Rising Sun by Michael Crichton Is Controversial for Good Reason
From the very first page, Rising Sun sets a relatively fast pace that continues throughout the book. The narrative rapidly spins through a winding maze of plot twists about industrial conflict over American technology. It starts with a huge party where a young woman is found murdered. The people involved in the investigation are told to keep things under wraps as a retired specialist is called in and the culprits are found to be Japanese. The story manages to hold the reader’s attention every step of the way, even when Crichton goes off on a tangent about socio-political reflections.
Fantastic Storyteller and Fear Monger
Michael Crichton likes to tap into fears. In Westworld, written back in the 1970s, he explored moral taboos in a theme park populated by androids. In Andromeda Strain, he terrified people with apocalyptic phobias and in Prey, he made pro-technology netizens keen on nanotechnology think twice about whether such technology should really be explored. Of course, he is also the author of Jurassic Park.
Although not everyone may be genuinely concerned about dinosaurs hatching by the dozen, economic domination by an Asian country over the Western World is a genuine concern shared by people today and clearly put forth in this book. While the world has changed since Rising Sun was written and China now poses more of a threat than Japan, Asia remains a mystery to many in the West and still a certain level of fear in them.
Does Rising Sun Bash Japan?
Japanese business culture and hierarchical tendencies are fascinating, to say the least, but the way they are portrayed in the book can be somewhat confusing. In some instances, the Japanese executives are almost demonized, which may or may not be entirely accurate but makes it clear why the book is considered controversial by some. But hey, it is a work of fiction, which gives Crichton the right to interpret real life as he sees fit, doesn’t it? This is, after all, the man who brought prehistoric creatures back to life so well that Hollywood made five movies out of it (with another one on the way in 2021.) It was interesting to read this particular version of Japanese business dynamics, and the way the Senpai/ Kōhai relationship was captured between the two protagonists was quite fascinating.
If you like your murder/mystery novels to have a healthy dose of international social dynamics and some thought-provoking cultural incongruences, this is a great novel to read. If you simply need to kick back and relax with a book that is entertaining and reasonably thrilling, this book works too. As always, Michael Crichton delivered an easily readable book that has just the right amount of technical detail to cater to those who want to absorb all the research that clearly goes into his work. And for those who don’t want to do any such thing, they can gloss over the long-winded political observations that may distract them from the action.