I haven't written a book report or a movie review in a while, so I thought I would toss this out for you. I recently finished Michael Crichton's "State Of Fear" and thought I'd tell you what I thought of it.
First of all, you have to know that the book is divided into two parts, and thus there will be two separate reviews: Science fact and science fiction... the education and the entertainment. This first review is about the science fiction, the entertainment. The science fact... the detailed discussions of the inflated threat of global warming... is going to be put into a second review.
The fiction part of this book is simply a mess... with parts of it even laughably so. Michael Crichton had a good idea for a story ("eco-warriors" become "eco-terrorists", with plots to destroy the world), but it is oh-so-poorly thought out in its execution that it's hard to believe this is the same guy who wrote so many other great books.
"State of Fear" starts off in Paris, where a couple of assassins kill a college student. Why did they kill the college student? No particular reason... he showed them how a wave-making machine to study ocean movement worked. Mostly, it was just a cheap foreshadowing gimmick, to show you that these assassins kill people by holding them down and attaching some kind of aquatic critter (that they carry around in a water-filled baggie) to them until it bites and injects a deadly venom. (I suppose carrying around a syringe of the poison is too simple.)
From there, we bounce around on a whirlwind tour of the world, and are introduced to our protagonists: Evans, a laywer whose function in the book seems to be to serve mainly as witness to the fiction, and straw man to the non-fiction; Kenner, whose function in the book seems to be to move the other characters forward in the book without revealing too much about the plot until the right time, and acting as a living breathing PDF reader; Morton, a billionaire philantropist whose function in the book is to get out of the way early so that the rest of the characters have a private jet to fly around in, and cash to spare; and Sarah, Morton's secretary, to (obviously) play the love interest.
Other characters include Drake, the slimy director of an environmental organization; Sanjong, who is Robin to Kenner's Batman; Bradley, the literary avatar of Martin Sheen, whose job is to be dislikable so that he can suffer a pointless-but-cathartic death; and Jennifer, because the book apparently didn't have enough females in it initially.
The book starts off by foreshadowing four plots by eco-terrorists to wreak havoc and destruction, brought to light merely as mysterious locations on the planet: Antarctica, Arizona, the Bahamas, and the South Pacific... places to which (obviously) the crew of intrepid characters zips off to, fight the bad guys, stop the evil plot, and then proceed to the next stop. (However: Mr. Crichton apparently decided that four evil plots made the book too long, and at the last minute, had clear weather in the Bahamas cancel evil plot #3 entirely.)
The plots pretty much run their course, with the bad guys waiting long enough in between each plot for the good guys to fly back to Los Angeles, attend a couple of meetings, catch a shower, and wait for Kenner and Sanjong to refuel the jet. (Those two know where, when, how, and why the next evil plot will take place before anyone else... and won't tell anybody else where, when, how, and why until the private jet is lifting off from Los Angeles for the next part of the book).
The foreshadowing in this book is as subtle as a sledghammer. There has to be one of the most ridiculous deus-ex-machina moments in literary history as a NASA robot with a telephone saves the hapless Evans and his girlfriend from certain death in Antartica; an entirely predictable encounter with a lightening generator; a rather amusing turn of events where radios turn a lightning storm into a hail of photon torpedos; and then for the grand finale — with full knowledge that millions of lives at stake and the details of the threat they face — the characters (Batman and Robin, the lawyer, the actor, and the two bimbos) head off, unarmed, by themselves, to stave off TEOTWAKNI... the end of the world as we know it. The fact that crazy headhunters on a jungle island would play a part goes without saying... although surprisingly there was no volcano threatening to erupt. The slapped-in-the-middle, otherwise-pointless, one-off parking lot meeting with a crazy-like-a-fox professor, from whose speech this book gets its name, is like the afterthought of an afterthought.
I was interested — upon hearing that this book spends a lot of time explaining how the science of global warming has been exaggerated, by Mr. Crichton's presenting of real and documented facts — how the science would find its way into the science fiction... how Mr. Crichton would, while weaving his tale, stitch in enough science fact to be pursuave without detracting or distracting from the book.
He didn't: The book simply occasionally (most often while the characters are sitting in the jet) turns on a dime, puts the fiction on hold, and just starts gushing out statistics from environmental studies... usually in a most crude and direct fashion. To paraphrase:
Kenner: "Did you know... paragraph of text copied from science report?"
Straw man: "That's not true!"
Kenner: "Yes it is... paragraph of text copied from science report."
Straw man: "But I've been told environmental industry talking point."
Kenner: "Well, according to... some authority figure in his study from June of 1983 published on page 47 of Popular Ecology, yet another paragraph copied from a science report."
Straw man: "I feel so dumb."
Kenner: "Yes... Don't worry. You'll feel better. Have some wine."
As I said, the content of those paragraphs that Michael Crichton put into his books is another book review entirely... and requires considerably more thought. I'll try and get to them later. The science fact, at least, is interesting and thought provoking. That does not, however, hold true in any way for the science fiction book that it was put in.