Written by: Michael Crichton (as John Lange)
Published by: Hard Case Crime
Published date: October 29, 2013 (reprinted edition)
Page count: 240 pages
Price: $19.99 (Hardcover), $6.77 (Paperback), $6.15 (Kindle)
Synopsis: Political radical John Wright is plotting an act of mass destruction – and federal agent John Graves has him under surveillance, trying to figure out what the plot is. When a government computer is hacked and a high-security shipment of nerve gas gets hijacked, Graves puts the pieces together – but can he stop Wright from unleashing his weapon before it kills a million people… including the President of the United States?
Originally published in 1972 and written by Michael Crichton under the pen name of John Lange, Binary is an interesting and sophisticated crime novel that manages to stand the test of time, even if the techniques and technology that are presented in the novel’s time line don’t stand up as equally to today’s world. Still, I imagine for its time, Binary presented a very plausible scenario for a terrorist attack on the country that must have seemed very real to the reader.
In a nutshell, a mad political dissident named John Wright has stolen a shipment of VX poison gas (remember the movie The Rock with Nicolas Cage?) and is playing a cat and mouse game with federal agent John Graves – daring Graves to stop him from unleashing the terrible weapon. As Graves manages to deduce that Wright is going to unleash the gas in San Diego during the Republican National Convention, and during the President’s visit to the Convention, no less, Graves scrambles his team to San Diego to stop Wright, who intends to kill as many people in the area as possible… maybe totaling in the millions.
The set up and plot move along rather fluidly and at a fast-enough pace that the story feels tense and unnerving at times. There is a sense that Graves may not be able to stop Wright from putting his plan into effect, as Wright seems to be able to match Graves move for move and manages to stay ahead of him for most of the story. Crichton has a way of delivering his intent to the reader through his style of writing, and it shows here that this has been his motif even early in his writing career. Everything you expect from a Crichton story is present – the clear sense of danger, the feeling that not everything is going to work out, and the fast-paced story that keeps you addicted to the story from start to finish.
I think this story has the makings of a great film, in large part due to the characters and story. There was a made for television movie produced by ABC in 1972 titled Pursuit that was directed by Michael Crichton himself and starred Ben Gazzara, E.G. Marshall, and Martin Sheen that was met with critical acclaim, but I think that a modern remake of the film would be just as successful on the big screen. But I am getting a bit off topic here: I just wanted to communicate my feelings on just how relevant and applicable the story is to today’s world and political climate.
Overall, Binary is a very interesting and intriguing story that delivers on the thrills and action. Crichton’s penchants for pacing and story set up are clearly evident in this story and make for an exciting read. If you get the chance I highly suggest picking up this novel and giving it a read through yourself – especially if you are a crime story buff like myself.