Setting Sam

RISING SUN by Michael Crichton

Knopf; 355 pages; $22

In Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton's technothriller about cloned dinosaurs, the author asked a fairly serious question: Is it wise to let commercial technicians meddle with genetic engineering? It did not require a molecular biologist to work out his answer: Only if you think you can run faster than whatever Bacillus or tyranosaur they manage to hatch.

Crichton's mood has darkened, and in his new novel, he does not bother with questions. It is the reader who asks those. In structure, the story is a whodunit -- a policeman is obstructed by powerful...

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