Tuesday, 12 April 2011
Congo by Michael Crichton
I was seriously disappointed with this book for numerous reasons. I will go into some of them here but, ultimately, if I was to list all the reasons it would take an hour to read.
The story could, and should, have been a straightforward and entertaining killer-gorilla related romp with lots of frightened scientists and mercenaries fighting for survival against the odds. Instead what we got was poorly written, erratic, nonsense-riddled, technology-obsessed trash.
An American research team in the Congolese jungle is savagely murdered in mysterious circumstances. The Earth Resources Technology Services (a stereotypical shadowy corporation which answers to no-one with powerful government ties *yawn*) quickly sends in another team of highly trained, yet clearly expendable, white specialists; a collection of engineers, scientists and one hard-boiled mercenary. Also along for the ride are half a dozen black African porters who are, very predictably, there for cannon-fodder purposes.
The way the book is written is messy. The story weaves left and right, constantly on the go and it wasn't long before I was forced to skip back a few pages to re-read sections due to confusion. At every conceivable opportunity Crichton drowns the reader in completely unnecessary and unbelievable techno-babble, often going off on a complete tangent about technology or the natural world for pages before returning to the actual story by which point I was totally bewildered and more than a little annoyed. At times it was more like reading a textbook than a novel, it is literally FULL of passages like this:
“The first generation of electronic computers, ENIAC and UNIAC, built in the wartime secrecy of the 1940s, employed vacuum tubes. Vacuum tubes had an average life span of twenty hours, but with thousands of glowing hot tubes in a single machine, some computers shut down even seven to twelve minutes. Vacuum tube technology imposed a limit on the size and power of planned second- generation computers. But the second generation never used vacuum tubes. In 1947, the invention of the transistor – a thumbnail sized sandwich of solid material which performed all the functions of a vacuum tube...”
The blogger on 'Books I done read' reviewed this book and said it perfectly when she wrote “it's very White Man Goes Into the Jungle, WITH TECHNOLOGY!”
The savage, murderous gorillas themselves appear right at the beginning of the book to kill off the first research team but don't make a significant reappearance until page 280. Even then they are not frightening in the least which is a massive anti-climax considering they are the main draw of the book. They spend a few pages butchering the unfortunate black porters before the white researchers escape completely unharmed (what a shocker)
The characters are two dimensional and poorly developed. It is difficult to imagine how Crichton could have done a worse job of it. The best thing I can say about this book is that the spelling is more or less correct most of the time.
Considering this book came from the acclaimed author of 'Jurassic Park' (which is a very good book) I was shocked that such a talent was capable of churning out such amateurish crap. A big let down.
Overall rating 1/5