While many of Michael Crichton's novels occupied themselves with scientific hubris and the inability of humankind to control the forces of nature, none approached the subject as directly as his “Jurassic Park” novels and “Sphere.”
In the former, scientists re-create dinosaurs from corrupted DNA, calling into question both the genetic accuracy of the creatures and — as the giant zoo erected to contain the dinosaurs fails — the wisdom of creating them in the first place. The gates and fences are an artificial construct attempting to circumvent nature, and nature inevitably wins.
The latter directly assails the smug surety of science and the validity of the psychosocial disciplines. A team of highly educated people — a marine biologist, a mathematician, a physicist and a psychiatrist — investigates an otherworldly sphere discovered in a mysterious craft buried in the ocean's floor. The assumptions they make prove uniformly wrong, and when disaster strikes, the enemy is not an outside force but rather manifestations of the experts' unconscious minds. How can they control nature when they cannot control their own thoughts?
Similar themes play out in Crichton's other work. “The Andromeda Strain” (1969) turned H.G. Wells' “The War of the Worlds” on its head; rather than aliens being felled by exposure to Earth's bacteria, Crichton feared the consequences of humans dying from exposure to space-borne bacteria brought back by satellites and space probes.
What's interesting about this is how early these themes developed in Crichton's work. Now we know they developed even earlier than previously thought.
Hard Case Crime has released eight of Crichton's early novels, which were published between 1966 and 1972 under a pseudonym, John Lange. Many of the books were written while Crichton was an honors student at Harvard Medical School.
The Lange novels, which had been out of print for decades, were pulpy heist and adventure tales, not as polished and professional as his later work. In them, Crichton developed his writing skills and his singular preoccupation with runaway technology, scientific ethics and the impossibility of effectively calculating human behavior.
Continue reading this story on the...