30 DoB Day 7: Most Underrated Book

I was scratching my head for a while over the latest 30 Days of Books topic:

Day 07: Most underrated book

I was having a hard time coming up with an answer to this one – looking for an example of a good book that I liked that was either reviewed poorly or has been tossed onto the Island of Misfit Books by today’s zeitgeist.

After some deliberation, I’m going to go with the latter type — a book that I picked up at a Stockholm bookstore before the long flight back to the US in 1990 or 1991.  Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

On that flight – especially since I was just learning molecular biology at the time – I became enraptured with the story of cloning back to life long extinct animals.  As in many of his novels, Crichton had enough grasp of real science to make the leap plausible enough that the story was very enjoyable.  That must’ve been the shortest transatlantic flight ever.

Jurassic Park

Why do I think it’s underrated?  Mostly because of what came after.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the movie and will stop and watch the T. rex attack on the jeeps in the rain anytime.  But when Crichton wrote The Lost World as a sequel TO THE MOVIE instead of the book, you knew things were going downhill — and that book was a terrible mess.  Follow that up with uninspired film sequels and the whole “brand” takes a hit.  Just ask George Lucas.  All that makes me think that folks today easily could dismiss the first book.

Anyway – if you haven’t read the original, I highly recommend it.  Just forget about most of the stuff that came later.

18 thoughts on “30 DoB Day 7: Most Underrated Book

  1. Your review reminds me of one that I saw for “Highlander 2” – “There should have been only one!”

    I quit reading Crichton after Sphere. His misogyny and Luddite tendencies were overwhelming the enjoyable parts of his writing, IMHO. Sure, he hated medical school and his wife – but do we have to read about it in every novel?

    • J — did you ever read any of Donaldson in the 90s? Wow — he was SO bitter about things that everything just oozed bitterness. Which suggests that he’s a pretty good writer, but his stuff was a total turn-off.

  2. I haven’t read much of crichton. I read Prey and it was okay. Heard good things about JP though. This is a hard category because I usually agree when people dog out books. But Battlefield Earth wasn’t bad. It gets a bad rap from the movie and it is over long, but it is written well.

    • Budd — I had a roommate in college that read Battlefield Earth and really liked it. By the time I considered L Ron was firmly in the crazy camp and that kept me away.

  3. I must read this now. I don’t like his books very much at all, but he’s good at writing movies and tv shows (He wrote ER, which was my favourite series for a long time)

    • 2c1p – I forgot he did ER. I really enjoyed — what the first 8 0r 9 seasons of it? His books are uneven — often a better idea than execution. I still think “The Andromeda Strain” is his best, which is sort of sad because I think it’s his first.

  4. “Jurassic Park” was a good book, and probably the last good one that Crichton wrote. “Rising Sun,” his slam against Japanese corporations and culture in general, came right after “Jurassic Park.” It alarmed me—back then there were all these comparisons between the rise of Japanese corporations and Pearl Harbor, and there were times where I hid my ethnicity because I seriously thought I would get beat up. Then came “Disclosure,” his novel about sexual harassment, which simply underscored Crichton’s misogyny. Crichton was always at his best when he was writing about speculative science, worst when he dabbled in social topics. Unfortunately his later books emphasized the latter, maybe because he was thinking more about the next possible movie contract instead of a good science fiction read.

    It’s really too bad. I used to look forward to the next Michael Crichton novel, and his “Andromeda Strain” is still IMHO the most realistic novel about an “alien invasion.”

    • HG — I never read “Disclosure” or “Rising Sun” or any of his more social-oriented books, though it seems his misogyny and and biases really shown through. I think the most recent one that I read was “Prey”, which was oh-kay but not nearly as strong as some of his earlier stuff.

      I agree about “Andromeda Strain” too — I thought both the science and the reactions to events were covered without hyperbole or too many cliches.

  5. I don’t know crap about science/ medical but one of my science/ medical friends read this when it came out (before the film, as you say) and I clearly recall her waxing ecstatic about how good the science was in it…she was so convincing, I chose to not read it.

    I’m sure it’s the bomb–but over my head.

  6. I’ve heard this from just about everyone. The movie was more fun than a barrel of monkeys, but if the book was intellectual at all in nature, the movie did it a great disservice. I’ll have to check it out.

  7. Pingback: 30 DoB Day 8: Most Overrated Book | Stevil

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