You might not think so to see his books gracing the illustrious wire racks of grocery stores and newsagents, but Michael Crichton is an amazingly talented writer. I will argue this point with anyone who dares contradict me. He had me cowering under my blanket as a teenager when I was reading Jurassic Park because his book was so well written as to convince me that the wind in the trees outside my bedroom window was a velociraptor casing the joint and waiting for the light to go out before making its move. I’m a practical person. I might have an over-active imagination when it comes to reading about real life horrors like serial killers who could be hiding in my closet, but I know there aren’t any dinosaurs stalking me. I know there aren’t any dinosaurs full stop. But Crichton’s talent is such that I was utterly convinced, for the duration of the midnight hour at any rate, that the dinosaurs were out to get me.
Travels is by far my favourite of his books. Though his fiction is inspired and The Great Train Robbery was highly entertaining, this is the book I recommend. I am a fan of travel literature because I enjoy vicarious globe-trotting, so this book was a treat. Each chapter is a new place or a new adventure. Crichton shares with us the experiences of shark-diving, communing with a cactus, observing the majestic Silverback Gorilla in its natural habitat and climbing Kilimanjaro. The book also features a section on his days as a medical student, at once grotesque, educational and entertaining. I mean who doesn’t love a book that starts with the sentence: “It is not easy to cut through a human head with a hacksaw”?