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Michael Crichton, sparking the imagination, and controversy

From the inner workings of a hospital, to the depths of the ocean, to the middle of a desert wasteland, Michael Crichton writes books that spark the imagination and exercise the human mind. Best known as the writer of "Jurassic Park," and the creator of the hit TV show "ER," Crichton is one of the most recognizable names among Hollywood writers.

Crichton was born in Chicago, Ill., in 1939. He attended Harvard, and received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School. During his schooling he published several novels - mostly medical thrillers - to pay his tuition. He published eight novels under the pseudonym John Lange, and co-authored a novel with his brother under the name of Michael Douglass. In 1969, he published "A Case of Need" under the name of Jeffrey Hudson. It received a Peabody Award, thus rocketing Crichton into the national spotlight. After graduation from medical school, he abandoned his medical career and began writing and directing movies. To date, he has written five non-fiction books, 15 fiction books, written and directed 13 movies, and 11 of his books have been turned into motion pictures.

Crichton's books encompass a wide variety of topics. Some of his best novels address scientific controversies such as: the threat of contamination from alien pathogens in The Andromeda Strain (1970), and the threat of advanced computer technology to civilization in Prey (2002). State of Fear (2004) reflects current concerns of the plausibility of a global environmental crisis. His newest thriller, Next, explores the implications of the current work in genetics and the marketing of human body parts, DNA, and genes. These books are scary, not because they're far-fetched, but because the situations in them are so close to home. Crichton flawlessly blends scientific fact with exciting fiction, thus forcing us to examine our own lives and the world we live in.

Some of Crichton's other books are a little more fantastic, such as the widely-known Jurassic Park (1990) and its sequel, The Lost World (1995), in which dinosaurs are cloned from 65-million-year-old DNA. In Sphere, (1988) Crichton tells the tale of an alien ship discovered on the ocean floor, and Cong, (1980) is a high-tech thriller, set in the heart of Africa. Crichton brings in cannibals, booby traps, and a civilization of man-hunting gorillas to thwart a band of diamond hunters. Timeline (1999) is the story of a team of researchers who travel back in time to 14th-century France. Although high-tech, these books tend to also be philosophical as they examine man's place in nature.

Not all of Crichton's books are fast-paced thrillers. Rising Sun (1992) is a commentary on the United States' foreign relations. Airframe (1996) examines the sensationalism of today's media coverage, and Disclosure (1993) is a novel about the world of business interactions and the ever-changing technological world. Although suspenseful, these books are more for readers interested in media, political and business issues.

Most of Crichton's novels are bestsellers for a reason. His books have been called suspenseful, fantastic, breathtaking and insightful. He explores the dangers and issues of our modern-day world. So go to your public library and check a book from the Michael Crichton collection.