As a diversion for Christmas and between semesters, I elected to read a few “out there” books, books that I find terribly interesting, but just normally do not have the time to read. I have read several Crichton books in my time, two of which were great (Jurassic Park and The Lost World), and two of which were either excessively annoying (Sphere) or just plain dumb (Timeline). Several Crichton fans, however, had told me that Congo was his best book, so I figured I would give him another chance to break the good-book/bad-book tie. And this time the man succeeded in swaying me back to enjoying his writing. Evolutionary thinking and Godlessness aside, Congo is a pretty darn good story.
Using the timeless themes of adventure, scientific discovery, and old fashioned greed, Crichton takes his readers on a trek through the mountains and jungles of Africa to the lost city of Zinj: hidden, forgotten, haunted. With the help of a weathered guide, African porteres, and an inteligent gorilla named Amy, the Congo expedition fights its way through cannible country, war zones, and geological dangers in order to seek out the blue diamonds of Zinj for what was in the early ’80s the future of computer technology. In classic Crichton style, Congo is filled with well-researched and documented facts of science and technology, lending an air of authenticity to this otherwise extraordinary adventure tale. And when the lead character, Elliot, discovers what just might be an advanced species of ape, well, the story just about seems plausible.
Like The DaVinci Code, Congo is certainly one story that needs to be read in its fictional context, despite that factual evidence purported to prove something that is otherwise biblically illogical (i.e. the “facts” of The DiVinci Code do not prove that Jesus was just a man or that He had relations with Mary Magdalene, and the “facts” of Congo do not prove that apes could some day be as intelligent as man). But as a fictional tale, Congo is entertaining and, I dare say, even better than Crichton’s other books. Give it a shot if you’re looking for a vacation read sometime, but please do mind the occasional foul language and blasphemies and, like my dad taught me to do, read the story with a Sharpie in hand.