Book Review: The Terminal Man

Ever since a brutal car accident, Harry Benson has been prone to sudden, violent seizures that render him a danger to himself and everyone near him. But there may be a cure. Dr. Roger McPherson – esteemed head of the Neuropsychiatric Research Unit at University Hospital in LA – is certain he can help Benson through Stage Three: a unique experimental surgery in which electrodes are placed on the patient’s brain, targeting its pleasure centers with soothing electrical pulses.

The operation is successful, and for a while, Benson seems to improve. But when he figures out how to get the pulses with increasing frequency, events take a sharp turn and he escapes into the city – a psychopath with a deadly agenda.

Let me begin by saying that I typically enjoy this kind of story. The premise of this techno-thriller by Michael Crichton really does fascinate me. It had such promise, such potential for resulting in an absolute gem of science fiction. It is unfortunate, then, that this potential remains unrealized, resulting in a lackluster tale that amazes the reader with its ability to underwhelm.

For starters, Crichton’s characters are a wreck. They’re stale, cardboard cutouts that show little depth and no development throughout the course of the story. Even the maniacal Benson failed to arouse any sort of interest in me. We also have the stereotypical independent female – you know, the one who ends up making all her male peers look like a bunch of idiots.

For another thing, the plotting really lacks the intensity requisite to this type of fiction. No genuine suspense is generated by the goings-on; and far from being persuaded of the precariousness of the situation, I felt like yawning.

Which brings me to the ending, the supposed “climax” of the whole shebang. I can sum it up in one word: pathetic. Upon finishing the book, I said to myself, That’s it? Really? After all I trudged through, that’s it?

Can this story get any worse? Yes. It can.

There’s plenty of profanity scattered throughout Crichton’s story, but worse than that is the amount of sexual content, consisting of tasteless humor, crude dialogue, and suggestive behavior (one entire chapter takes place in a strip club). And this risque trash is necessary to a good story in what way?

This review is merely my long-winded way of advising you to avoid this book like the plague. You’re not missing anything. Except garbage.

15 thoughts on “Book Review: The Terminal Man”

  1. Great review Scribe! I will not be reading that book anytime soon…or ever. But too bad a lot of critics LIKE garbage.

  2. Thanks for the review. I definitely won’t take the time to read the book. You do
    a great job posting your reviews. I’m proud of you

  3. Oh Dear!

    I have had this book sat in my TBR pile for ages, just never got around to reading it.

    I don’t know whether not to read it, because if your experience is anything to go by, I shall be wasting my time. Or whether to read it, just to see if it is as bad as you claim!!!

    Thanks for the honest personal review, it’s refreshing to read someone who is happy to speak their mind.

    1. Thank you for the encouraging words, Yvonne. :)

      Let me just say that I’m a hardcore sci-fi fan, so it’s very rare that I read something like The Terminal Man and come away completely disappointed – I think I even surprised myself when I came to the conclusion that Crichton’s book was a waste of time.

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  4. One summer, home from college, I read seven Crichton books and found that while he comes up with cool things to write about, he often seems to run out of steam at the end. I remember enjoying this one, but the ending was certainly a disappointment. But I could say that about a number of his.

    (When I say I enjoyed it, keep in mind that I was just discovering that I loved to read, so it’s possible my tastes have matured somewhat since then.)

    1. “… while he comes up with cool things to write about, he often seems to run out of steam at the end.” Funny. As I was talking to a friend of mine about it, he said the same thing. Must be a common experience with Crichton. :)

    1. Thanks for commenting, Cindy!

      Oh, and just to set the record straight, I don’t have a problem with Christian fiction… just as long as it’s good Christian fiction. :)

  5. Normally I enjoy a Crichton book, but this doesn’t sound too promising. I loved “Congo” which was the first one I read, and then I read “Sphere” which was pretty cool, though there were a couple of parts I didn’t care for. One I do think is much like the one you reviewed would be “Rising Sun”: good whodunit plotline, but the language and sexuality made it very hard to read. I don’t know when his writing got so terrible, and he seemed to be such a good author, guess it all just fell apart.

  6. This is not one of Crichton’s best works, by far, but I did still enjoy it more than a couple of his other ones (like Congo and Micro). I think what makes The Terminal Man different from his other works, though, is that this book is one of the few times he goes beyond his typical thrillers and into more of a horror genre. This book has a classic B-movie horror feel to it. It’s the 70s, there’s a lot of outdated technology, the characters are generally underwritten, and a guy is going on a violent killing spree — how could it not feel like a low-budget horror movie? Even the way the story abruptly ends right after the climax is characteristic of some films from that time. To take it a step further, the character of Harry Benson is essentially an updated version of Jekyll and Hyde in a more modern world.

    Overall, The Terminal Man has a throwback feel to it for me. Anytime I think about this novel, I want to go binge-watch some John Carpenter films. Obviously, that throwback feel wasn’t intentional, but I do suspect Crichton was trying emulate some of the horror themes of the time when he wrote it — and the result is just enough of a retro vibe for some modern readers to get a kick out of it.

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