Mark’s #26 – Travels by Michael Crichton (400 pages)

Recently I read a blog about how to become a better writer.  The one point I remember from the blog was that a good writer needed to have some good life experiences in order to have some material to work with.  As Travels demonstrates, it’s clear that Michael Crichton has had plenty of experiences from which to draw from.

I think Michael Crichton is a great writer – perhaps my favorite fiction author.  I have read almost all of Crichton’s books (including Pirates Latitudes earlier this year).   I was looking forward to reading this semi-autobiography.

The book started out great. In the first 100 pages, Crichton shares stories from his days as a medical student at Harvard.  From these experiences, it’s obvious where he is able to draw on his scientific/medical background to write science fiction thrillers.  After graduating Harvard, he quit medicine to become a full time writer and director.

The rest of the book was supposed to be short accounts of his adventures around the world.  In short, the stories reveal a man on a desperate search for meaning and purpose in his life.  Here is a man who made millions as an author and director.  A man who had all the time and resources to go on any adventure he desired – which he did.  Along the way, however, he continued to burn through relationships and marriages.  He acheived the world’s definition of success, but I did not get the sense that he was happy with his life.

As the world tour adventures began to lose their appeal, Crichton turned his attention increasingly to the world of psychics, mediums, and New-Age gurus. Crichton obviously had a different worldview than mine (he died a couple years ago from cancer), and so it was interesting at first to hear about these forays into this realm.   But again, it seemed like he went from one metaphysical experience to another without finding what he was looking for.  Towards the end of the book, the chapters increasingly dealt with these topics – such as the time he spent a couple weeks in the desert of Arizona at some kind of New-Age retreat talking to a cactus for guidance… or the time he went to a spoon-bending party… or the time he went to the ‘Astral Plane’ and talked with his dead father…

Frankly, I got bored with all this… When I saw the last 25 pages were dealing with more of this stuff, rather than climbing a mountain or scuba-diving,  I gave up… I put the book down and thought – “That was kind of sad.”

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