Rising Sun, by Michael Crichton—A Clash of Cultures

Okay, I confess: after reading Timeline, I had to binge-read another Michael Crichton book. I apologize to all of the indie authors who are waiting on their reviews from us—Haines is hard at work trying to finish his fantasy novel, and I’m kinda addicted to Crichton now. We promise we haven’t forgotten about you.

All of us here at TheShortStoryTeller have at least a little foreign culture experience, but none of us have been to Japan. That’s one of the reasons why we found Rising Sun so compelling and fascinating.

There’s very little science fiction in this book. But that didn’t stop Crichton from conducting a ton of research on Japanese culture, and the history of Japanese-American industrial competition.

Crichton wrote a book entirely about Japanese business management? It’s definitely more thrilling than it sounds. Read on to find out why!

Compared To The Movie:

Rising Sun was adapted for the silver screen by 20th Century Fox in 1993. One of the notable changes that they made was changing the main character, Lieutenant Smith, from a caucasian detective with media contacts into a black detective with low-income neighborhood contacts.

In my opinion, this was neither an improvement nor a detractor from the original story. Wesley Snipes was a rising star in those years and he brought a powerful attitude to the character without losing the cultural impressionability that he needed.

The scene where Lt. Smith reverses a teachable situation on his partner and mentor, Capt. Connor, is perfectly done and adds some great levity to the movie.

The Surprising Relevance of 30-Year-Old Thriller:

A major tangential focus of this plot is about police brutality and systemic racism. Sound familiar?

However, despite this book taking place in Los Angeles, the racism isn’t directed against blacks, but instead against Asians—specifically, the Japanese.

The characters in the book vary from those with prejudices to those who admire and idolize the Japanese culture. The primary protagonist is balanced and naive, a student trying to learn how to interact with the Japanese. The secondary protagonist is balanced and experienced, with extensive knowledge of their culture.

The Criticism: Bad Forensics

I’ll admit, I didn’t notice until I watched the movie that the forensic examiners reached hasty, inaccurate conclusions during the investigation. The conclusions weren’t wrong, but they were incomplete.


I hesitate to say more without spoiling the plot. Perhaps the author was only trying to show how the police department is quick to jump to conclusions based upon racial identity.

It’s a good lesson to take away, for sure.

The Good: The Cultural Components

I’ve travelled to a few foreign countries, myself, and maybe that’s why I found Crichton’s depiction of Japanese business culture so fascinating.

It’s easy for Americans to assume that the rest of the world thinks like us and behaves like us, but just about any world traveller will disabuse you of that assumption. People in other countries often think in truly foreign ways, that might take Americans years to understand and assimilate into.


Of course, it’s just as hard for those foreigners to assimilate into American culture. Especially if their way of life objectively seems more successful on the world stage.

Crichton brings mystique and exotic details to life and delivers them straight into the reader’s imagination. Then, he takes advantage of that cultural confusion to ambush the reader with tense, thrilling stakes.

The Recommendation: 5 / 5 Stars.

Of course. This is Michael freakin’ Crichton we’re reviewing, so the book gets five stars. If I could give it six, I would.

The resolution of the plot is incredible and startling, even if you know exactly how it will play out. As a reader, you will approach those final pages with a sense of disbelief and wonder, doubting the ending until you witness it with your own eyes.

This book is especially revelatory these days, and allows us to peer backwards into how we looked at racism in the 90s. The world stage has changed a lot since then, and the players have rotated, but these issues like racism continue to be discussed.

I recommend checking out Rising Sun, especially if you are interested in Asian, or Japanese culture—or even any foreign culture at all. It provides a balanced perspective on looking into foreign lifestyles, and judging specific elements, without creating a value judgement of them as a complete package.

As always, we welcome your comments below! Let us know what you thought of this book (or even the movie) and which Crichton books are your favorite. And subscribe for future book reviews and updates on the next Sparrow book, which will be an inter-cultural discussion on racism as well!

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