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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Binary by John Lange (Michael Crichton)

Binary (Hard Case Crime) - Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton published ten books -- five before The Andromeda Strain and five after -- under pseudonyms, eight of them as John Lange. Thanks to Hard Case Crime (and Crichton himself), the Lange books are available once again. Binary is the last of them. Being the last, I don't know if it is also the best, but reading it was such a pleasure that I can assure you I intend to find out.

It is, according to other sources, the book most like his more famous works, and it's easy enough to see why this may be so. It begins and ends with excerpts from government documents, it plays as a race against time (the hero has 12 hours to solve the case and save the day), and the case itself begins with a techno-scientific premise: a radical who aims to kill the President (and countless innocent bystanders) through the combination of two chemicals to produce a deadly nerve gas. Why, then, didn't he publish it under his own name?

Despite the similarities, Binary is Crichton lite. In his case, that has nothing to do with his characters or the complexity of his plots; it's simply a matter of research: how much he did and how much of it ended up on the page. For this reason, this stripped-down thriller might actually be preferable to some of his readers.

I wouldn't go that far myself, but I will say that if you think Crichton is a quick read, you'll be amazed at how blazingly fast Lange is. Binary is nothing deep, nothing even terribly memorable, but it's exciting, and Crichton makes it all seem absolutely effortless, like eating cotton candy.


A note on the cover: Hard Case Crime is bringing back the pulp-style covers some of us dearly miss, whether we were alive during their heyday or not. Sometimes those covers are really quite clever. Like this one. The girl (in pulp, attractive women are always "girls") isn't the least bit literal. Combined with the tanks in the background, however, she is certainly incendiary.

Here is the original cover, which I also like: