Sunday, March 16, 2014

Congo by Michael Crichton

cover of Congo by Michael Crichton
I thought I had read all of Michael Crichton's books, but I realized as I was looking through his list of books that I had missed Congo. Congo was one of the earlier books, published in 1980. A scientific expedition from Earth Resource Technology Services Inc. (ERTS) to the Congo went awry in a horrible way. The entire team was killed. When the video transmission connected for the daily morning update, the home team in Houston find the Congo team dead, with their heads smashed in. Who could have done it? From a brief glimpse in the video, Karen Ross was chosen to take a team to the Congo when she realized that one of the creatures caught on the video image might be a gorilla. But gorillas aren't supposed to violent. Ross enlisted the aid of Peter Elliot, who had been working with Amy, a gorilla that has learned American Sign Language to communicate with her human handlers. Elliot agreed to go to the Congo with Amy to help Ross find out what happened to the first team. In Africa, the ERST team connected with a white African mercenary, Munro, who agreed to take the team into the Congo to the lost city of Zinj.

As is usual with Crichton books, he went into detail about the travails of experimentation in teaching language to gorillas, and he also examined the interactions of tamed gorillas with their wild counterparts. Are gorillas behind the attacks and murders in the Congo? It seemed to point that way until Elliot realized that there was a separate race of gorilla, previously unknown to man, who had been trained in the earlier development of the lost city of Zinj to act as security guards. How does the team protect themselves from the gorillas, and does the team find the valuable blue diamonds that ERTS, along with other competitors, wanted so desperately to find? The story is very fast paced, and I found myself feeling more of a connection with Amy the gorilla. Crichton did an excellent job of making Amy a compassionate character.

I understand that there was a film version of the book, that came after the success of the movie version of Jurassic Park. I have never seen it, and I don't think that a movie could do the book justice. If you haven't read Congo, you should give it a try. It's a good example of Crichton's brand of science fiction thriller.

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