Once upon a time, I thought that I had earned my membership in the Michael Crichton fan club.
But then I learned that he had written at least eight books under the pseudonym of John Lange!
Since then, it has been my goal to finish my Crichton experience. I think you can see some minor early-career faults and author development in these books, but generally I have enjoyed them.
So far, I’d say my favorite has been Easy Go, a heist story with a clever twist at the end. It’s about raiding an ancient Egyptian tomb, so it appeals to me on that level as well.
Can Crichton write heists as well as he writes techno-thrillers? Read on!
All Of The John Lange Books:
If you are unfamiliar with Michael Crichton’s early books, here’s a helpful list (many available on Kindle Unlimited!) of his John Lange titles (in order of publication):
Odds On—a hotel robbery heist
Scratch One—a secret agent/mistaken identity story
Easy Go—read this review!
The Venom Business—deadly animal smuggling and a set-up
Zero Cool—an innocent tourist drawn into a Spanish vendetta
Drug Of Choice—a mysterious miracle drug is circulating the streets
Grave Descend—sharks, sunken ships, and deep-sea diving
Binary—terrorists planning a nerve gas attack
The Immutability of Egypt:
Reading this book (set primarily in Egypt) after living in Egypt for nearly eight years was surreal.
Aside from the currency exchange rate, I felt that the depiction of Egypt in the 1960s was nearly identical to my own modern experience. Some examples:
Constantly fighting off a plague of flies
The livestock; both the pack animals in the streets, and the live poultry
The traffic in Tahrir Square and the incessant horns!
The magnificence of the ancient monuments and cryptic hieroglyphics
The shortage of small denomination currency!
The Nile river pilots and felucca boats
Even the famous hotels are still the same!
What I Learned:
This book was written during the fascinating period of construction of the Aswan Dam. This dam was built by Russia, and the reservoir that it created was going to flood a huge, ancient temple called Abu Simbel.
The Egyptian antiquities authorities dismantled and rebuilt the temple on higher ground in order to preserve it for tourism and study. It was a monumental engineering effort and one that had never been attempted before.
I’m also constantly amazed by the preservation technology of Ancient Egypt. Easy Go describes how archeologists have found viable wheat grains inside these tombs that can still be planted! I also learned that the etymology of the term mummy comes from the oils and pitch used in preservation.
The legend of the Pharoah’s curse, as experienced by Howard Carter and the Earl of Carnavon, is also described with great historic detail in this book.
The Mistake That I Caught:
I take no joy in finding mistakes in books by my favorite authors. Crichton always conducted such thorough research for his books, and the way that he described Egypt was immersive and accurate.
But he kept referring to Aswan and Luxor as Lower Egypt, because they were in the south part of the country.
Anyone who has lived in Egypt should be aware that the south of Egypt is called Upper Egypt, because the Nile flows northward, downhill from that region.
The Good: A Formulaic But Well-Executed Heist
Decades before Ocean’s Eleven became a thing, Crichton was writing heist fiction. It might be formulaic (especially to Rick & Morty fans), but it works.
An archaeologist stumbles upon a secret clue and tells a shifty journalist about it. The journalist then assembles a crack team of specialists to secretly dig up the treasure from under the noses of the Egyptian authorities.
A clever scheme, from start to finish. But you’ll have to read the book to find out if it was successful!
The Recommendation: 5 / 5 Stars.
Easy Go was a well-written heist story, with exciting discoveries and tense encounters. I cannot recommend this book enough. The twists at the end completely caught me off guard.
Have you read any of the other John Lange books? Which ones should we read next? Drop us a comment below if you’re a dedicated Crichton fan!