Michael Crichton’s State of Fear is the perfect ‘first book of the summer.’ With just the right amount of scientific theory drizzled amidst a suspenseful plot, State of Fear is any student’s ideal fantastical transition from spring semester to summer vacation. The novel follows a lawyer, Peter Evans, who is suddenly drawn into a conspiracy surrounding the murder of his longtime client and good friend, George Morton. Upon his death, Morton was investigating the legitimacy of an environmental advocacy group. After his passing, Evans is recruited by one of Morton’s secret associates to challenge the group and prevent it from sacrificing millions of lives for the sake of publicity and profit. Through its diverse sample of characters and the obstacles they face, State of Fear challenges the concept of individual thought in the Information Age.
Although not the main protagonist of the novel, Dr. John Kenner is the epitome of the modern philosopher. He is both an environmental think tank and a secret agent to the U.S. government–the perfect mix of brains and brawn. Quick on his feet, in both the mental and physical sense, Kenner is a witty know-it-all who is always willing to correct the misinformed or challenge the misguided bigots. Although his photographic memory allows him to win battles with scientific proof, Kenner also uses psychology to defeat his challengers. For example, when recruiting Evans to his cause, Kenner counters Evans’s media-fueled understanding of global warming with scientific evidence presented in a point-by-point legal rebuttal. However, when correcting an environmentally passionate but ill-informed movie director, Kenner uses a more hypothetical and personal attack to strip away her argument. Kenner clearly has a strong understanding of the human psyche. He is the perfect scientist, soldier, and lawyer– the three major players in State of Fear.
In contrast, Peter Evans is an average lawyer. In the business of gathering information and formulating a case, Evans considers himself a well-informed member of society. Yet upon meeting Dr. Kenner, Evans is confronted with a terrifying reality. What society understands as the recent climb in global warming is actually not recent at all. Although global warming is the central topic of the novel, State of Fear does not seek to prove or disprove the theory. Instead, it challenges the reader to open their eyes to the way society retrieves information.
Regardless of your passion or profession, I highly-recommend State of Fear. A rich blend of action, conspiracy, and romance, this novel will satisfy any reader’s craving. Upon opening the book, I, like Evans, considered myself a ‘well-informed’ member of society. However, once I finished the novel, I realized that my understanding of the world is mostly a product of corporate media. Like Evans, I want to be as truly well-informed as Kenner, to be able to gather raw data and form my own conclusions about the world. But without a photographic memory or the academic resources of a world- renowned professor, I have settled for simply being a more critical reader of the paper. After all, the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging that there is a problem.