State of Fear by Michael Crichton (2004)
Peter Evans is a lawyer for a prestigious LA firm. He handles the account of billionaire philanthropist, George Morton, a man committed to tackling environmental issues, most especially climate change. But Morton has been having second thoughts about the issues he has been campaigning for. After meeting with distinguished professor and environmental specialist, John Kenner, George is coming to realise that not everything that he has been told by the environmental lobby is true. Kenner is insistent that global warming is nothing but a conspiracy theory.
Nicholas (Nick) Drake, is head of the lobby group NERF (National Environmental Resource Fund), an aggressively anti-corporate group, at least on the face of it, that engages in high profile actions, legal and otherwise, in an apparent attempt to prevent the destruction of the earth’s ecosystem and climate. But neither Drake nor NERF are all that they seem. Kenner has a deep-held suspicion that the lobbyists are closely linked to environmental extremists, most especially the ELF (Environmental Liberation Front), who will stop at nothing in their war against pollution, even if that means killing civilians. He has convinced Morton, who now feels that his life is in danger from the Green Extreme. When Morton pulls funding from NERF, Peter Evans gets blamed by Nick Drake as Peter is close to Morton.
The entire matter comes to a head at a fund-raiser for NERF at which Morton publicly condemns the environmental lobby before being ushered out, drunk. Morton drives off in his Ferrari but crashes, his body disappearing over a cliff believed dead. Oops.
Together with Morton’s beautiful assistant, Sarah Jones, Peter Evans decides to investigate the circumstances of Morton’s change of position in relation to environmental issues. He finds himself in grave danger the closer he gets to the truth. There is a Blue-ringed Octopus (highly venomous), gun-play, dangerous driving and a global plot that would put SPECTRE to shame as the good guys, who in this incarnation do not believe in global warming, try to prevent a series of spectacular incidents perpetrated by the ELF (and NERF) designed to con people into thinking that the world is about to end. The panic is apparently going to ensure massive funding for the environmental groups.
The team of global-warming sceptics, consisting of Kenner, his niece Jennifer Haynes (also beautiful), his Nepalese comrade, Sanjong, Evans and Jones, together with a clueless Hollywood actor named Bradley (wonder how many of those there are?) set out on a mission to effectively save large parts of the world.
Bradley gets eaten… by people… in Indonesia. I shit you not. There are cannibals in this tale also, and crocodiles that bark like dogs. About the only fucking thing missing is an actual gremlin, or maybe one of those aliens that chased Ripley around, or even a damned Predator that makes noise like two trees rubbing off one another (clever sound effect, guys, really sticks in the mind). It’s that kind of novel. Rebel Voice has no idea what Crichton was thinking when he penned this. It’s atrocious.
It seems that Michael Crichton (deceased) was a global warming sceptic, if not outright denier. The voice of Kenner in this tale is that of the author. We are treated to a plethora of graphs and charts and statistics that demonstrate that there is no such thing as global warming. There are footnotes throughout the novel to provide references to source material, and a further examination of the facts, as viewed by Crichton, in an afterword.
It’s difficult to know why Crichton was so opposed to the idea that there is a man-made problem today that is seriously affecting our climate. OK, Rebel Voice does agree that bandwagons are too often quickly and deviously built and set in motion, and there is never a shortage of those who will clamber on board without considering why and to where. There can also be no doubt that some of the environmental groups to the fore today have questionable credibility and understandably speak with an inherent bias. But there are satellite photos, from different sources, that clearly show that the northern polar ice cap is melting year on year. This is but one piece of evidence that there is climate change.
It is true that there has always been climate change on this planet. 5000 years ago the northern hemisphere, at least, was warmer than it is today. Climate change back then caused fear among the superstitious people who, in Ireland, rushed to build temples dedicated to the worship of both the sun and earth. Analysis of peat bogs and other organic matter in Ireland has shown that the temperature cooled by as much as 2 degrees. Today we are not back up to that temperature, yet.
However, the reasons for such a dramatic climate change 5000 years ago were natural. Perhaps it was due to volcanic eruptions, or perhaps other as yet unexplained events. But today, the change is caused by us. That’s the problem. Crichton argues, vehemently, that our input into climate change is negligible. He insists, through his fictional character, that the entire global warming movement is overstating the problem. To be fair to Crichton, he does state clearly that there is so much to be known and that the scientists are still unsure as to what is going on. He’s right in that the earth system is complex. It can be difficult to predict with any degree of accuracy what is going to happen in the future. But facts are facts. The melting of the northern cap is a serious sign in itself.
Crichton suggests that, overall, ice cover is increasing or, at the very least, remaining the same. Kenner presents various data to support this. If this is correct, then there are a very large number of mislead and gullible scientists and environmentalists out there. For Rebel Voice, the personage of David Attenborough, the celebrated English biologist, is one to be respected. He has travelled the globe for decades exploring the natural world. Attenborough is no one’s fool. If David says that there is global warming, and a man-made problem, then there is global warming and a man-made problem.
The plot of State of Fear is nonsensical, not just because of the anti-global warming position taken, but also because of the story-line itself. Crichton over-reaches with his characters and the entire endeavour lacks any consistently and credibility. A Blue Ringed Octopus as a weapon? How about a syringe and poison? How about a gun shot to the head? The plot of State of Fear is akin to that of Austin Powers, but without the self-deprecating humour.
This story was left so that a sequel could be written. It will never be now, at least not by the original author. Michael Crichton is an excellent writer and Rebel Voice has reviewed a number of his books, all fine pieces of work. But, with State of Fear, Crichton has tried to make a statement upon what he thinks about the current global crisis and he has failed badly.
He is correct about one concept though, and it’s the one that provides the title for this book. There is a continuing effort by vested interests in terrifying the citizens of this planet, with a view to effecting more compete control of them. As Crichton points out, the bogeyman was once Communism, and the Soviet Union in particular. But, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and eventually the Soviet Empire, the western world needed a new terror to keep the people in thrall to their respective Establishments. The global warming crisis was born.
As much as this site disagrees with Crichton‘s more general analysis of global warming, there is much to be said for his exposure of the hysteria currently being fomented by environmental lobby groups who view their field as a career with huge funding to be gained. When the environmental lobby becomes all about profit, and big paychecks, then serious questions need to be asked about the ‘evidence’ being presented to support such lifestyles.
There is an interesting foray into the world of eugenics in the afterword, and an analysis of the embrace of this abhorrent scientific theory by eminent persons and scientists prior to the Second World War. Crichton presents this as an example of the ways in which science can become heavily politicised and mainstream, without due consideration, as eugenics lead directly to the Holocaust. He is of the opinion that environmental issues today are being treated in a likewise manner, which can result in inaccurate conclusions and plans for action.
Regardless of the suggestion of global warming, one only has to walk along any beach today to see the impact of human industry upon the natural world. Plastic. We are, without doubt, polluting the very place we live. This short-term gain is going to eventually destroy us in the long-term if we don’t act immediately and with great coordination. Sadly, that is lacking at this time.
No, panic is not helpful. No, there will not be a Hollywood-type overnight collapse of society. No, our species will not disappear quickly. But yes, the harm we are doing is considerable, and yes, mother nature (as a biological and non-sentient system) will make adjustments to rectify the imbalance. That means society as we currently know it will fail. Ironically, those best able to rough it, the poorest today, may be the ones to survive. Perhaps the meek really will inherit the Earth.
Sult scale rating: 3.5 out of 10. This novel is poorly conceived and poorly executed. The science presented is questionable and the entire story has been designed as a vehicle to carry the opinions of the author, regarding global warming, to a mass audience. It was slated upon publication with Crichton‘s views roundly condemned. But even a broken clock can be correct twice a day and, in addressing the issue of deliberately-induced mass panic over global warming, Crichton may have touched upon something substantial. Not a great read though and certainly not what one would expect of an author of Crichton‘s calibre.
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