Michael Crichton was arguably the best storyteller of his generation. At one point he had the number 1 book, film, and tv show at the same time. There is no denying that the man knew how to create and tell a story. His works The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, and Sphere (my personal favorite) are simply legendary works of fiction. So when I approached Congo, one of his earlier novels and one of his few works I hadn’t yet picked up, I had rather high hopes. While the book is certainly not bad and in many respects good, Congo lacks the greatness that is expected with any novel attached with the name: Michael Crichton.
The story of Congo was good; however, it felt rather unfocused at times. While, at the surface, the book is about a science team in a race to retrieve a specific type of blue diamonds in the Congo, the real focus of the story is a newly discovered species of ape that wreaks havoc on the explorers. I really felt that if the story was solely focused on this new discovery that the story would have been much stronger. Its as if the context of a team searching for diamonds holds the story back. Further, the ending of the story seems pointless and is hardly memorable as it seems Crichton adds further danger to the characters simply to create more suspense.
One of the biggest disappointments I had with Congo was the characters. Now, don’t get me wrong, the characters weren’t bad, they just didn’t live up to some of the great characters that Crichton has written. You know there is a problem when the most entertaining character is a gorilla named Amy — although, that could be because Crichton’s writing of Amy was so well that it simply overshadowed otherwise good characters. There is simply no way around it, Amy steels the show in this one.
The narrative, as is to be expected of a writer of this caliber, is engaging. While not really artistic, Crichton is a master of making the reader feel like the account actually happened. The reader doesn’t feel like she or he is reading a work of fiction but rather a true story. Crichton’s knowledge of technology and his ability to research his works makes every one of his novels feel entirely believable. Congo is no different. However, more so in this novel than most of his works, the reader finds Crichton going off on tangents about various subjects and backstory that aren’t overly relative to the book at hand.
In conclusion, I would encourage every reader of Crichton to pick up a copy of Congo. While certainly not his best work, Congo is a quick and enjoyable read. Anybody who enjoys a good adventure novel should find something to like. This book definitely has its flaws; however, it is still undoubtedly Michael Crichton and that alone makes this a work of genius.
Content: PG-13 for thematic elements, language, and some graphic violence