Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on State of Fear.
In large measure social commentary wrapped inside a thriller, State of Fear is a page-turner - and a reasonably enjoyable one - but a page-turner ultimately slowed down in parts by “conversations” regarding (primarily) the truth or falsity of the threat of “global warming.” It’s clear which side of the issue Michael Crichton is on; he believes that global warming is little more than a political maneuver enacted to allow some groups more power than they otherwise would have.
The novel begins (in true thriller fashion) with the murder of a certain Jonathan Marshall. He is “picked up” by a beautiful woman feigning an argument with her boyfriend. He shows her a machine capable of simulating (and, outside the lab, creating) the effects of a tsunami after taking her to the lab where he works. She sleeps with him then has her partners in crime burst into his home and drug him with a slow-acting agent that leads to his eventual complete paralysis. Pretending to aid him, she leads him out of his apartment to a nearby river and, as the total paralysis takes hold, pushes him into the river. He is, though paralyzed, completely aware of the fact that he is drowning. It is a chilling murder.
We then meet George Morton, billionaire, and his young attorney, Evans. Morton is an environmental idealist who believes that humankind is destroying the planet and is in fact creating global warming. That is, he believes this until he begins to receive information informing him otherwise. He has promised to give ten million dollars to the National Environment Resource Fund (NERF) but then abruptly decides not to. The leaders of NERF are upset,, to say the least.
Killers as ruthless as any Mafia group or enemy spy agency (SPECTOR, the evil spy group of James Bond novels, comes to mind) are soon attempting to kill almost anyone who has a name in the novel (and in unusual ways, e.g., by lightning strikes). More people are paralyzed by the mysterious drug. George Morton is killed (or is he?) in a car accident, and a plan is hatched by NERF to create environmental disasters to further their own agenda.
Whew, a lot going on.
A couple of problems I have with this book are, one, that too much time and effort is spent within the thriller having characters talk of the falsity of global warming. Crichton has very interesting appendages to the novel further explaining the issue; this reader wishes he had put some of the global warming talk he has characters saying into yet another appendage and thereby sped the novel up (although to be fair, it still moves along briskly).
The second problem is that suddenly, by novel’s end, many ordinary characters, “ordinary” in that they hold regular jobs - secretary, lawyer, billionaire (ha, ha) - abruptly become Rambo-types as they fight for their lives at the climax of the novel. A bit unrealistic. Still, it is an enjoyable thriller in the old James Bond tradition.
A small warning to some readers: Whether or not you enjoy this novel may depend upon your own personal views regarding global warming and the environment. If you disagree with Crichton’s views, you may not be prone to enjoy the thriller aspect of the book.
State of Fear refers, by the way, not to global warming per se, but rather to the author’s viewpoint that the “military-industrial complex” has been replaced by the “politico-legal media complex” (PLM). And that PLM is dedicated to promoting fear “under the guise of promoting safety”. Why? Because politicians need fear to control the population, lawyers need fear to litigate and the media need fear to get an audience. Again, you may or may not agree with Crichton in his social viewpoint, though given the state of politics and the media in the U.S., this viewpoint might resonate with many, even those who might not agree with his views about global warming.