Plotholes in “State of Fear”

Repost, first posted on July 17, 2012. I am reposting a couple of things I have written about Crichton and his “State of Fear” novel, which is the most harmful book in history, since I am just publishing my second global change science fiction novel “Tasneem”, and that novel is in part an answer to Crichton.

One thing I have learned from studying Michael Crichton’s novel “State of Fear” is that a science fiction novel doesn’t have to make sense.  That’s not its purpose. It’s purpose is to entertain. Arguably, Crichton also wanted to present a point of view, but that is not his first job as a writer.

So the following long list of things that don’t make any sense in the plot development is actually rather irrelevant. The only reason I write them down anyway is: If a famous writer like Crichton can use a plot full of holes large enough to drive a truck through them, so can everybody else.

In chronological order:

The novel starts out with killing the first character introduced, Jonathan Marshall. The motive given for that is that he has the key to a research facility and the evil terrorists want to use that.

It makes no sense to kill him. They could have just used his key while he was sleeping, and returned it in the next morning. Attracts much less undesirable attention. Even if they decide to bump him off, it makes no sense to do it in the strange way they adopt, which is associated with all kinds of risks of failure and detection.

Then, later in the novel, character “Morton” gets a list of locations right from the terrorist organization. How the hell is that supposed to have happened? And why doesn’t he just hand it over to Kenner, instead playing some games with his remote control?

The main character, Evans, is a lawyer. What business has a lawyer running around disrupting terrorist plots? He doesn’t have a client at the time. And he is certainly completely useless in any of these operations. In the real world, the government would of course move in with military assets in sufficient force.

The only possible explanation is that Crichton doesn’t like lawyers (I recall having a T-Rex gulp down a lawyer in “Jurassic Park”) and thought it would be more fun to have lawyers falling in crevices, getting hit by lightnings and captured by savages than some military type. Also, having people incompetent at what basically requires military action helps to keep some suspense.

At some time Morton goes into hiding by faking a car accident. Couldn’t he go into hiding without that as well? This guy is seriously rich. Surely he can afford enough security to make sure some lawyer can’t get at him. And if so, why would he want to go alone to that island?

And what business have they flying around with the private jet all the time? Morton is supposed to be dead. They can’t use the jet. And with this kind of great threat, wouldn’t the government have a jet or two of their own available?

One of the goofy theories advanced in the novel is that there was a sudden spike in 1989 in the use of words like “crisis” in the media, with the new fear of global warming replacing the old fear of communism. That is a contradiction in itself. If the “State of Fear” is constant and only the object of fear changes, then there should be no such spike measurable.

The bad guys can’t be possibly so incompetent as to actually reference disrupted events in a speech at the conference. If they were, they would never get so far as nearly pull off some of the events.

And, of course, the largest plothole of all:

Triggering a tsunami doesn’t make any sense if you want to attract attention to global warming. There are many catastrophic consequences to be expected from global warming; but nobody ever asserted earthquakes are caused by it.

Update: I forgot two other problems. For one, there is no plausible way a radio could be modified to attract lightnings. And it doesn’t make any sense for the terrorists being able to switch those radios.

Also I forgot to link to my own global warming science fiction novel “Great News”. Having written that is the reason for my interest in this book in the first place.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

2 thoughts on “Plotholes in “State of Fear”

  1. The biggest plot hole by far is so obvious it’s easy to overlook, if that makes sense!?

    NERF have technology that allows them to insert a small electronic device a phone or a walkie-talkie and then at their command it will attract lightning strikes towards that device. It is used to murder a submarine rental company owner early in the book, and then again when team of protagonists are attempting to foil the plot to shoot rockets into the air with microfiliment wires *to attract lighting strikes*. Why on earth would you go to all the trouble and expense of arrangingthe and firing rockets into the sky when you have a device (already with you!) that can cause lightening strikes to be caused at any time!?!


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