Travels while Travelling

If you’ve ever hung out with me much and heard my talk about Michael Crichton you’ve probably already heard my story related to my first reading of this book when I was around 12 years old. I had started reading Crichton in 4th grade and was just devouring book after book of his. I had never much been into autobiographies, and I still am not, but this is one of my favorite Crichton books, fiction or non-fiction. Even though this didn’t seem like any of his other science fictiony/technological horror books I was more interested to learn about the author himself. As you can guess from the title this book involves what Crichton’s experiences were up and traveling across the planet trying to learn more about himself and humanity as a whole.

The story I alluded to earlier happened when Crichton was in Africa. I was on a road trip with my family somewhere in the Pacific Northwest and as often was the case, and still is, I came across a word that I was not entirely familiar with. The word was Clitoris. There was some African children that were walking down the road in white dresses headed towards a ceremony where they would have their genitalia mutilated. Crichton described the strangeness of the scene and since this was before the time of smartphones or even Personal Computers really, I had to ask my parents what the hell Clitoris meant. My mother immediately snatched the book away from me aghast at what exactly it was that I was reading. I was naturally very upset and didn’t understand what I had done wrong. It also didn’t help that they never told me what exactly the word meant. Eventually after reading parts of the book herself my mother gave it back to me and let me finish the book. But it’s a funny anecdote that I’m sure I will tell for the rest of my life. So when I picked up this book for a re-read on my current travels to Hawaii, I was pretty damn excited to see what it was like reading this book 20+ years later. I was surprised at how much I actually remembered and how specific my memories of reading them when I was 12 were. As soon as I started reading chapters everything that was going to happen would rush back into my mind. It didn’t hamper my enthusiasm for the re-read at all though. I stayed up about 2 hours later than I wanted to last night finishing the book and it was so so good. It was remarkable the amount of things Crichton talks about in Travels that actually relate to my current life. He talks a lot about consciousness and figuring out who he was as a person. He even devotes a lot of the book to his exploration of meditation, auras, physic phenomenon, and so on. I, along with my wife, have been interested in this same sort of exploration over the past few years. It was really kind of crazy how much it paralleled to certain things happening in my own life. A lot of the things he does and Travels he takes were happening to him at around the same age I am now.

I can’t express enough how much I enjoyed re-reading this book. I have been doing a re-read of all of his works over the last few years and this book has really amped up my excitement to continue that re-read and get into more of his books I enjoyed so much as a grade school and middle school kid. Here’s a pick of me chillazin’ in Hawaii.

Joe Hawaii Yoda.jpg

Scratch One

I enjoyed the 2nd John Lange, aka Michael Crichton, novel significantly more than the first one I read. Scratch One started off extremely fast, in typical Crichton fashion over a few day period, with a cascade of people being murdered. This novel really reminded me of a James Bond/spy movie. There is a serious case of mistaken identity as the main character, an American Lawyer, gets taken for an international assassin that is trying to stop an arms deal from going down in the French Riviera while he is trying to buy a mansion for his Senator Uncle. I guess things haven’t changed much in European and Middle Eastern politics and drama in the last 50 years because things seemed almost as crazy and dangerous then as they are now. The overall plot was a little muddled, but there was a shadowy criminal organization led by some demented doctor who liked to torture people, aka the big bad, and a slew of henchman led by a big brute, after our poor hero Roger Carr.

Roger is seriously an idiot though, crazy close shaves keep happening to him over and over and he just keeps chalking it up to chance. One of the more interesting things I noticed when reading this was that after the initial murder spree over a period of a few days Crichton went to a typical chapter system and didn’t mention what day it was or the time, which is typical for him in most all of his other works. There wasn’t a big emphasis on technology in this book either, which was also slightly askew from his normal writing, it was straight spy thriller. There wasn’t gratuitous sex and drug use in this book, like in the previous Hard Case Crime Odds On, but there was definitely a very damsel in distress and women are only here to look gorgeous and be pined after sexist tone to the Scratch One. So far both of the Hard Case Crime novels written under his pseudonym that I have read he has not written women very well. I don’t recall him being so one dimensional when writing women in his other works but it is definitely an aspect of his writing I will be looking out for moving forward.

I just finished my 14th book of 2015 this weekend, The Magicians, and I didn’t particularly care for it. I hated the main character and then my favorite character was sort of killed off at the end. I cheated and looked up if she would be back in a later book, since the series is a trilogy, and she will. So I might at some point read the other two but I wasn’t that impressed with The Magicians and I won’t be doing a blog post on it. All of the reviews kept saying it was an adult version of Harry Potter and it was nothing even close to Potter in my opinion, if anything it was more like The Chronicles of Narnia than anything. I’m currently devouring American Gods, my first ever Neil Gaiman novel that I have read and it is really good so far. I will probably pick up another Crichton Hard Case Crime novel soon but we shall see, until then if you are looking for a Bondesque spy thriller I highly recommend, Scratch One.

Odds On

Originally written under the pseudonym John Lange way back in 1966, this is Crichton’s first ever published novel. When I first started the Michael Crichton Experience and found out that he had written a bunch of mystery novels under this name I thought I was never going to get my hands on most of them. They were going for several hundred dollars on Abebooks and Amazon at that point and I wasn’t willing to part with that kind of cash. But thanks to a re-release of all of them, by Hard Case Crime in the last few years, I was able to snag them up for a couple of bucks, adding Odds On and several others to the MCE.

This novel is all about a heist. It sort of reminded me of the recent Star Wars: Scoundrels that I read but instead of being set in space with Han, Chewbacca, and Lando. Odds On is set along the coast of Spain at the fancy Hotel Reina. Three dastardly handsome thieving men are planning to rob the place blind, and they have a secret trick up their sleeve. The leader of their operation, Jencks, is using computer models to determine the course of action that has the highest probability for success. Using their fancy new-fangled computer the would be thieves are able to plan for every contingency they can possible think of. Well almost every contingency.

I love that even in his first novel ever published Crichton is able to utilize technology as a crucial part of the plot. Computers were not something that were very ordinary back when this book was set and I try to imagine what it would have been like reading this when it had been originally published, but it is so hard to do with computers inhabiting every part of our modern day life. I carry a computer around that can access the vast stores of human knowledge, known as the magical internets, in my damn pocket now. So it’s hard to fathom just how ahead of his time Crichton was with this line of thinking. He knew that computers were going to be a huge part of our life even in his first ever published novel.

This book just screams typical Crichton writing. It is set over a several day period, as he is apt to do with his novels, and his writing style and characters are very reminiscent of his later works. There were several fairly graphic sex scenes though, which I don’t recall ever reading in a Crichton book before, at least not in this much detail and some casual drug use. Overall once I got into the book it was hard to put down and it had a fairly decent twist at the end that I wasn’t expecting. It made me excited to read more Lange novels that I didn’t even know existed a few years ago. I’m about to finish my 9th book of 2015 tonight and I’m considering picking up another Lange crime novel to read next but I haven’t quite decided. We shall see, until then if you like Crichton are up for a fun mystery/heist read I definitely recommend Odds On.

A Song of Ice and Fire Book 3 – A Storm of Swords and Michael Crichton Experience Update

I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more… Game of Thrones!!! I seriously can’t get enough GOT lately and just as a heads up this post will have spoilers for at least books 1-3 of A Song of Ice and Fire.

A Storm of Swords is easily my favorite book of the series so far and even though I plan on taking a break from the world of Westeros now that I have finished book 3, to focus on Crichton for a while, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the world that George R. R. Martin has created. As my wife most brilliantly said after finishing the first book “Who the fuck kills off the main character at the end of the first book, this guy has balls.” George R. R. Martin that’s fucking who. I don’t know if he is demented or what but more characters die in game of Thrones than any other series of books I can think of. When it comes to deaths in the third book there were actually quite a few that I found extremely satisfying. Joffrey, Tywin, and The Mountain come to mind, although The Mountain isn’t technically dead yet but dying from Oberonn’s poisoned spear and I am pretty sure he won’t survive. What a fight scene for Tyrion’s life after he is done with his father’s shit and demands trial by combat! I hope the show does it justice, we just finished season 3 and the wife and I are very much looking forward to season 4 which covers the rest of book 3. Then Tyrion getting his revenge on Tywin while he was in the privy was pretty epic, I liked that Martin confirmed that Tywin Lannister in fact does not shit gold, I laughed out loud during that part.

Tyrion is still my favorite character in the books and for how much I hated the Lannister’s in the first book they have grown on me some since, well Jaime and Tyrion at least. The Jaime chapters in book 3 were my favorite followed closely by John. Speaking of John the most impactful death for me in book 3 was Igret. I thought the scene when John finds her, after defending the wall from the wildling attack party that he had just escaped from after they scaled the wall, was probably my favorite scene in the books so far. My wife and I don’t really care about spoilers because it is pretty much impossible to avoid them at this point and when I was describing Igret’s death scene to her it made me choke up a little, I thought the writing was just amazing. Some other big hitters from book three that come to mind as I write this post are: Zombie Catelyn, the red and purple weddings, fuck the Frey’s, where the hell is Arya going, Littlefinger is the most devious and plotting character of all time, I’m glad Lysa Arryn is dead too bad her kid didn’t see her fly, and Stannis at the wall! There is seriously so much going on in this book I could write about it for days but I’m not George R. R. Martin, my recommendation is if you haven’t checked out Game of Thrones yet, do so it is awesome.

The wife and I are heading to Hawaii next week and I could not be more excited. I hope to get the Michael Crichton Experience timeline updated before then because I got a hold of all the mystery novels that he wrote under a pseudonym, John Lange, when they re-released them in paperback recently. I plan on doing at least some reading on the beach and a Crichton mystery novel sounds like prime beach reading material. I have also been working on my novel again, which feels awesome, and I plan on doing Camp NanoWrimo in July to get another 50k words and get closer to finishing the draft of book 1 and start revision sooner than later. I fly out to Vegas tonight for the weekend to hang out with my best friend and his wife, who I have also known forever, and see their new baby. Life is good.

5 Patients

I must first apologize for the lack of posting lately, taking 3 online classes and working full time has taken its toll on me wanting to read or write anything. I tried to do NanoWrimo this year but only managed about 5k words and then had to focus back on trying to keep up with my Homework, I am officially up to 55k words on my novel now so that is encouraging. But the semester is over and I pulled out an A in pre-calculus so for the moment all is good. It also didn’t help that 5 Patients is probably my least favorite Crichton novel ever. It was very technical and boring to read and it took me forever to make myself slog through all 5 of the patients.

This is my first non-fiction novel in the Michael Crichton experience and even though this was one of the shortest books I have read so far in my journey, it has taken me the longest. Not to say that 5 Patients didn’t make some extremely valid points. Crichton looked at 5 different patients that he experienced while he was a resident at the Massachusetts General Hospital, or MGH, while attending Harvard Medical School. He used his own and the patients experiences to give a rundown of the medical profession, not only in the United States but often times of the practice of medicine throughout human history. Crichton did an excellent job of showing just how much medicine has changed and how humans and society as a whole has viewed the medical profession throughout time. Crichton also, again, seems to almost predict the future and gives lots of facts and figures on how medicine will change more in the future and on multiple occasions he calls out for the need to reform the system because it was already starting to get out of control back in the 60’s and 70’s. One of my favorite parts of the book was a new intro that Crichton wrote in the 80’s where he talked about how much had changed and almost spot on predicted the need to change the system somehow because costs were so outrageous.

The medical debate is a huge topic of discussion in the United States in the 21st century and even though some of you may not agree with me I think the Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction for the United States. Is it a perfect system, absolutely not, but something had to be done to reign in outrageous medical costs and stop many of the ridiculous practices such as denying patients care because of pre-existing conditions and having lifetime caps on coverage. Crichton in his new updated introduction from the 80’s calls out a point that I often make to my more conservative friends on the issue of healthcare, the United States is the only “first world” nation to not have some form of socialized medicine where everyone has access to medical care.

The overwhelming theme I am running into so far in my re-read of all of Crichton’s works is that he is almost able to predict the future with many of his thoughts and ideas and his predictions on health care pretty much came true. Personally I think it is insane that people can bankrupt themselves and their families because they get a disease that requires special treatments or care. Especially when every single year I see corporations and businesses pulling in record amounts of profits and yet they still complain when they have to pay some extra taxes to keep the nice health care coverage options for their employees. The greed of corporations and people in the United States and the world as a whole sickens me. I have a real life example for you on this point; I have a friend who works for a giant multinational mining company, him and his family had what is referred to as a “Cadillac” plan, or a very nice health care package with lots of perks and benefits. Because of the ACA, businesses that offer their employees these “Cadillac” plans are required to start paying an extra tax for it in 2018. So many of these companies have dropped these plans now, not in 2018 when they have to start paying the tax, and given their employees’ health care plans that offer significantly less coverage. On the surface you would think well this is all the ACA’s fault if not for this new health care law these people would still have their nice plans. But to me it just shows how greedy and ridiculous a lot of these companies are. This is a business that pulls in Billions in dollars of profits every year, not hundreds of million, not tens of millions, BILLIONS. But because of a tax they have to start paying 4 years in the future that would cut into some of their profit margin, they decide to make their employees pay the price and cut their health care coverage drastically. To me it seems like a political ploy, if it was me and my healthcare benefits were being gutted I would probably blame the administration and the ACA too and might vote accordingly in the next election.

And there is where the problem lies. Money is so dominant in the United States and in the world that having to pay some extra taxes in the future so you may make a little less profit is so unbearable to even think about that benefits have been cut for thousands of hard working families. Money controls so much, even politics, that if you mess with the profit margin of these billion dollar corporations even a little bit you can expect a fight to the death.

Now I must confess that I am not an overly religious person, I was raised as Jehovah’s Witness and I stopped going to church when I was about 12 and haven’t been back much since. I most identify with Reform Judaism and Buddhist philosophies but I think that the current leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has some excellent thoughts on money, capitalism and helping those that need it. I am going off on a tangent here and my liberal is showing so I will wrap this up but if you haven’t read about many of the things that Pope Francis is preaching then I would recommend that you do so. I really hope that I can travel to Rome in the near future and see the Vatican and the Pope in person, my wife has been several times and said that she had amazing experiences while there and I hope I can experience something as well.

My next post will be on the very first Bond movie, Dr. No, in my wife and I’s James Bond 50 watch extravaganza and I will try and convince her to write a few paragraphs on the movie as well so I will hopefully have a guest blogger appearance by my lovely wife who has a far superior writing ability than my own. I will be redoing my MCE timeline once again because the re-released all of the old Crichton crime novels that he wrote under his pseudonym John Lange back in the 1960’s and I need to fit them in somewhere. I have purchased all of them and they were all under 10 dollars so it was a relief to not have to pay hundreds of dollars to get my hands on some of his older works. So I will be taking a mini break for the MCE and reading some other books until I get it figured out. I am currently reading another novel my wife has been asking me to read for years called Merle’s Door about the relationship of man and dog, I will have a post-up for you when I finish it. Until next time keep on reading, writing, and watching I know I will. Allons-Y!

The Testing, MCE update, and Video Games

I was reading through one of my favorite sci-fi and fantasy websites, tor.com, recently and I came across a short story prequel to an upcoming novel called The Testing. It was called The Testing Guide and it can be found at the hyperlink provided. It is a post apocalyptic world where Humans are trying to make their way back after we basically destroyed the entire planet in a giant horrible war, very Hunger Games esque. I really liked the short story so when they released an excerpt from The Testing itself, I ate that up as well and decided I had to pick up this book at some point. I really enjoyed The Hunger Games and this seemed similar but not so alike that it would be lame. I forgot about it for a while and then when my wife and I were perusing Barnes and Noble after chowing down on some delicious Mexican food nearby, there it was in the sci-fi/fantasy section. I picked it up and devoured it as well, much like the first Hunger Games book, I found that I couldn’t really put it down and wanted to find out what happens next.  It isn’t a very long book and I won’t bore you with the plot details because you can just hit up the provided links and find out for yourself if it is something you might want to read.  I really enjoyed it, like I said before it was different enough from Hunger Games to keep my interested and if you liked the Hunger Games you will like this book as well. I look forward to more books in the series. Now onto other update!

I am on the 5th patient in Michael Crichton’s non-fiction 5 Patients, it isn’t a very long book but I haven’t been able to get into it, it is very technical and often very dry to read. It is interesting from the perspective of the current health care debate that is crippling our government at the moment, and as usual Crichton has seen what is current happening now way back in the 1970’s. I seriously think he might have been a little clairvoyant.  Another reason that I have been slacking on my MCE is that my 2nd to last semester started at University of Alaska Fairbanks. I decided, like a boss, to save all my math for the last year so I am currently getting my ass kicked nightly by Pre-Calculus and Accounting. It has been tough but I am started to get in the swing of things and I kind of amaze myself with how much I actually remember as far as math, it has been over a decade since I took a college math class and almost 14 years since I took it in high school, but I will definitely be passing these classes and I am starting to enjoy them in some sick and demented way.

Another excuse for not advancing the MCE is that I have been buying and playing a lot of video games lately! I just picked up WInd Waker HD for the Wii U last night and started it this morning, I never got into it on the gamecube and I look forward to finishing it on the Wii U, so far it is freaking awesome only about an hour in.  I also picked up GTA V and Diablo III for PS3 and I am enjoying the hell out of them as well. I plan on finishing 5 patients soon and getting a blog up for it and after I finish each of the video games I listed I will blog about those as well. I have also been listening to Game of Thrones on my treks to and from work, I will have to dedicate some time and blogging to that in the near future, I really enjoy the show and books so far. Now time to go do some accounting HW, oh joy…

The Terminal Man Movie

The movie version of the Terminal Man came out a few years after the novel, 1974, and it was just awful.  Again there will be spoilers ahead.  I had a hard time actually watching the whole thing and it’s barely over an hour and a half long.  It actually has quite a few actors in it who are pretty famous, but I will never watch it again.  The most notable person I recognized was the guy who played Harry Benson, I know him as Jack from the TV show Just Shoot me, he plays the owner of the magazine.  It follows  the book sometimes, several scenes are straight from the novel, but then it decided to try and be artistic or something and added in a bunch of stuff that made zero sense and wasn’t in the novel.  There is actually a scene in the movie, after Benson escapes and kills the stripper, where he is sitting in this strange room with a bunch of mirrors and there is a giant weird robot thing that he is laying on and hitting with a metal pipe and screaming.  It made no sense and was just randomly thrown in.

In the book he goes on quite the killing spree and they can’t find him and he eventually is found in the basement of the hospital trying to destroy the computer.  In the movie he kills the stripper, goes to his psychiatrist’s house and attacks her, she ends up stabbing him and then he runs away.  In the book he kills several more people after his run in with the psychiatrist and attacks one of the doctors, hurting him really bad and then ends up in the hospital basement.  In the movie he randomly shows up at a cemetery, hops in an open grave that someone is about to be buried in and then writhes around with a gun until the cops show up and shoot him.  The movie ends abruptly after that, it was like they ran out of money or something and said screw it we’ll end the movie this way.  The costumes were very strange, the surgery scene seemed to take up a good third of the movie and then it had the really weird ending that made absolutely no sense.  Throw in the random robot scene and you have one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my life.  The novel, while not Crichton’s best, was at least readable and entertaining but the movie is so bad that I would not recommend it to even my worst enemy.

Up next in the Michael Crichton Experience I have several movies, Pursuit is the next one, and I have the DVD so I may give it a watch this weekend.  I am thinking of modifying my timeline though, I found several of the detective novels that Crichton published under a pseudonym in the 60’s and another one he wrote with his brother that also has a movie, and I own both so I am thinking I will change it up a bit before I get to The Great Train Robbery.  In the meantime I am really getting into The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov, and I think I will be finishing it before I move onto the next Crichton book.  Stay tuned to the blog for a MCE timeline update!