December 7, 2004

Michael Crichton


Widely recognized as the "father of the techno-thriller," Michael Crichton has a remarkable gift for realizing the terrifying possibilities of science gone awry. His last novel, Prey (HarperCollins; November 2002), dramatized the dangers lurking in the promising field of nanotechnology. It debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list and was declared "irresistibly suspenseful" by The New York Times Book Review.

Crichton is back with a page-turning, hair-raising, and thought-provoking novel about real-life science fictions and crimes, with STATE OF FEAR (HarperCollins Publishers; Publication Date: December 7, 2004; $27.95). Invoking nightmares that could actually happen, the story spans the globe, from Paris to Iceland, from Beverly Hills to the South Pacific, unraveling a terrorist plot to manipulate the forces of nature and fool the world. This time, Crichton's demons are not minuscule computer-born organisms or gigantic dinosaurs. This time, the agents of destruction and carnage are all human, including scientists and activists committed to the cause of environmental protection.

STATE OF FEAR revolves around a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency over global warming. The plaintiff is Vanutu, a tiny South Pacific nation comprised of four atolls, ring-shaped coral islands completely surrounded by water. According to experts, Vanutu's eight thousand citizens are at dire risk of being flooded out by rising sea levels, thanks to the global warming trend largely provoked by the planet's largest, careless emitter of carbon dioxide-the United States. The little island nation could win big, especially since the National Environmental Resource Fund, a.k.a. NERF, has offered to join the case. A powerful American activist group, NERF is counting on the support of George Morton, a wealthy philanthropist with a passion for conservation issues.

For nearly a decade, Morton-the heir to a forklift fortune noted for his investments in wild parties, beautiful women, and sports cars, as well as charity-has maintained an unlikely friendship with the director of NERF, Nick Drake. Solitary and ascetic, Drake seems deeply devoted to his activism. Formerly a formidable litigator, he also excels at winning over donors. Drake has secured Morton's promise of two generous grants-$1 million to bankroll the Vanutu case and another $9 million to finance future research and lawsuits on behalf of the environment. He plans to share the exciting news at NERF's gala awards dinner, a huge fund-raiser for a major initiative on Abrupt Climate Change. However, after a mysterious meeting with a Dr. Kenner, Morton abruptly withdraws his grant offer, making the announcement publicly and unapologetically. Right after the awards dinner, Morton's Ferrari is found crumpled at the bottom of a steep hill and though no body is found, Morton is presumed dead.

Who is Dr. Kenner? What does he know about the dark side of NERF? Keeping the suspense mounting, STATE OF FEAR reveals the answers through a twisted trail of debatable scientific research, bizarre business dealings, and suspicious accidents. An M.I.T. professor on an extended faculty leave, Dr. Kenner has been busy investigating unsettling incidents, like glaring discrepancies in data on extreme weather and the use of explosives to impact seismic recordings. Eventually, Kenner crosses paths and joins forces with three people determined to learn the truth about NERF. Sarah Jones, Morton's devoted assistant, is a beautiful young woman tormented by the disappearance of her boss. Peter Evans, a junior lawyer at the firm of Hassle and Black, works almost exclusively for Morton and his pet charity, NERF, and has long suspected Drake of having hidden motives. Jennifer Haynes, a jury consultant, owes a debt to the head of the Vanutu litigation team and bears visible scars of a violent past. Working together, though sometimes at odds and around romantic tensions, these four pivotal players uncover startling facts that refute global warming-as a theory, as well as an imminent hazard-and demonstrate the terrible lengths Drake and others with a stake in NERF will go to get researchers, the press, and nature herself to serve their own self-serving agenda. Ultimately, Kenner and his allies will take on harsh elements, vicious savages, and a man-made tsunami to save the world from the evil of scientific myths and corruptions.

STATE OF FEAR raises critical questions about the facts we believe in, without question, on the strength of esteemed experts and the media. Although the story is fiction, Michael Crichton writes from a firm foundation of actual research challenging common assumptions about global warming. Once again, Michael Crichton has written a heart-pounding novel of non-stop action that imagines a future all too terrifyingly real.

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