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Travels

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Overview

Often I feel I go to some distant region of the world to be reminded of who I really am.

When Michael Crichton — a Harvard-trained physician, bestselling novelist, and successful movie director — began to feel isolated in his own life, he decided to widen his horizons. He tracked wild animals in the jungles of Rwanda. He climbed Kilimanjaro and Mayan pyramids. He trekked across a landslide in Pakistan. He swam amid sharks in Tahiti.

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Overview

Often I feel I go to some distant region of the world to be reminded of who I really am.

When Michael Crichton — a Harvard-trained physician, bestselling novelist, and successful movie director — began to feel isolated in his own life, he decided to widen his horizons. He tracked wild animals in the jungles of Rwanda. He climbed Kilimanjaro and Mayan pyramids. He trekked across a landslide in Pakistan. He swam amid sharks in Tahiti.

Fueled by a powerful curiosity and the need to see, feel, and hear firsthand and close-up, Michael Crichton has experienced adventures as compelling as those he created in his books and films. These adventures — both physical and spiritual — are recorded here in Travels, Crichton's most astonishing and personal work.

For Michael Crichton, being a Harvard-trained physician, the author of two bestsellers, and a movie director is not enough. It is, he resolves, time to travel. From swimming with sharks in Tahiti to psychic experiences in the American desert, Crichton records his exhilarating quest through the familiar and exotic frontiers of the outer world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A Harvard medical-school graduate, inveterate traveler and author of, among other books, The Great Train Robbery the film version of which he directed, Crichton seeks in immediate experience of new places and cultures to ``redefine'' himself and uncover the nature of reality. His curiosity and self-deprecating humor animate recitals of adventures tracking animals in Malay jungles, climbing Kilimanjaro and Mayan pyramids in the Yucatan, trekking across a landslide in Pakistan, scuba diving in the Caribbean and New Guinea and amid sharks in Tahiti. This memoir includes essays on his medical training and forays into the psychic, including channeling and exorcism, that have led him to conclude that scientists and mystics share the same basic search for universal truth by different paths. 75,000 first printing; BOMC alternate; Franklin Library First Edition selection. April
Library Journal
Crichton, an accomplished novelist and filmmaker, here gives us autobiography. The first quarter of the book chronicles his gradual disillusionment with medical school and his decision not to practice medicine. His accounts of visits to remote places in Asia and Africa present a perspective on his personal life. Shuffled among these chapters are accounts of psychic experiences that include channeling, exorcism, and spoon-bending and end with a defense of ``paranormal experience.'' Crichton has had an interesting life, which he writes about in a crisp and disarmingly frank manner. His inner ``travels'' offer something for almost everyone.Harold M. Otness, Southern Oregon State Coll. Lib., Ashland
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060509057
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/5/2002
  • Edition description: 1st Perennial Edition
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Crichton has sold over 200 million books, which have been translated into thirty-eight languages; thirteen of his books have been made into films. Also known as a filmmaker and the creator of ER, he remains the only writer to have had the number one book, movie, and TV show simultaneously. At the time of his death in 2008, Crichton was well into the writing of Micro; Richard Preston was selected to complete the novel.

Richard Preston is the internationally bestselling author of eight books, including The Hot Zone and The Wild Trees. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker. He lives with his wife and three children near Princeton, New Jersey.

Biography

Michael Crichton's oeuvre is so vivid and varied that it hard to believe everything sprang from the mind of a single writer. There's the dino-movie franchise and merchandising behemoth Jurassic Park; the long-running, top-rated TV series ER, which Crichton created; and sci-fi tales so cinematic a few were filmed more than once. He's even had a dinosaur named after him.

Ironically, for someone who is credited with selling over 150 million books, Crichton initially avoided writing because he didn't think he would make a living at it. So he turned to medical school instead, graduating with an M.D. from Harvard in 1969. The budding doctor had already written one award-winning novel pseudonymically (1968's A Case of Need) to help pay the bills through school; but when The Andromeda Strain came out in the same year of his med school graduation, Crichton's new career path became obvious.

The Andromeda Strain brilliantly and convincingly sets out an American scientific crisis in the form of a deadly epidemic. Its tone -- both critical of and sympathetic toward the scientific community -- set a precedent for Crichton works to come. A 1970 nonfiction work, Five Patients offers the same tone in a very different form, that being an inside look at a hospital.

Crichton's works were inspired by a remarkably curious mind. His plots often explored scientific issues -- but not always. Some of his most compelling thrillers were set against the backdrop of global trade relations (Rising Sun), corporate treachery (Disclosure) and good old-fashioned Victorian-era theft (The Great Train Robbery). The author never shied away from challenging topics, but it's obvious from his phenomenal sales that he never waxed pedantic. Writing about Prey, Crichton's cautionary tale of nanotech gone awry, The New York Times Book Review put it this way: "You're entertained on one level and you learn something on another."

On the page, Crichton's storytelling was eerily nonfictional in style. His journalistic, almost professorial, and usually third-person narration lent an air of credibility to his often disturbing tales -- in The Andromeda Strain, he went so far as to provide a fake bibliography. Along the way, he revelled in flouting basic, often subconscious assumptions: Dinosaurs are long-gone; women are workplace victims, not predators; computers are, by and large, predictable machines.

The dazzling diversity of Crichton's interests and talents became ever more evident as the years progressed. In addition to penning bestselling novels, he wrote screenplays and a travel memoir, directed several movies, created Academy Award-winning movie production software, and testified before Congress about the science of global warming -- this last as a result of his controversial 2004 eco-thriller State of Fear, a novel that reflected Crichton's own skepticism about the true nature of climate change. His views on the subject were severely criticized by leading environmentalists.

On November 4, 2008, Michael Crichton died, following a long battle against cancer. Beloved by millions of readers, his techno-thrillers and science-inflected cautionary tales remain perennial bestsellers and have spawned a literary genre all its own.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our 2005 interview with Crichton:

"I'm very interested in 20th-century American art."

"I have always been interested in movies and television as well as books. I see all these as media for storytelling, and I don't discriminate among them. At some periods of my life I preferred to work on movies, and at others I preferred books."

"In the early 1990s, interviewers began calling me ‘the father of the techno-thriller.' Nobody ever had before. Finally I began asking the interviewers, ‘Why do you call me that?' They said, ‘Because Tom Clancy says you are the father of the techno-thriller.' So I called Tom up and said, ‘Listen, thank you, but I'm not the father of the techno-thriller.' He said, ‘Yes you are.' I said, ‘No, I'm not, before me there were thrillers like Failsafe and Seven Days in May and The Manchurian Candidate that were techno-thrillers.' He said, ‘No, those are all political. You're the father of the techno-thriller.' And there it ended."

"My favorite recreation is to hike in the wilderness. I am fond of Hawaii."

"I used to scuba dive a lot, but haven't lately. For a time I liked to photograph sharks but like anything else, the thrill wears off. Earlier in my life I took serious risks, but I stopped when I became a parent."

"I taught myself to cook by following Indian and Szechuan recipes. They each have about 20 ingredients. I used to grind my own spices, I was really into it. Now I don't have much time to cook anymore. When I do, I cook Italian food."

"I read almost exclusively nonfiction. Most times I am researching some topic, which may or may not lead to a book. So my reading is pretty focused, although the focus can shift quickly."

"I have always been interested in whatever is missing or excluded from conventional thought. As a result I am drawn to writers who are out of fashion, bypassed, irritating, difficult, or excessive. I also like the disreputable works of famous writers. Thus I end up reading and liking Paul Feyerabend (Against Method), G. K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy, What's Wrong with the World), John Stuart Mill, Hemingway (Garden of Eden), Nietzsche, Machiavelli, Alain Finkielkraut (Defeat of the Mind), Anton Ehrenzweig (Hidden Order of Art), Arthur Koestler (Midwife Toad, Beyond Reductionism), Ian McHarg (Design with Nature), Marguerite Duras, Jung, late James M. Cain (Serenade), Paul Campos.

"Because I get up so early to work, I tend to go to bed early, around 10 or 11. So I don't go out much. I suppose I am borderline reclusive. I don't care."

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    1. Also Known As:
      John Michael Crichton (full name), Jeffery Hudson, John Lange
    2. Hometown:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 23, 1942
    2. Place of Birth:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Date of Death:
      November 4, 2008
    2. Place of Death:
      Los Angeles, California

First Chapter

Chapter One

Cadaver

It is not easy to cut through a human head with a hacksaw.

The blade kept snagging the skin, and slipping off the smooth bone of the forehead. If I made a mistake, I slid to one side or the other, and I would not saw precisely down the center of the nose, the mouth, the chin, the throat. It required tremendous concentration. I had to pay close attention, and at the same time I could not really acknowledge what I was doing, because it was so horrible.

Four students had shared this cadaver for months, but it fell to me to cut open the old woman's head. I made the others leave the room while I worked on it. They couldn't watch without making jokes, which interfered with my concentration.

The bones of the nose were particularly delicate, I had to proceed carefully, to cut without shattering these tissue-thin bones. Several times I stopped, cleaned the bits of bone from the teeth of the blade with my fingertips, and then continued. As I sawed back and forth, concentrating on doing a good job, I was reminded that I had never imagined my life would turn out this way.


I had never particularly intended to become a doctor. I had grown up in a suburb of New York City, where my father was a journalist. No one in my family was a doctor, and my own early experiences with medicine were not encouraging: I fainted whenever I was given injections, or had blood drawn.

I had gone to college planning to become a writer, but early on a scientific tendency appeared. In the English department at Harvard, my writing style was severely criticized and I was receiving grades of C or C+ on my papers. At eighteen, I was vainabout my writing and felt it was Harvard, and not I, that was in error, so I decided to make an experiment. The next assignment was a paper on Gulliver's Travels, and I remembered an essay by George Orwell that might fit. With some hesitation, I retyped Orwell's essay and submitted it as my own. I hesitated because if I were caught for plagiarism I would be expelled; but I was pretty sure that my instructor was not only wrong about writing styles, but poorly read as well. In any case, George Orwell got a B- at Harvard, which convinced me that the English department was too difficult for me.

I decided to study anthropology instead. But I doubted my desire to continue as a graduate student in anthropology, so I began taking premed courses, just in case.

In general, I found Harvard an exciting place, where people were genuinely focused on study and learning, and with no special emphasis on grades. But to take a premed course was to step into a different world -- nasty and competitive. The most critical course was organic chemistry, Chem 20, and it was widely known as a "screw your buddy" course. In lectures, if you didn't hear what the instructor had said and asked the person next to you, he'd give you the wrong information; thus you were better off leaning over to look at his notes, but in that case hewas likely to cover his notes so you couldn't see. In the labs, if you asked the person at the next bench a question, he'd tell you the wrong answer in the hope that you would make a mistake or, even better, start a fire. We were marked down for starting fires. In my year, I had the dubious distinction of starting more lab fires than anyone else, including a spectacular ether fire that set the ceiling aflame and left large scorch marks, a stigmata of ineptitude hanging over my head for the rest of the year. I was uncomfortable with the hostile and paranoid attitude this course demanded for success. I thought that a humane profession like medicine ought to encourage other values in its candidates. But nobody was asking my opinion. I got through it as best I could. I imagine medicine to be a caring profession, and a scientific one as well. It was so fast-moving that its practitioners could not afford to be dogmatic; they would be flexible and open-minded. It was certainly interesting work, and there was no doubt that you were doing something worthwhile with your life, helping sick people.

So I applied to medical schools, took the Medical College Aptitude Tests, had my interviews, and was accepted. Then I got a fellowship for study in Europe, which postponed my start for a year.

But the following year I went to Boston, rented an apartment in Roxbury near the Harvard Medical School, bought my furniture, and registered for my classes. And it was at the registration that I first was confronted by the prospect of dissecting a human cadaver.


As first-year students, we had scrutinized the schedule and had seen that we would be given cadavers on the first day. We could talk of nothing else. We questioned the second-year students, old hands who regarded us with amused tolerance. They gave us advice. Try and get a man, not a woman. Try and get a black person, not a white. A thin person, not a fat one. And try to get one that hadn't been dead too many years.

Dutifully, we made notes and waited for the fateful Monday morning. We imagined the scene, remembered how Broderick Crawford had played it in Not as a Stranger, growling at the terrified students, "There's nothing funny about death," before he whipped the cover off the corpse.

In the amphitheater that morning, Don Fawcett, professor of anatomy, gave the first lecture. There was no corpse in the room. Dr. Fawcett was tall and composed, not at all like Broderick Crawford, and he spent most of the time on academic details ...

Travels. Copyright © by Michael Crichton. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 32 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 32 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2005

    Worth reading for Crichton fans

    This book fascinated me. I've read most of Crichton's fiction, and I've been particularly interested in the way his characterizations of men and women have changed over time. Now I understand the background for those changes in his work, after reading this chronicle of decades of this author's personal development. 'New Age' experiences do nothing for me, but I nevertheless found it interesting to read about Crichton's perception of such experiences - and, especially, about his need to have them. The medical school chapters and the straight travel chapters engaged me best, though, because I could relate to them in a way I couldn't hope to relate to his accounts of channeling, exorcism, and so on. Worth reading for Crichton fans, although I'm not sure how much interest this book might hold for someone unfamiliar with his fiction.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2012

    Definitely a different trip

    This is a fascinating collection of vignettes, and give entertaining and surprising insights into what turned Michael Crichton into the Michael Crichton we thought we knew. Very fast read, and with mostly short and self-contained essays is perfect to keep on hand for whenever you find yourself with a few free minutes.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Fun Weekend Read

    Enjoyed this book quite a bit. Makes me wish I had more opportunities to hit the road more often. Planning a month-long trip in the Fall and this book came recommended from a friend. I gladly pass along that recommendation.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    Not a Travelogue

    I enjoyed the first part of the book - his experiences in med school and his initial travels - not only for the places he visited, but for the insights into himself and people he met along the way. The end of the book moved far from being a travel book - it became a how-to for meditation and "new age" experiences. I found the change in focus unexpected and disappointing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 8, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Crichton's Autobiography is His Best Book Ever

    In this book, Crichton recounts his experiences and examines the insights he gained into life as a result. He tells about attending Harvard Medical School, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, and directing Sean Connery in a movie, among many other things. Even people who don't care for his fiction can get something from this book. Michael Crichton lead a fascinating life that was over much too soon.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 15, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Best Crichton book yet least known

    Maybe because I love to travel, mabye because I love scuba diving, maybe because I love trying wacky new things - who knows - I do know that I love this book. Each chapter is an amusing tale of some kind of an experience in Crichton's life, and I was totally engaged by it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2013

    Storm

    Name: Stormandarro. Nickname: Storm. Age: 19 moons old. Crush: Freeze. Mate: Freeze. Postion: Beta. Physical decription: tall and lean tom. Dusky grey with wisps of silver. His eyes are dark brown. Personality: solem, laid back friendly, fierce, compassionate, and caring. Siblings: Birchwood and Sharp. Parents: Saber and Morning. History: ask. Anything else: ask.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2013

    Sky

    Pads in.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2013

    Titanium

    K, he trots off to hunt

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2013

    Kax's bio

    Name:kaxiv but call me kax age:it dont matter gender:male looks:a black wolf with grey splotches tht end at his belly and his bally is all grey eyes are dark purple mate:not for awhile crush:mabye pups:not for awhile history/kin:unknown personality:mostly quiet,shy,enjoys some company mostly by himself anything else ask~kaxiv

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2007

    A Great Book

    A must read for any Crighton fan.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2004

    Wonderful experience!

    I loved this book! Since reading this, my boyfriend and I are already planning trips around the world just based on his descriptions and testimony. I am buying this book for a few relatives for Christmas. I thought it was wonderful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2004

    Entirely too Perfect

    I have been reading Chrichton for quite some time now, but none of his books were considered mandatory reading at UCLA, until now. Travels was and still is mandatory reading under most of the psychology and metaphysics classes at UCLA, perhaps there is a lot more to the book and the Author than Jack (Terrible Review Above) so believes. I'd highly recomend this book to anyone who wants to discover either themselves, or a higher level of intellect. During my studies at UCLA, I was somewhat motivated by this book. I now work for the Warm Springs Psychology Ward, and I've witnessed some extrodinary events relating to 'parapsychology', much like the ones that Chrichton experiences in his book 'Travels'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2004

    Stop reading reviews and think for yourself

    This is the best book I've ever read. I feel lucky to have come across it. After reading books upon books yet never feeling satisfied once it was over, I have found a book I enjoyed to the very last word, and beyond that. Michael Crichton, if nothing else, highlights the importance of knowledge gained through personal experience. You may think you know yourself, but there's always more to learn. More than you ever dreamed of.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2004

    Crichton reveals that he is a fool

    I was supremely dismayed by this book where crichton, whom I assumed to be an intelligent and logical person due to his scientifically based stories turns out to be a moron who is totally taken by sham gurus and psuedoscience and tricketsters. Crichton claims to talk to cactuses, and see auras and thinks people can bend spoons with their minds. These are all things that con artists claim to do, but that all have failed to demonstrate when carefully observed. None for example have managed to claim the $1million prize that the randi foundation offers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2003

    Good to a point

    Being an exchange student in Japan, I can relate to a lot of the experiences in this book. Crichton always talks about discovering himself on all the trips he takes, but in the end it gets a little to odd for me. The actual travels part, and the med school part are cool, but near the end he gets into some crazy stuff, that in my opinion wasn`t totally worth reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2003

    mystical and extraordinary

    I was a little skeptical about this book before I read it, but it turned out to be very entertaining, thought provoking, and satisfying. Every Crichton fan should probably read it just to get the inside scoop on the man himself, perhaps to see what has driven him to write so many fascinating books, and also to see what fuels some of his philosophy that comes through in his writing. 'Travels' certainly isn't all about philosophy, as much of it consists of some very entertaining anecdotes, though there's a philosophical vein that runs through it. It's not preachy, though Crichton seems to be trying to stimulate thinking in the reader. I found myself wishing at times that there wasn't a metaphysical bent to this book, though in the end I suppose it's for the better. Overall, a very engaging read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2003

    Was Pretty Good Til the Spoonbending and Such

    I was thoroughly enjoying the read, until the last chapters got bogged down by spoonbenders and things that were too far 'out there' for me, so I just lightly glanced through the last four or five chapters and seeing that the book only dealt with that stuff, tossed it into the trash can. A suitable expression of my opinion, I thought. I do enjoy his other books; however.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2002

    An Interesting Story

    Travels was an interesting autobiography. Crichton is an excellent writer and the stories within the book are entertaining and thought provoking. Not as good as some of his fiction novels, but a very good story never the less.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2002

    Great Insight

    This shows some great insight into the interworkings of Michael's mind. It starts with his days as a medical student to his life experiences around the world. It is interesting to see how these experiences reflect on his works (ER, jurassic park, etc.) I highly recommend it.

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