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By Michael Crichton

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By Michael Crichton
HarperLuxe, Large Print: 2006
ISBN: 0-06-087303-5
Genre: Thriller

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - December 22, 2006

In Next, Michael Crichton takes the reader on a thrilling ride through the realm of gene engineering - its promises and its pitfalls. A mix of fantasy and hard science, this book focuses on a range of issues related to gene engineering and biotechnology - from the patenting of genes to the sale of body parts and tissue. Next is so well peppered with real life news articles and hard science that it can be difficult at times to tell the fact from fiction, which is one of the best features of this novel.

In addition, Crichton has interwoven a plethora of storylines into this story that run the gamut from a doctor who harvests tissue from his unsuspecting patients, which he then sells to a company that takes out a patent on the genes contained in the tissue to the story of Henry Kendall, a scientist who has created a hybrid human - chimpanzee via DNA splicing. Held captive by the government, Kendall rescues his creation and tries to pass it off as a human child named Dave. This novel does not have a traditional 'main plot' that runs throughout the story, instead this novel is constructed of a series of independent subplots that are all related to some aspect of genetic research. Due to this unique story structure, you will also discover that this book also has more characters than usual - there is even a talking parrot named Gerard that is a featured character.

This edition of Next is the first book to be published by HarperLuxe, a new line of large print books that is being offered by HarperCollins Publishers. The HarperLuxe line of large print books has the main text printed in a dark, crisp, and easily readable 14-point font size on matte, off-white paper accompanied by wide margins and added spacing between each word and line, making for a comfortable reading experience. While the bulk of this book is printed in this new large print format, you will find that interspersed throughout the novel are reprints of real life newspaper articles. Most of these articles are not in large print, and some are printed in very small newspaper-size print. While these 'news articles' enhance the story, they are not an integral component of the book and can be ignored if you have trouble reading them.

Combined, this mix of real science and multiple subplots, makes for a complex and satisfying read. Next is more of a thoughtful suspense story, rather than an adventure thriller such as Jurassic Park, but it is no less of a page-turner. Some of the most thrilling elements in this story come from the what-ifs of 'the future of genetic research' that Crichton postulates, and the knowledge that much of the underlaying fabric of this novel is all too real. As an added bonus, Crichton has added something to this novel that you don't usually find in a work of fiction - a bibliography and list of resources used in researching the book. This novel also includes an essay by the author that outlines his thoughts on gene research and the steps that should be taken to protect the rights of individuals and to guarantee that genetic research is used for the public good - not as a money making gold mine for biotech and pharmaceutical companies.

Next is a unique and thought-provoking novel that will have you wondering just who really owns the genes inside your body - and if you are not the legal owner, what might happen if the 'real' owner comes to claim his property!

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