Just for you, dear reader, I stayed up until 2 a.m. last night finishing Michael Crichton‘s biotech thriller, Next. And although the haters will disdain my lowbrow taste, I must confess that I liked it. Overall, I’d give it a B+.
Compared to the other Crichton books I’ve read over the years (I missed the apparently controversial State of Fear), I think Next is far better thought out with some strong belief statements from the author. The plot is multi-layered and fast paced, much like a TV drama so it was fun and easy reading. But if you separate the wheat from the chaff, there’s quite a lot of chaff that I could have done without like the gratuitous sex and the silly online promos, hence the B+.
When it comes down to the impact of genetics and genomics on society, however, Crichton does an amazing job of covering a lot of ground. I wonder how much of it is beyond the average comprehension of non-science literate reader. The most important section of the book, in my opinion, is the end. No, not because it was finished.
In the Author’s Note, Crichton shared his detailed conclusions after doing his research for Next.
- Stop patenting genes.
- Establish clear guidelines for the use of human tissues.
- Pass laws to ensure that data about gene testing is made public. He’s referring to results of gene therapy trials.
- Avoid bans on research.
- Rescind the Bayh-Dole Act (that allows universities to patent and make money off their research).
Following the Author’s Note was the annotated bibliography. This, too, is a valuable resource because Crichton lists the books, the articles, and the internet sources he studied while writing Next. He may have reached different conclusions than some, but you can’t say that he doesn’t do his research. I would never dismiss Crichton as a simpleton even if Genetics and Health wasn’t included in his internet sources. Drat!
Words to describe Next: fun, outrageous, ridiculous, thought provoking, intelligent, and entertaining.
NB: I intentionally left out any plot details because I didn’t want to ruin the story for you. I liked not knowing what to expect. And almost none of Next was expected. But it was amusing to draw parallels between the highly touted NIH genetics researchers and biotech moneybags to real life bigwigs. Needless to say, I don’t take much of what is in Next seriously because it is a work of fiction.