Book Review: From Crichton and Patterson, ‘Eruption’ is poised to be seismic publishing event


You know you’ve got some juice in the publishing world when you get top billing on a book nearly 16 years after your death. “Eruption” is the completion of a partial manuscript found by the late Michael Crichton’s wife, Sherri, and finished by James Patterson.

That pedigree is sure to make it a summer bestseller, and fans of both authors will read it with relish. The short chapters — there are 109 of them in 419 pages — propel the plot at a furious pace.

The plot itself revolves around the imminent eruption of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. Dr. John MacGregor (“Call me Mac”) is the scientist in charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), and when he calls a press conference to announce that the largest active volcano on Earth is going to erupt soon, that furiously paced plot, pardon the pun, explodes.

This being a Crichton/Patterson story, there’s much more at stake than the life of Pacific islanders during a natural disaster. Turns out the U.S. military has a secret buried at Mauna Loa and let’s just say that when it comes to the fate of civilization it makes lava look like a hot, runny creamsicle.

The book’s characters are straight out of central casting. In addition to Mac, there’s Jenny Kimura, the lead lab scientist at the HVO, “32… Ph.D in earth and planetary sciences from Yale, well-spoken, very attractive.” And Col. James Briggs, “60s, white-haired, trim, and fit.” Throw in a couple more volcanologists practiced at gallows humor and a smart teen who Mac has taught how to surf, and you have all the elements of a summer blockbuster coming in a couple years to a theater near you.

But is the book any good? That’s a tougher question. It’s formulaic, sure, and the writing won’t win any prizes, but it’s a thrill and the pages practically turn themselves. There are real character casualties, giving the story some emotional weight, but there are also a lot of scenes seemingly written with a movie in mind. So while some may quibble over whether there are more productive ways to spend a few hours, when Jenny turns to Mac and says, “I don’t want to die,” readers everywhere will cheer when Mac replies, “You’re not going to. Not on my watch.”


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