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Book Review of: State of Fear

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Review of State Of Fear, by Michael Crichton (Hardcover, 2004). Also available in paperback.

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

This thriller is both entertaining and informative. It's well-researched and heavily footnoted, but it's also well-written and fast-paced. In State of Fear, we enter a fictional conspiracy that takes our heroes and heroines from one exotic location to another in a race to beat the bad guys. The characters defy death in such places as Paris, Los Angeles, Iceland, Antarctica, the Arizona desert, and the Solomon Islands. Some don't quite make it....

The characters are intriguing and the action is often intense. Twists, turns, and surprises keep the story moving at a fast and gripping pace. You keep wondering what will happen next. This was Chrichton's last book, and he was at the peak of his craft when he wrote it. It's his best novel ever.

At just under 600 pages (hardback version), State of Fear may initially be intimidating to some people. But once you start reading it, you don't really notice the length. You'll finish it, the same way you finish any good book. As a thriller, it's outstanding. So, read it if you like that kind of book. Especially if you like a page-turner.

Unlike many books on the American book market today, this one is in Standard Written English. I think this is important, because books written in substandard English show the author doesn't respect the reader enough to communicate clearly. And such books are a pain to read. They are now the norm, which is disgraceful.

In this book, we don't have that issue. Chrichton spares the reader the kind of torture inflicted on readers by such English-challenged authors as John Grisham. Chrichton doesn't force us to do mental gymnastics or jump over language potholes. Just read and enjoy!

This book has a story within the story, and it's told by facts just speaking for themselves. Some characters in the book agree with these facts, some don't. But the facts are verifiable and mostly from first-order sources. The bibliography stretches for 19 pages. Two additional pages list the sources used for graphs. The facts aren't just inserted via talking heads, as is done by lesser authors. They are part of the story and help move it along.

This book came to market during a time of hysteria in 2004, and as I am writing this review (in 2009), that hysteria has not yet abated. There's too much money being made by duping the gullible and intellectually lazy. If you can get government backing in perpetrating fraud, so much the better.

You can control people when you keep them scared. That is what permitted the senseless Cold War, which lasted half a century. That debacle cost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. President Eisenhower, in his farewell address, equated specific military expenses to things like building 30,000 homes (or whatever number). The waste and fraud were permitted because people were controlled by fear into letting it happen.

Similarly, we are today immersed in a large scale fraud based on fear. It's killing and impoverishing millions of people. I'm not talking here about the Iraq War, but about the "global warming" fraud perpetrated by people like Al "I like to massively generate carbon" Gore. The "lead me to slaughter" folks who accept Gore's ocean level predictions conveniently ignore the fact that there's not enough water on the planet for that to happen. Not even close. Do the math.

  • Al Gore wrote a wildly fictional work and called it non-fiction. He duped a huge number of people, spewing nonsense and blatant falsehoods while claiming they were true. Doing this made him a millionaire several times over.
  • Michael Crichton wrote a factual work cloaked in fiction. He was already a highly successful author of both fiction and non-fiction works. Unlike Gore, he did not feel a need to engage in predatory behavior to support his lifestyle.

Unfortunately, Gore's fraud is drawing attention way from real problems that we can actually do something about. Some of those are environmental (e.g., reduce waste), but there are other issues his terror-mongering has managed to deep six in the public mind. Chricton never mentions Gore, and this book isn't an attack on that particular charlatan.

The storyline is based on the fear-mongering, manipulation, lying, and other tactics predatory people use to obtain and maintain power. The book uses the "global warming" fraud, for which Gore made himself a poster child, as the medium of the story (thus, my mention of Gore). State of Fear kicks it up a notch by having villains engineer some "natural" disasters while our heroes and heroines try to stop them.

I may get flamed by the passionately disinformed for suggesting the cult of "global warming" conflicts with reality, but it does. Blind devotion to false dogma does not make the dogma correct. The facts are what they are. Here's a fact I'll leave you with: this is one heck of a good book.




About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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