Written by: Vitina Molgaard
It’s time to visit the works of an excellent teller of tales. Hopefully a good number of you readers recognize the name Michael Crichton, and are familiar with his body of work, as it is rather extensive and his untimely passing in 2008 came as a massive shock and resulted in extensive news coverage. For some of those who are taking the first step toward this man’s creations, welcome! Come prepared for a journey into a scientific mind, intelligence and articulate with narrative. Bring you into the world known as the Congo. it seems only appropriate that I share a quote from the late, famed explorer, Henry Morton Stanley. “The more experience and insight I obtain into human nature, the more convinced do I become that the greater portion of a man is purely animal.”
The Congo… a dark territory filled with the unorthodox, many things foreign to civilized man, boasts promises of potential rewards. It also awaits our focal group, who are about to embark on an extremely hazardous trip. After receiving a horrifying video-taped distress call from a team of explorers, a new group are sent on a rescue/discovery mission to find out precisely what’s happened. Once in the Congo, we begin to discover just how dire this situation was and unfortunately still is. Examining footage of the missing team’s desperate pleas for aid reveals what appears to be some type of creature of devastating strength. But this second expedition have more than a single goal in mind, the missing are just one bit of this trek.
We find ourselves involved with quite a variation of characters, each harboring different motivations. On this exploration we have Peter Elliot, a zoologist who has brought along Amy. Amy being a bright young gorilla that communicates with humans through American sign language. Her purpose is to help understand some of things that have been seen on the tape and to let her experience what her natural habitat is like, give her a taste of liberation. Along with a crew of African helpers, we meet their superior, Munro. Munro’s an expedition leader with a questionable character, but uncanny talents that often prove quite valuable during their treacherous trip. Then there’s Ross, a woman working for the government with an agenda she has no intentions of sharing. Not to be ignored are the pigmy tribe,who are actually of help to the travelers. Prepare for a consortium of foreigners fighting for power and trying to beat Ross to the same mysterious thing she searches for. For the most part, these are the key players to deal with in Congo. However, there are two other elements to this list that must be remembered since they make for the novel’s true horror. First, The Kigani Tribe, a cannibalistic group always on the search for victims and second, the unknown protagonist seen on film. These creatures appear as though they leapt straight from a nightmare; as Amy would say “like a gorilla but not a gorilla…a bad thing.” You’ve met our crew: it’s up to you whether or not you’d like to invest the time in getting to know these personalities, their mishaps…horrors …and deaths.
Get a look at Amy – who plays a rather pivotal role in this story – onscreen, in the 1995 film directed by Frank Marshall.
Not long after beginning to read this novel, memories of viewing the movie years ago swarmed the mind. I definitely recommend the original format over Frank Marshall’s cinematic adaptation. This is a science based horror story that injects some exaggeration, but maintains a lot of fact as well. It most definitely contains terror and horror, but Crichton plays classy and keeps the gore a distant, underlying element of the tale, rather than an in-your-face piece of the puzzle that cannot be ignored. So, I suggest if you choose to read this book, you do so knowing that you’re in store for far more of a biological thriller than a blood and guts creature trope.
At the end of the day, I’m choosing to hold back just a tad on the rating of this book, but there’s a personal reason for that, and I’ll explain: I give Congo a 3.5 rating, but my rating would no doubt be higher if not for the fact that sometimes Mr. Crichton incorporates a bit more technology in his novels than I care to know about. In this day and age however, that will more than likely be embraced by a good many readers, since it’s obviously a technology fueled society we occupy today.