State of Fear by Michael Crichton, MD, HarperCollins , New York , 2004, 672 pp, $25.95, Avon PB $7.99, ISBN-13-978-0-06-101573-1, Harper Audio, 16 CDs, 18 hours, Performed by George Wilson, $49.95.

There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.  -Mark Twain

Within any important issue, there are always aspects no one wishes to discuss.    -George Orwell

"In late 2003, at the Sustainable Earth Summit conference in Johannesburg , the Pacific island nation of Vanutu announced that it was preparing a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States over global warming. Vanutu stood only a few feet above sea level, and the island's eight thousand inhabitants were in danger of having to evacuate their country because of rising sea levels caused by global warming. The United States , the largest economy in the world, was also the largest emitter of carbon dioxide and therefore the largest contributor to global warming."

In Paris , a young physicist performs an oceanographic experiment for a beautiful visitor - then dies mysteriously after a romantic tryst with her.

In London 's warehouse district below the Tower Bridge , an American picks up a shipment but does not fail to note two posters on a wall. One says "Save the Earth" and beneath it, "It's the Only Home We Have." The other says "Save the Earth" and beneath that, "There's Nowhere Else to Go." After a struggle to load the 700-pound box, he becomes suspicious, sensing that he is being watched.  No sooner does he become wary than a woman accosts him and attempts to strangle him. He takes off down the street. The woman tells a warehouse attendant, "Go back to work. You did a good job. I never saw you. You never saw me. Now go."  The hapless American, however, succumbs to a mysterious paralysis and dies suddenly in the street as the woman drives the Van away with the "merchandise."

In the jungles of Malaysia , a mysterious buyer purchases, for an unspecified purpose, deadly hypersonic cavitation technology, built to his specification that is capable of toppling mountains with sound. After business has been concluded, his contact drives him to the airport. Unfortunately he leaves his cell phone behind.

In Vancouver , a businessman leases a small research submarine for use in the waters off New Guinea .

At the International Data Environmental Consortium (The IDEC): In a small brick building adjacent to a University in Tokyo, which bears the University's Coat of Arms leading the casual observer to assume an association, but which is totally independent, a network of servers equipped with multilevel quad-check honeynets is at work. The nets are established in both business and academic domains, which enable them to track backward from servers to user with an 87 percent success rate.

"The National Environmental Resource Fund, an American activist group, announced that it would join forces with Vanutu in the lawsuit, which was expected to be filed in the summer of 2004. It was rumored that wealthy philanthropist Gorge Morton, who frequently backed environmental causes, would personally finance the suit, expected to cost more than $8 million. Since the suit would ultimately be heard by the sympathetic Ninth Circuit in San Francisco , the litigation was awaited with some anticipation."

In Los Angeles , George Morton begins checking some of the data on global warming and finds conflicting scientific information.  He finishes a bottle of Vodka in his private jet on his way to San Francisco to accept the National Environmental Resource Fund [NERF] award and gains the courage during his acceptance speech to urge more time for study.  He is physically pushed off the stage. Having downed a few more Vodkas during the course of his meal, he leaves the building, weaves past his waiting limousine, and slips behind the wheel of his recently purchased Ferrari. Despite the urgings of his lawyer not to drive, George speeds away.  Shortly after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge , the car crashes, leaving a mangled mound of steel, but the body of George Morton has disappeared.

In Antarctica , where the ice is getting thicker every year, an intelligence agent and members of his team race across glaciers in an attempt to put all the puzzling pieces together and prevent what will doubtless be a global catastrophe producing the largest iceberg in history.  However, his partners who have been following his lead vehicle slide into a deep crevasse.

"But the law suit is never filed."  Why was the Vanutu suit, which was to have been funded by George Morton, dropped?

Thus begins "State of Fear " an exciting and provocative techno-thriller. Author Michael Crichton who has given us a number of medical thrillers and the television series ER unravels the reasons while revealing some impressive research on the scientific pros and cons of global warming.

The novel is not politically correct and thus the reviews from the media were predictable. Or as David Kipen at the SF Chronicle states, "Unless I'm mistaken, State of Fear is the first thriller in history whose goals are to convince you that there's really nothing to be afraid of, and then to scare you to death about it."

Crichton has given us his own scientific point of view in a special message at the end. There is an extensive bibliography consisting of 32 pages of more than 150 references in support of the author's position.

According to the Wall Street Journal,  "In STATE OF FEAR, Michael Crichton delivers a lightening technopolitical thriller...every bit as informative as it is entertaining." 

This book is informational reading and studying especially in view of the anxiety about global warming. Crichton's cautions are relevant and should give us insight into how the government uses taxpayer's monies to direct scientific and medical research.

The 16 CD audio version performed by George Wilson is very well done. For physicians who drive between hospitals and their office, it's an easy way to brush up on how political science works. In fact, it packs a more powerful punch than silent reading.

But be sure you do not have a tight schedule. Several times during the past month after parking, I was unable to cease listening, open the door to my car, and meet my time constraints. One evening on my way home, I phoned my wife, "Would you mind if I drive to San Francisco and back? I just can't turn off George Wilson and Michael Crichton."