The Great Train Robbery - Michael Crichton (1975)

Crichton's earlier works tend to be overshadowed by the massive success of the Jurassic Park franchise, which is a mixed blessing as producers dip into his back catalog and do things like make Eaters of the Dead into the movie The Thirteenth Warrior, but the blessing comes if it inspires people to take a look back at books like The Terminal Man or The Great Train Robbery.

Having said that, I'm not sure The Great Train Robbery stands as one of his best books. It is certainly a compelling read, and the intricate plotting is fascinating, as is the window into the Victorian era it provides. The book, clearly, tells of the complicated plot to rob a train of a payroll shipment of gold, a plot engineered by the enigmatic Edward Pierce. Therein lies the problem, the enigma of Edward Pierce. The novel unfolds like a piece of finely designed clockwork - and with the same warmth and humanity.

Which is not to say it's a bad book. Far from it! The unfolding story, with the turns and reverses, captures the mind and imagination. It is possible, even, that the enigma of the central character, and of the others as well, is a strength allowing the reader to spin fantasies of his own as to motive and emotion.

The end result, however, is not quite satisfying. It's good, and a fine quick read, and if it fails to hit the mark squarely perhaps it is because Crichton aimed too high.

Overall Grade: B

1 comment:

digitaldoc said...

Your conclusion would also fit with the novel The Andromeda Strain, Crichton's first novel.