Are rising sea levels, catastrophic flash floods, and freak lightning storms the effects of global warming—or are they part of the plot by environmentalist fringe groups to advance their nefarious goals? That’s the question young lawyer Peter Evans must answer when the actions of his philanthropist boss’s pet charity, the National Environmental Resource Fund, begin to look suspicious. Like Crichton’s other novels, this thriller combines high-stakes suspense with hard science. The result is a page-turner with a political message.
HarperCollins. 603 pages. $27 .95. ISBN: 0066214130
"[State of Fear] makes all the more convincing Crichton’s status as novelist muckracker, whose last several books, like those of Upton Sinclair’s nearly a century ago, alert readers to unctuous public practices of which they might otherwise be unaware." Alan Cheuse
Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel
"Although Crichton is clearly a man of high intelligence, when spinning a yarn he has the ability to come off like a blue-collar neighbor; and he manages to pass on a bit of scientific information while entertaining readers." Dorman T. Schindler
Detroit Free Press
"It’s a good page-turner in the Crichton tradition. … There are a few holes in the plot and a couple of places when Crichton lays on the scorn a little thick." Marta Salij
"If you’ve had the misfortune of reading The Da Vinci Code, you owe it to yourself to read State of Fear and see how a real pro writes a thriller. … It’s long, too, and transparently didactic." Frank Wilson
"While a piece of fiction that celebrates its attention to detail by way of footnotes, a bibliography, two appendices (the first of which is provocatively titled ‘Why politicized science is dangerous’) and an author’s message may stand as first-rate entertainment, you’re left feeling a tad sermonized." Allan Walton
"The plot feels tacked on, something Crichton made up on the spot to support his views. The novel often slams to a stop so there can be page after page of speeches and charts that express Crichton’s opinions but do nothing to advance the narrative." John W. Royal
"It is my unpleasant duty to tell you that Crichton’s characters are strictly from Woodville. … Although Michael Crichton is no genius, in the past he has been a clever entertainer. In State of Fear, however, he neglects his readers for the sake of his mission." Dennis Drabelle
State of Fear, Crichton’s 14th novel (Prey, Mar/Apr 2003), is polarizing to say the least. Crichton’s obvious political intent rubbed several critics the wrong way; some felt that he sacrificed story and character to make his points. These points, however, resonated with others, who found the thriller form an effective way to pose questions about the politicization of post-Cold War science to a large audience. Most agree that Crichton is neither stylish nor subtle, but few dispute his ability to whip up suspense. Fans of his earlier work will likely enjoy this effort, if they’re not turned off by his politics.