State of Fear focuses on the environment. In many ways it is more than just a thriller. It is a political statement about global warming. Crichton isn't completely sold. If you doubt even after reading the book, he clearly outlines his views in Appendix I.
The plot revolves around the foiling of ecoterrorism attempts by an environmental group known as ELF. A know it all leads a lawyer and a personal assistant on a world tour to stop the creation of a huge iceberg, flooding in a national park, and a massive tsunami striking the Pacific rim. The book was published before the actual tsunami from 2004. They succeed, and all of the group is converted to the anti-global warming group. Well, not quite completely converted, but they are no longer completely sold on the idea.
If you want more details on the plot, read the book. Don’t let the 600 pages put you off. It is a fast read. The more interesting discussion is in our own views of the scientific literature. Scientific literature is full of debate about many issues. Global warming is one of those issues. I have seen and heard about many of the charts that were shown in the book, and they are all accurate depending on the methods used to generate them.
On of the main points of the book is the focus on scientific literature. Competing ideas often end up in scientific literature. In fact, I recently read an editorial about discussion in the scientific literature and censorship here. Over the course of time, the real facts get straightened out, and spurious ideas are left behind, held only by a few proponents that won’t let them die. Crichton does a great job of pointing out inconsistencies in the literature about climate change. Authors of scientific research will publish data along with their interpretation of the data, and good scientist will publish data that contradicts their previously held views.
His point on models is very good. Models often reflect what the model was designed to see. If one model doesn't work for what is desired, another model can be made that shows what you want. This happens far too often.
One of the things that Crichton did not display prominently is the possibility that global warming is actually occurring. If climate change is caused by man and can have an overall negative impact on the planet, it should be controlled. However, the data are inconclusive and will continue to be so until it is too late to do much about it. That is one of the greatest concerns that environmentalist have going for them. By the time we have conclusive data, it will be too late to change the near future. I am in favor of controlling emissions, and I think government regulation is the best way to protect the environment. But large changes that do very little, like the Kyoto protocol, are not called for because they are very expensive and will have minimal impact on the environment. That was my view before reading this book, and it hasn't changed now.
Three lemmings. It was a good book, but not one of his best. It was still very interesting, but I don’t think it will change the minds of many people.