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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Michael Crichton has died

(photo taken from Washington Post)

The award-winning American author, best known for his television series E. R. as well as his blockbuster novel Jurassic Park, has died at the age of 66 after a long, private battle with cancer.

Crichton first hit the literary scene at the beginning of the 1970s with the release of his novel The Andromeda Strain, a science fiction effort written while he was still a medical student. The novel proved enormously successful and a film version followed, cementing the author’s reputation as an enormously intelligent writer who managed to make both science and medicine fun and interesting.

Over the years, the author worked on dozens of novels, many of which were later filmed. Successes include Westworld (he also directed the excellent adaptation with Yul Brynner), The Terminal Man, Rising Sun, Disclosure, Sphere, Congo and Timeline. Two of his most popular works were Jurassic Park and its sequel The Lost World, books and films which dominated the 1990s and which gave dinosaurs a level of popularity they hadn’t enjoyed in the mainstream media since the heyday of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book, also entitled The Lost World, in 1912.

Crichton also put his medical training to good use. He wrote the screenplay for and directed the 1978 classic Coma, an intense thriller about organ harvesting starring Genevieve Bujold. He also devised the hit television series E. R. in 1994 and served as executive producer up until the time of his death.

With his many books, Crichton helped to bring respect and credibility to the science fiction genre. Some of his books may have been better than others, but they all achieved an important principle: they remained realistic and believable, not matter how outrageous the storyline.

I doubt any other author, living or dead, could have created a frightening, pulse-pounding read about a theme park full of dinosaurs. Rest in peace, Michael.