Step One: Imitate Michael Crichton.
Step Two: Refer to Step One.
Harsh, I know. Yet, in the past year, I’ve read two of Crichton’s books and have forgotten about them within days. Seriously – I can remember basic plot elements and the fact that ‘characters’ did things in the story, but not much beyond that. A year ago, it was Timeline. Right now, I can tell you that it had something to do with time travel. I think to France. But nothing else comes to mind. Seriously – not a single thing.
Last week, I read Crichton’s Prey. Since it was only a week ago, I can fill in a bit more information than I can about Timeline. Prey was about little nano particles that learn to take the shape of humans. And they traveled by kiss. I remember nothing about the main characters – not their names nor their occupations (although I would assume that some had to be scientists considering it’s a book about science) nor their relationship to each other.
There’s a special talent in this. There are other genre writers who can’t seem to write characters with more depth than a Kleenex and who can’t manage to put together a sentence without including either an unnecessary cliche or an inappropriate adverb. Dan Brown immediately springs to mind. Yet, I can remember Dan Brown’s books including his preposterous characters. They’re silly and cartoonish, but in some way memorable. Whatever quality bestows any faint trace of memorableness is entirely lacking in Crichton’s work.
When I was 11 or 12, Jurassic Park was one of the first ‘adult’ books that I read. I thought it was just about the coolest thing anyone had ever bothered to put on paper. I still remember details from that book, even though I haven’t looked at it in more than fifteen years. I’m wondering, however, if I would feel the same about Jurassic Park were I to read it for the first time at this point in my reading life. Or, like many other authors whose early work was quite good *coughJohnGrishamcough*, did Crichton just stop trying.
Does anyone have any insight on this? Why, specifically, are Crichton’s books so forgettable? And, has this always been the case or did he start calling it in, so to speak, in his later novels?