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Michael Crichton's State of Fear, now in paperback, is wonderful as a political tract and morality play.

By 11.2.05

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State of Fear
By Michael Crichton
(Avon, 692 pages, $7.99 paper)

Okay, now that this unique wake up call on global warming (the biggest fraud since Y2K and the designated hitter) is in paperback at $7.99, there's no longer and excuse not to buy it and read it.

Michael Crichton, a sound science guy and a writer of popular but hokey thrillers, has committed a public service. State of Fear is not literature. It's not even very good as a thriller. As in Crichton's previous novels the characters are thin and the action situations not believable, even by the looser standards of the thriller. But unlike the empty calories of Crichton's previous harmless entertainments (my one-sentence review of Jurassic Park: "It's about dinosaurs"), this preposterous pudding has a theme.

State of Fear is a political tract and morality play more than a novel. But it's worth the time even if discriminating fiction readers can expect to be put off by the dopier aspects of the plot and to cringe at the long passages of speechifying disguised as dialogue -- passages that sound like re-runs of West Wing (a.k.a. "Left Wing") except that the arguments make sense.

The message is that global warming is a hoax of Piltdown proportions brought to us by hysterical Chicken Little environmental groups, by careerist "scientists" prepared to produce the answers their patrons want in order to keep the grants and the publications coming, by gullible and scientifically illiterate journalists who wouldn't know the scientific method from the rhythm method, by limousine liberals and preposterously rich Gulfstream enviro-wackos (Hollywood branch) trying to pump meaning into their otherwise pointless lives, and by politicians desperate to find threats to appear to save their constituents from (or to at least get some good moral posing out of) in return for votes.

Folks with their eyes even halfway on the ball already know that global warming is quackery gone to town and belongs on the dumb-idea ash-heap with previous enviro-alarums -- see Alar, DDT, acid rain, asbestos, African killer bees, holes in the ozone layer, et al. -- all whooped up as threats to life as we know it and all, in due course, proven to be either totally harmless or of not much account.

Some particulars: The temperature of the Earth and its atmosphere has been going up and down for millennia and there's not the first bit of convincing evidence that the slight increase in temperature during this century is anything but the normal variation; the slight increase in temperature this century has not varied along with the constant increase in greenhouse gasses (the supposed cause of destructive man-caused climate changes) -- in fact temperatures actually went down from about 1940 into the seventies; computers models relied on by scientists to predict future global temperatures have been wrong in the predications they have made for the last decade-plus, vastly overestimating actual global temperatures; if greenhouse gasses were not allowing the Earth's heat to escape then we would expect the atmosphere to be warming faster than the surface of the Earth -- it isn't.

There's more, but these easily available facts -- woven into Crichton's story -- should be enough to demonstrate that scientifically the global warming threat has about as much support as an 11-year-old in a training bra.

WHAT CRICHTON GIVES US in State of Fear -- which is what the intellectual aluminum-siding salesmen flogging global warming want us to be in -- is drama and narrative and dialogue which help us to better understand, in a way beyond that of straight analysis, how a transparent fraud like global warming can become something that millions believe in without ever giving any real thought to.

The hero of State of Fear is John Kenner, an MIT professor who is a cross between James Bond, Indiana Jones, and Jonas Salk. His mission is no less than to save the world from the actions of a radical environmental group called the National Environmental Resource Fund (no, the members aren't referred to as NERF balls, but they should be) that plans to -- and has the resources and capabilities to -- create a series of wildly destructive environmental catastrophes, including an Asian tsunami, all of which will be blamed on global warming.

This race between the forces of good and evil takes place in exotic locals across the globe -- Antarctica, Paris, Tokyo, the Arizona desert, and New Guinea, to name a few -- in the usual breathless, action-packed, in-the-nick-of-time style of the traditional thriller, only with scientific sermonettes along the way (complete with un-thriller-like graphs and scientific citations). But readers can speed through the parts where the good guys are being chased by cannibals and crocodiles in New Guinea or running from lightning showers and flash floods in the desert Southwest. This stuff is about as credible as pro wrestling, and perhaps even less interesting.

What's important in State of Fear is the science and the take on how environmental groups operate to sell Americans on really bad ideas. These scenes are far more realistic and convincing than the chases.

There's the evil Nick Drake, head of NERF working his charm on scientists, trying to convince them they can no longer afford this lofty and old-fashioned notion that they are to pursue the truth regardless of where it leads. They must, because the stakes are so high, become part of the environmental rescue team. There's the idealistic lawyer, Peter Evans, an intelligent and "well informed" man who requires mountains of evidence to be convinced that what "everyone knows" about global warming is not true. Crichton shows how Big Environment is just another part of the political and cultural establishment and is as manipulative as anyone else in town.

With any luck, thousands of thriller readers who pick up "Fear" with nothing on their minds but entertainment will stay the course and have their minds fortified against one of the frauds of the ages. Crichton is certainly qualified to do the science required for this public education. He's a 1965 graduate of Harvard Medical School -- though he makes too much writing thrillers and screenplays to practice medicine -- and he's done extensive scientific background work for his previous dozen or so science-based thrillers.

Don't wait for the movie to come out on this one, though. It's far too un-PC to ever be made. It has given reviewers with establishment leftie organs the vapors. The NYT review, for example, huffs with words like "shrill," "preposterous," "right-wing," "ham-handed," "screed," and such like. Any book that sets the NYT this much on a boil is probably worth a few hours of reading time. And that's all the 600-plus pages of State of Fear will require -- if readers take my advice and buzz through the silly crocodile parts.

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About the Author

Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.