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State of Fear    by Michael Crichton order for
State of Fear
by Michael Crichton
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Michael Crichton can always be counted on for a unique and exciting read with a strong technical element. In State of Fear, he pits a somewhat naive young lawyer, Peter Evans (who works for eccentric millionaire philanthropist George Morton - there's always one in a Crichton novel) against radical environmental activists. The novel opens on an espionage sequence involving an exotic young woman and a grad student working at the French wave mechanics lab (his hormones cost him his life). It moves on to show the acquisition by this shadowy group of other marine technology. We wonder what's up? Next we see Evans and Morton traveling with Nicholas Drake, director of the National Environmental Resource Fund (NERF). Morton's discovery of a misuse of his donation leads to conflict with Drake and eventually to Morton's disappearance.

Morton's LA assistant, Sarah Jones, shares Evans' concern about unfolding events. MIT professor John Kenner, whose hobby is mountain climbing (K2 anyone?) and who has Pentagon connections, met with Morton before he went missing. And Jennifer Haynes is a lawyer working on the NERF Vanutu case to develop a global warming lawsuit on behalf of that Pacific Island nation (of four coral atolls) against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She leads Evans (and the reader) through scientific evidence that casts doubt on whether global warming is real. Soon, Evans and Sarah, join Kenner and his associates in a global race to prevent a series of horrifying disasters that are being manufactured by environmental terrorists in search of media attention and funding. Our heroes almost freeze to death in Antarctica. They're hit by lightning and swept away by a flash flood in Arizona. In the Solomon Islands, they encounter cannibals and a tsunami (disturbing to read about, given the recent real Indian Ocean tsunamis that caused such terrible loss of life).

Crichton gives us his usual rollercoaster chills and thrills, often unlikely but always exciting. Along the way, Kenner makes a case against global warming with the reader through Evans (I must say that I appreciated a perspective on this that differs from the usual media take). The author tosses in a summative message at the end, with his own viewpoint on the issues, taking a position against 'Ideologues and zealots', and against 'certainty' based on fuzzy data. In State of Fear, Michael Crichton mixes popular science (which will be unpopular to some) and futuristic thriller, a blend that I hope he will repeat.

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