Reviewer: Cathy Zhang

Author: Michael Crichton

Published: 2006

Reviewed: 2010-10-14

Publisher: HarperCollins

If you've ever seen "Crash" or "Love Actually," "Next" follows a
similar structure of interleaving story lines every which way,
although with slightly more focus on a convergence of a few of the
stories, towards the end. The stories are fictional, but they are
nonetheless grounded in varying levels of fact; each story centers
around some issue of the current state of some aspect of biology
research. One story draws attention to illicit organ-harvesting.
Another brings chimerism to the reader's attention. (Here, I would
link to the wikipedia article about chimerism, but frankly, it sucks.)
Multiple stories revolve around DNA testing and gene patenting, which
was most recently in the news when the patent on BRCA1 and BRCA2 was
overturned [1]. The stories of Gerard, a talking African grey
(parrot), and of a transgenic ape raise the animal research issues, as
well as the idea of manufacturing transgenic animals for use in
advertising or as pets, which was also recently in the news [2] (check
out the gallery [3]). And perhaps one of the most frightening
storylines tells of a mother and her son who are pursued by a bounty
hunter intent on forcibly harvesting cells from their bodies because
her father's cells produce cytokines that seem to fight cancer;
because his cells were bought (arguably illicitly) by a company, they
then argue that they have a right to repossess those cells wherever
they may occur, including in the source's descendants.

Personally, I enjoyed the book, despite its abrupt jumps from one
plotline to another, because it explores so many of the controversies
that surround the field of biotechnology in this day and age. Some of
the imagined possibilities seem quite ludicrous, but when you look at
the news, it is disturbing to realize the extent to which some of the
possible situations delineated in the novel are actually taking place
around us. While is it true that the stories center around biology
and people interested in such may find this book particularly
interesting, I think that it has value both as a thriller and as a
mechanism for bringing many current bioethics issues to the public's