Click here to read reviewer Mary B. Stuart's take on State of Fear.
Michael Crichton consistently mines the scientific drama du jour for his subject matter, drawing from journal publications and adding the usual mix of characters to achieve his goals. This time the author takes on the great myth of global warming.
A series of seemingly unrelated events occur in various parts of the world: a physicist dies suddenly in the arms of a beautiful woman; high-tech equipment that specializes in activation technology is ordered in Kuala Lumpur; and a small submarine is leased for use in the waters of New Guinea. An intelligence agent in Tokyo begins gathering and piecing together the variable connections and their significance. Moving back and forth across the globe, Crichton creates a thriller that mixes scientific fact with the necessary characters, in a drama relevant to some of the most serious eco-concerns we face today.
Anything environmentally-related is big business in a troubled economy, a potential economic frontier that uses a huge techno market and generates endless research grants. Even well-intentioned environmental agencies are not immune to the profit margin that allows them to function and, when lax oversight procedures permit, these agencies outsource fundraising like other corporations who follow the dictates of the bottom line. Money is power, after all. Under the guise of fundraising, funds are shifted to more action-oriented groups, gremlins that infiltrate with a particular agenda, usually a dramatic climactic event.
State of Fear is filled with acronyms for various agencies, a tool for introducing scientific theories and the competing interests that juggle for power within the system. Under the guise of one agency or another, climate theories are challenged, information and disinformation as well, questioning some broadly held beliefs, what many people have accepted as common knowledge in the area of global warming over the last few years. With a series of charts and verbal diatribes, the protagonists' position is made clear, as the good guys swim against the tide to uncover cyber-terrorists who have planned some major catastrophic events.
With an assortment of innocents, eco-terrorists and counter-terrorists, none of the characters are carefully nuanced, but are excellent vehicles for life-threatening encounters with eco-terrorists in Antarctica, the southwestern desert and the Solomon Islands, all situations where timing is essential in thwarting catastrophic agendas. Although clearly fiction, the novel is footnoted with scientific journals and studies. The only problem is a frame of reference for the information the author cites.
The novel's most cogent argument is clearly stated in the title: State of Fear. People have lived with the emotional pressure of escalating fears through our most recent history, a condition that renders the general public more pliable, willing to accept governmental restrictions; Crichton sends a clear message to question the motivations of our actions and the information we receive, as well as the source. The final pages of State of Fear include an ďAuthor's Messageď, listing the author's personal conclusions and concerns, including a request that we consider the evidence and do our own research before blindly chanting the usual misinformation, that we become a better informed public.