Wednesday, January 18, 2006

State of Fear

I recently read Michael Crichton's latest, State of Fear, which is well up to his usual standard in terms of compelling reading (I confess to finishing it in a few hours, its 736 pages notwithstanding). But what's really great about it is a very well-researched, impeccably dramatised devastation of the climate change industry, the fear merchants who are trying to create the state mentioned in the title. And there are some delicious sideswipes at airheaded Hollywood celebrities who jump on the bandwagon du jour.

In this speech Michael gives an interesting account of how he came to write the book:

The book really began in 1998, when I set out to write a novel about a global disaster. In the course of my preparation, I rather casually reviewed what had happened in Chernobyl, since that was the worst manmade disaster in recent times that I knew about.

What I discovered stunned me. Chernobyl was a tragic event, but nothing remotely close to the global catastrophe I imagined. About 50 people had died in Chernobyl, roughly the number of Americans that die every day in traffic accidents. I don’t mean to be gruesome, but it was a setback for me. You can’t write a novel about a global disaster in which only 50 people die.

Undaunted, I began to research other kinds of disasters that might fulfill my novelistic requirements. That’s when I began to realize how big our planet really is, and how resilient its systems seem to be. Even though I wanted to create a fictional catastrophe of global proportions, I found it hard to come up with a credible example. In the end, I set the book aside, and wrote Prey instead.

The fact that his impression of what had happened at Chernobyl, moulded by the media, was so strikingly and incredibly at odds with the reality, made him think about the value of disaster prediction in general, and the particular disaster that we are being asked to believe we face today. Could it be that these predictions may be just as wrong, and will go the way of the predictions of every other "disaster", from the new ice age to global famine, that have been given (ahem) some prominence over the last forty years?


Blogger James Aach said...

If you'd like a compelling look at what happened at Chernobyl and how it related to nuclear plants in the west, you might want to check out "Rad Decision", a techno-thriller novel about the American nuclear power industry, available at no cost on the net. Written by a longtime nuclear engineer (me), it provides an entertaining and accurate portrait of a nuclear power plant and how an accident might be handled. Rad Decision is at in a downloadable PDF file and also in short episodes for on-line reading.

"I'd like to see Rad Decision widely read." - Stewart Brand, futurist and founder of The Whole Earth Catalog

"I started reading Rad Decision because of my interest in nuclear power -- then found I could not put it down! ... Comparing it to Michael Crichton's "State of Fear", which also has the dual purposes of informing and entertaining, I think Rad Decision wins hands down -- less didactic, more gripping." - a reader, from the Comments at the website's homepage.

I hope you'll take a look at Rad Decision (and if you find it useful, please pass the word.)

James Aach

6:33 pm  

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