You might have stumbled across the name Michael Crichton before - a name probably lodged in your mind thanks to a pub quiz question about Jurassic Park, or because someone once patronisingly corrected you on how to pronounce it ("It's CRY-ton, you worm").
Crichton (1942-2008) was one of those creatives whose work had untold repercussions on numerous industries: literature, film, video games, the entire genre of science fiction. As you start searching through his extensive output, you'll doubtless have one of those "Oh, he did that" moments.
As interest in this one-man entertainment network is rekindled by the mega-budget adaptation of his first film, Westworld (on Sky Atlantic Mondays at 9pm) we've put together a list of his other works you should check out.
Jurassic Park and The Lost World
"Sod the books - I've seen the films mate. Always watch 'em whenever they're rolled out again on ITV 2."
Well, good. Steven Spielberg's adaptation is one of the greatest examples of film that manages to do justice to an author's original work - thanks in part to a script that tells a slightly different story to that of Crighton's original work (which the man himself helped co-write).
The differences between the films and Crichton's books are too numerous to list (and it'll ruin the experience of reading them), but highlights include killing velociraptors with a rocket launcher and Dr John Hammond (played so lovingly by Richard Attenborough in the film) actually being a bit of a bastard. The Lost World is also a darned sight better than Jurassic Park 2 - thanks mainly to an invisible dinosaur. Seriously.
Should you find your thirst for sci-fi Crichton to peak after the first episode of Westworld lands, you can abate it waiting for the next one by watching the 1998 adaptation of his novel, Sphere.
The likes of Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone and Samuel L Jackson bring Crichton's deep sea alien encounter to life in a creepy-if-ponderous flick, full of psychological twists and several moments that'll have you thinking you're on top of the story, only to realise you've not got a bloody clue as to what's going on. It's great.
Yep. Michael Crichton was the creator, writer and exective producer of ER.
It makes a lot more sense once you realise that before Crichton actually studied at Harvard Medical School, qualifying as an MD. He became disenchanted with the medical profession while studying, but went on to write numerous works with medical tones, of which ER is easily the best. Go on, dig out the box set.
Again, another obvious one - but if HBO's effort piques your interest, you need to watch Crichton's own work.
We've gone into extensive detail as to why right here, but in brief, Westworld's presentation of a mega company running the show was ahead of its time - the presentation of corporate indifference to the human cost of their screw-up was one of science fiction film's first ever evil companies. That, plus some amazing effects, make it a staple of science fiction cinema.
No, not the online retail giant - Amazon is an interactive fiction video game that Crichton wrote and developed in 1984. Based around his novel Congo (another great book with a woeful film adaptation), you follow a group of explorers headed on an exhibition into the Amazon jungle to find an emerald mine, solving interactive puzzles and questions that spring up along the way.
It's got some subtle differences to Congo as Crichton had to change elements due to selling the book's adaptation rights - hence why the game takes place in the Amazon rather than the Congo. It's a classic of narrative games, and you can download it here.
The Andromeda Strain
Ask Crichton fans to name their favourite book, and it'll either be Jurassic Park or this marvel.
One of those 'sci-fi scenarios that could actually happen, sort of', the book poses the scenario of what might happen if a military satellite returns to Earth with something nasty hitching a ride. When an entire Arizona town near the satellite landing site dies, the military move in to investigate what they brought back from the heavens - and try and work out why much of the local appeared to go crazy and commit suicide.
Yes, there was a recent TV show that tried its best to adapt it, but it's best sticking with the book.