State of Fear: Preposterous Thriller, or Engaging Scientific Inquiry?

I like what this book tried to do, which is confront the hard truths of a topic, and provide a second opinion backed up by (lots of) data. This is not a literary masterpiece, and there are lulls and weaknesses in character details, but overall it’s a bit of fun, and something to meditate on afterwards.

First, the characters are mostly multidimensional, but not all. For example, the two lead women are impressive, but too similar to each other. Some characters, particularly the antagonists and especially Bolden, are rather flat. But Morton is a fun character, and Evens has some actual character development. And I mean character, even if you put aside the politics of global warming.

Second, notice how harshly critical, even hateful reviews of this novel (on Goodreads, for example) present their arguments. Namely, there are almost none, ever. Instead, with the exception of people who (fairly enough) just found it dull, it’s often emotions pouring out. No critical thinking. No sources. They say Crichton is a global warming denier, but in reality he’s often just asking questions and looking at science very skeptically.

This book has 29 pages of bibliography at the end. I want just one critic to address one of the studies in the book and talk about it before being dismissive. Just try it. Be substantive.

But, like other slow books with a clear unambiguous perspective, this one isn’t that bad when you actually get into it. Crichton gives the other side (pro global warming) at least a chance. Even the protagonist is on that side, until climate terrorists appear. And what about the ecology of thought bit? That was interesting regardless of your opinion of global warming. Why isn’t anyone talking about that? Why can’t we set aside our biases and present a pros and cons list, however subjective it may be?

And that’s the real reason why I’m giving this book 5 stars. I want to oppose the decisive negativity that at a one star review implies the and that some have taken. I want to attempt to be a little more positive and compatibilistic. With numbers aside, let’s get into a more proper treatment of the novel.

At the end of the day I think that this is a pretty decent book with a lot of fast paced scenes. A cool journey around the world.  I think it could have used another couple rounds of editing, particularly developmental editing, because the pacing and set up a lot of the narrative could have been better. It’s a little bit below average in its construction, and some of the scenes at the end felt almost incomplete, seemingly the crystal clear description and orientation of the rest of the book. It was hard to tell what was going on sometimes in that second last chapter, and where certain people were. Butna lot of stories are written like that throughout, so it’s manageable. State of Fear was still more engaging than half the books I’ve read, although that just means it was somewhat above average. As for the book’s perspective; if you’re interested in entering this discussion on global warming, climate change, and media creating a state of fear, regardless of your position this is worth it for the intellectual stimulation alone.

Despite certain partisan characters, the book itself is thoughtful and its narrator doesn’t really pick a side. I think that’s a fair way to approach it, maybe a part of us is partisan, but in order to engage with a system of thought, we have to play by its rules. As Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky said, even if we don’t believe in wizards and magic, we’re willing to pretend for the purposes of enjoying Harry Potter. We have to be, we have to suspend disbelief a little bit for any story, or else the narrative doesn’t make any sense.

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