In 2005, Michael Crichton returned to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, where he had done postdoctoral work, to attend a conference on Genetics and Law sponsored by the Jefferson Institute. He was surprised and outraged by what he learned about the current laws regarding a range of issues in genetics. He immediately put aside what he had been working on, and began research for the book that became Next. He modeled the structure after the genome itself incorporating fragments of popular culture, wrote a series of stories that sometimes interconnected, and sometimes didn’t. The result was a very atypical novel.
The Salk Institute
Reviewer response was positive. Publisher’s Weekly called it
“an ambitious effort to show what’s wrong with the U.S.’s current handling of gene patents and with the laws governing human tissues…few can match Crichton in crafting page-turners with intellectual substance.”
NPR liked the
“fascinating dramatic situations that hold a reader’s attention down to the last page.”
The Wall Street Journal referred to
“his uncanny prescience in choosing subjects where fact will soon catch up with his fiction…He makes five eminently sensible policy suggestions…they might chafe some biotech companies, but they are essentially pro-market and pro-research.”
Next is a #1 Bestseller
Publisher’s Weekly, December 11, 2006
In 2007, a conference was held on “Legal and Ethical Issues in Michael Crichton’s Next“ at the Chicago-Kent College of Law. The participants examined the legal status of and disputes over the human body, and discussed potential policy, legislative or other legal solutions. The discussion touched upon the commercialization of academic science, conflicts in biomedical research, and gene patents.
In early 2007, Xavier Becerra (D-Calif) and Dave Weldon (R-Fla) introduced legislation to ban gene patents—HR. 977, the Genomic Research and Accessibility Act.
As in several previous books, Michael Crichton put his own personal conclusions at the end of the book, in a separate section.You can read that section here: Author’s Note from NEXT
Who Owns Your Body website
In 2006 Michael Crichton called for the end of gene patents in this Author’s Note which appeared in Next. In June 2013 the United States Supreme Court ruled that human genes may not be patented.
Viral Marketing Campaign for Next
Many reviewers and some journalists have been unclear about what parts of Next are fact, and what is fiction. The usual response has been to assume that the most outrageous elements in the narrative are fiction, yet many are not. Here is a list of what is real:
Taking cells by eminent domain. Although some attorneys have found this idea far-fetched, in fact lawyers for UCLA threatened to do exactly that in the famous case of John Moore (1980.)
Humans and Chimps Interbred Until Recently. Research reported accurately in the novel.
Stem Cell Debate Rages. A straightforward summary of the state of research, and the scandal involving Korean researcher Hwang.
Human chimeras. More than fifty have been discovered in the last decade, initially as a result of a paternity dispute.
Theft of cadaver bones and body parts. Thefts described in the book have been reported around the world.
Blondes becoming extinct. A fabricated story reported by the BBC, debunked by the Washington Post and more thoroughly by the excellent site snopes.com. Eventually the World Health Organization felt compelled to issue a press release. That didn’t prevent the Times of London from repeating the story a couple of years later. (Best debunking headline: “Blondes Extinction Report Is Pigment of Imagination,” from the Times of India.)
Cytokine storms. A well-known cause of death from gene replacement therapy.
Scientists Grow Miniature Ear In Lab. As reported by MIT.
Submarine patents. As described.
Sociability gene. Identification of several such behavioral genes has been claimed, invariably with fanfare. However (as the novel says) nobody has ever proven that a single gene causes a single human behavioral trait.
Transgenic cactus. Created by artist Laura Cinti, as described. A subject of ongoing controversy.
Glowing transgenic rabbit. Created by Eduardo Kac, as described. The French lab that made the rabbit would not turn it over to Kac, however.
Pig wings. Created as described.
Transgenic zeba fish. Created and marketed as described.
Talking transgenic parrot. There is at least one gray parrot with a claimed vocabulary of more than 950 words, but it is not transgenic.
Genes for gayness, violence, sleep, alcoholism. All have been reported, none have been subsequently verified.
Neanderthals were first blondes. Reported by Times of London.
Canavan gene litigation ends. Reported accurately.
Professors and academics are “strikingly immature.” Report of work of Dr. Bruce Charlton. Quotes are accurate.
Genetic Savings & Clone. A real business (now bankrupt) that offered to clone dead pet cats.
Girls sell their eggs for big money after taking fertility drugs. World-wide phenomenon, began several years ago.
Anonymous sperm donor traced by offspring. Happens all the time.
Doctors claim patient deaths from gene therapy needn’t be reported because they are proprietary information. So claimed at more than one university.
Major universities have been caught not giving informed consent to patients. The named universities have indeed been caught.
Giant cockroaches as GM pets. Proposed by an artist, who put photographs on the Internet.
Prime Minister’s Fat Sold. A Swiss artist created, and sold, a bar of soap from what he claimed was Berlusconi’s liposuctioned fat.
Speedboat Racer Bums Around. Peter Bethune built a speedboat powered by fat, obtained in part from his own buttocks.
Artist Cooks, Eats Own Body Fat. Marco Evaristti made meatballs from his own liposuctioned fat, ate some of them, and said he would sell the rest. It’s not known whether he did so.
Cavemen preferred blondes. Published research of anthropologist Peter Frost accurately reported.