Crichton seems to sense that he's become too much of a pedant. As State of Fear races to a close, he wedges in some swashbuckling pratfalls. The heroes are kidnapped by cannibals in the Solomon Islands, who tie them to wooden posts and poke at them with bats and knives. A woman named Sarah, fleeing from a man-made lightning storm—don't ask—crawls smack-dab into the middle of a nest of … scorpions. Why scorpions? I have no clue, but I loved it. It's like something a grade-schooler would have thought up—it has childlike, "top this" passion. Amid the pages of climate charts, it may be the only proof the novelist hasn't become a dinosaur.
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