The Late Michael Crichton’s Next, Though Politically Charged, Is Not His Best

I think that Michael Crichton is a spectacular writer. Not only are his stories compelling, his plots engaging and his writing enjoyable, but his ability to incite something entirely different in his reader is remarkable. Why? Because he often writes about topics that are (or should be) important issues of public discourse.

Crichton does not merely pick some outrageous sci-fi notion and run with it to the ends of the earth. He writes science fiction that is well-researched and of practical public interest. He then crafts a story that pushes the boundaries of “what if” while demonstrating the numerous issues that surround the topic at hand, whether nanotechnology, biological experimentation or global warming – one of the largest thorns in his side.

He was an outspoken public critic of complacency and constantly sought to shake up the status-quo. When unethical or damaging tactics were allowed to plague an institute of government, a scientific research facility, or the media, he seized upon them and exposed them in the best way he knew how – creative science fiction grounded in reality.

Next was Crichton’s jab at genetic technology and gene experimentation. This well-researched book ended with a series of recommendations for how American politics, government and people should proceed in regards to these issues. The book itself was fascinating for the issues it exposed but for some reason this time I just couldn’t grab hold of the slightly over the top sci-fi elements.

I certainly feel more educated about genetic research and the state of affairs of politics and science than I did before – thanks to his grounding these books in facts – but the sci-fi elements themselves were just not for me this time. I won’t stop reading Crichton’s books, though, but sadly we won’t be seeing any more of them (that aren’t published posthumously).

Here’s to you, Mr. Crichton. Thanks!

Get your copy of Next today.

An Evil Stan is Engineered in South Park Episode 105, “An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig”

Oh, early season one of South Park: how folksy and classic.

In this episode all the boys must complete science fair projects and Kyle and Dr. Mephisto’s son get into a cloning war, with the latter insisting that he can clone an entire human being and Kyle believing that he can breed an elephant and a pot-bellied pig to make small pot-bellied elephants.

When the boys go to Dr. Mephisto, the local genetic engineer, to ask how they might do what they intend to, they are introduced to a variety of four-assed animals genetically engineered by the doctor. Secretly, he stabs Stan and takes a sample of his blood, which happens to be the blood used for the human clone. In the meantime, Chef advises the boys to have the elephant make love to the pig and Elton John comes in for a magical and sexy duet that, post drunk, gets every enjoying some coitus.

The Stan-clone grows huge and monstrous and eventually escapes from the genetic engineer only to terrify and destroy the town of South Park. And guess who’s getting blamed!? That’s right, Stan.

Fortunately for him and the trouble he’s going to get in, Shelley, who had been mean to Stan throughout the whole episode, claims that Stan had been with her the whole time and therefore not wreaking havoc about town. What a good sister.

Stan tells Shelley:

“Shelley, you saved my life. And yet, you’ve done so much more than that. Today you’ve taught me the meaning of family. Sure, families don’t always get along, but when the forces of evil descend upon us, we conquer them by sticking together.”

Curiously, this episode touches close to home right now because I’m in the middle of one of Michael Crichton’s books about genetic engineering called Next. It’s not as good as State of Fear or some of his classics but I’m entertained. I only got it because it was a few dollars for the hardback at Borders a few months back. And then we learned this week that Crichton died. He was a great author and a great addition to public debate about important issues. Thanks for everything, Michael.

Do you like this episode? What’s your favorite part?

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read about other South Park episodes.