Next by Michael Crichton Harper, HK$115 Michael Crichton has an axe to grind about biotechnology, and it shows. But in case readers don't get it after reading Next, he includes an essay to explain why gene patents are 'unnecessary, unwise and harmful', why it's absurd that people lose rights to their tissue once they've parted with it and why it's insidious that many science professors have corporate ties. These issues and more surface in the novel, which ties the narrative in long, short and knotted threads and leaves little room for character development. The plot centres on the sale of tissue from a former cancer patient without his permission (action a court rules is justified even though the man won't get a cent from the results of the university research using his cells). There's also a drug addict who inhales a retrovirus being tested on rats to hasten their maturity, a transgenic ape in Sumatra that speaks Dutch, English and French, and a sentient parrot in France that helps a child with homework. Oh, and there's something at the start about stolen embryos and a Russian prostitute. Crichton, author of The Andromeda Strain, should have stopped when he was ahead. Next shows why more can be less.