that it is much harder for them to be good bad than a cheezy movie.  There was nothing good about this book, the whole thing was painful to get through.

Let's pretend first that it isn't basically a giant piece of shitty propaganda, an alt-right consNERDative screed.  I will just ignore the pages and pages of "conversations" where a naive liberal who has never had their assumptions challenged is slowly convinced that global warming is a giant scam perpetrated by super-rich environmental groups fronted by Hollywood elite.  These "arguments" literally contain graphs and footnoted references to real scientific journals.  If you flipped it so that it was corporate drones being convinced that global warming is real, it would be just as bad.  It is probably about 1/3 of the book when all added up.  Everytime the characters get on a flight to travel somewhere (and that is often), it's an excuse for another multi-page "dialogue" of badly constructed logic, straw men arguments and cherry-picked facts.  This would completely disrupt any rhythm or excitement the book had generated, it if it had ever actually generated those things.  Nevertheless, let's just cut all that bullshit out and focus on the narrative the remains

It is supposed to be the story of extreme environmentalists being funded by a major non-profit environmental org (who is in turn mostly funded by a rich donor) who are plotting to trigger a series of natural disaster to increase funding for their global warming campaign because they have discovered that the statistics are disproving man-made climate change.  Seriously.  Though that idea actually could be a lot of fun.  Here it is thoroughly confused and uninteresting.  There is a layer of story that takes place for the first quarter of the book, I guess establishing the arbitrary and boring (and unrealistic) characters before you can even tell what this is about.  Other than it just being a structural mess, here is a list of the other flaws in the book.
  • The characters are almost empty.  There is just nothing there besides their job.
  • The characters are unrealistic.  Like Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky level of artificial constructs.
  • Nobody is competent.
  • The big cool agent guy who knows everything never will tell anybody anything but for no reason.  They get on a plane.  "Where are we going?"  "I can't tell you.".  Two chapters later, "we are going to Vanatau" "Okay cool, why?"  "I can't tell you." and so on.  It's just for fake suspense but there is no reason for it in the story.
  • The main character is a young lawyer who has never done anything tough.  He gets dragged along to everything for no reason.  These super elite agents who refuse to tell him anything also include him in every plan.
  • Each chapter is headed with a location and a time and all that.  Which is stupid because after the first quarter, the narrative always follows the same characters who are all together doing the same thing. So you have chapter after chapter with the same location on it.
  • The action sucks.
  • Heavy-handed use of italics "Evans glanced over his shoulder.  Sanjong was not behind him."
This book sucks.  It's for stupid smart people, I guess.  Fisher-Price: My First Thriller Book.  In college, for our final Humanities 110 project, one of the options was to write a dialogue with Socrates. My friend's dormmate wrote one where he and Socrates argued.  At the end, he wins the argument and Socrates apologizes and acknowledges that the dormmate was a superior rhetorician.  I kept thinking of that when reading this book.  Any dashed-off pulp book is going to be more entertaining and better put together than State of Fear. I am really glad that I have finished it and never have to think about it again.  Ugh.

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