Book Review: Michael Crichton's "Next"

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Michael Crichton's Next is a story about genetic engineering in the not-to-distant future. Next is a story about a transgenetic chimp who is born with human-like features, an African Grey Ash parrot who can hold a conversation and help with math homework, and a cellular line that is thought to hold the key to curing cancer. The lives of three seemingly distinct groups of individuals intertwine as legal battles, bounty-hunters, and bloodshed fill the pages of the next chapter of scientific development.

Michael Crichton tries to stress a few points throughout the book: 1. Gene patenting is wrong and should stop; genes are naturally occurring. You can't patent an atom, why can you patent a gene. 2. We need clear guidelines for human tissue; you should remain in control of what happens to your tissues. If scientists/doctors/academics want to use donated tissues for a purpose other than that for which they were donated, they should need your permission. 3. Results from gene therapy trials should be public knowledge. 4. Avoid banning research. Bans on anything just don't work. From the War on Drugs to the Prohibition, we know (and have seen) that you can not enforce a ban on anything. Banning research just shifts the research to other parts of the world or makes criminals out of scientists trying to better humanity. 5. Rescind the Bayh-Dole Act; universities that use federal funding (funding from the people) should not be able to profit from funding by selling the results of their findings back to the public.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. Not my favorite piece of work by Michael Crichton, but it does provide a rich storyline about what the near future of genetic engineering could result in and outlines some major issues in the law surrounding genetics.