Friday, February 02, 2007

Next: More Science, Less Story

Inkling Magazine reviews Michael Crichton's new book, Next, and concludes it isn't particularly thrilling for a thriller, but mostly gets the science right:

I imagine that for a person with little knowledge of science, this might be a more exciting read. It’s much more fun to learn about how cell lines are used to produce life-saving drugs or the implications of decoding the human genome inside a fast-paced story than a dimly-lit lecture hall. Crichton reportedly spent three years researching the facts he weaves into his story. And, for the most part, he gets the science right (at least those parts that aren’t supposed to be fiction).

He also lists the conclusions he came to from his research:

1. Stop patenting genes.
2. Establish clear guidelines for the use of human tissues.
3. Pass laws to ensure that data about gene testing is made public.
4. Avoid bans on research
5. Rescind the Bayh-Dole Act (which allows universities to patent and make money from their research).

The review concludes:

I guess it would be too much to ask for a solid, gripping thriller in which heroic scientists wage battles against dark agents that misuse cloning, gene therapy or transgenic organisms AND a handy educational reader that gives a solid, balanced set of facts that can be used to uinform ongoing debates the ethics of emerging biotechnology. Even for the king of mainstream science fiction, that’s a pretty tall order.

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