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Congo by Michael Crichton
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Congo (1980)

by Michael Crichton

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The novel starts with an abrupt end to an expedition sent by Earth Resource Technology Services Inc. in the dense rain forests of Congo when the team is attacked and killed by an unknown foe and all contact with them is lost. The expedition, searching for deposits of valuable diamonds in the world, discovered the legendary lost city of Zinj. A video image taken by a camera there, and transmitted by satellite to the base station in Houston, shows a peculiar race of gorillas to be responsible for the murders. Those gorillas are different from normal gorillas in their appearance and odd life styles. They are gray and rather small, and they seem to communicate via wheezing sounds.

Another expedition, led by Karen Ross, is launched to find out the truth and to find the city of Zinj, and the deposits of the new type of diamond that would change the shape of technology and the world as we know it: these diamonds are blue-colored due to boron doping, which also gives them unique semiconductor-like capabilities. This time the searchers bring along the famous White African mercenary Munro, as well as a female gorilla named Amy, who has been trained to communicate with humans using sign language, and her trainer Peter Elliot. Time is of the greatest essence, as a rival consortium of European and Japanese corporations has also set off into the jungle after the diamonds, turning the entire expedition into a race to the city of Zinj. Unfortunately for Ross and her team, the American expedition encounters many delays along the way, including plane crashes, native civil wars, and jungle predators.

Eventually, Ross and her expedition reach the City of Zinj and discover the consortium camp, like the original expedition's camp, in ruins and devoid of life. Ross and her team loses contact with the ERTS HQ due to a massive solar flare, then encounter the killer gorillas and are attacked. A brief battle ensues and several gorillas are killed. After studying the corpses and performing a rudimentary field autopsy, it is concluded the animals are not "true" gorillas by modern biological standards, but presumably a gorilla-chimpanzee or gorilla-human hybrid: their mass and height is closer to humans than gorillas, their skull is greatly malformed (the "ridge" that makes gorilla heads look "pointy" is nearly nonexistent) as well as their pigmentation is on the border of albinism: light gray fur and yellow eyes. In addition, they exhibit different behavior: they are much more aggressive, ruthless and partially nocturnal (attacks are always at night, yet a very large (100 ) group was observed feeding during the day). Peter Elliot intends to name them Gorilla elliotensis after himself. Afterwards, Ross, Elliot, and Munro explore the ruins and discover that the killer gorillas were bred by the ancient inhabitants of Zinj to guard the diamond mines from intruders. After several more attacks, Elliot, with the help of Amy, finds a way to translate the language of the new gorillas (she refers to them as "bad things") and piece together three messages ("go away", "don't come", "here bad"); they stop fighting the humans and become confused, leaving the camp. Their victory is cut short by the eruption of the nearby volcano, accelerated by the explosives placed by Ross for her geological surveys, that buries the city, the diamond fields and all proof of the "new" species under 800 meters of lava. Ross, Elliot, Munro, and the rest of the team's survivors are forced to run for their lives. The team then manages to find a hot air balloon in a crashed consortium cargo aircraft and uses it to escape. In an epilogue, it is revealed that Munro was able to retrieve a few hundred carat worth of the valuable diamonds and sold them to Intel for use in a revolutionary new computer processor, while Amy was reintroduced into the wild and was later observed teaching her offspring sign language.

( )
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Yikes. Definitely not my favorite Crichton. ( )
  Oodles | Feb 16, 2016 |
I got through it. Crichton is problematic. Africa... ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
This was a really good book. The books that are scientific in nature are definitely his best work, and this one fits the bill. A win all around. ( )
  biggs1399 | Jan 19, 2016 |
This was a pretty difficult book for me to get through. There's a lot of dense technical jargon and flat dialogue. When there was action it was all lumped together and few and far in between.

I however did enjoy the aspects of the Grey Gorillas as having and vocal and sign language of their own. I saw this movie version some years ago and really expected it to hold up against what Hollywood portrayed, but ironically the book was not better. ( )
  Joseph_Stelmaszek | Nov 29, 2015 |
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Epigraph
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. --Henry Morton Stanley, 1887
The large male [gorilla] held my attention. . . . He gave an impression of dignity and restrained power, of absolute certainty in his majestic appearance. I felt a desire to communicate with him. . . . Never before had I had this feeling on meeting an animal. As we watched each other across the valley, I wondered if he recognized the kinship that bound us. --George B. Schaller, 1964
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For Bob Gottlieb
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Dawn came to the Congo rain forest. The pale sun burned away the morning chill and the clinging damp mist, revealing a gigantic silent world.
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Book description
A twentieth-century adventure that will plunge you into the heart of Africa with three intrepid adventurers, in a desperate bid to find the fabulous diamonds of the Lost City of Zinj. In it you will encounter the Kigani cannibals, flaming volcanoes, ferocious gorillas, and Amy. Cuddly, fluent in sign language, and fun to be with: in a tight situation she's the smartest gorilla you're ever likely to meet.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060541830, Mass Market Paperback)

If you saw the 1995 film adaptation of this Crichton thriller, somebody owes you an apology. While you're waiting for that to happen, try reading the vastly more intelligent novel on which the movie was based. The broad lines of the plot remain the same: A research team deep in the jungle disappears after a mysterious and grisly gorilla attack. A subsequent team, including a sign-language-speaking simian named Amy, follows the original team's tracks only to be subjected to more mysterious and grisly gorilla attacks. If you can look past the breathless treatment of '80s technology, like voice-recognition software and 256K RAM modules (the book was written in 1980), you'll find the same smart use of science and edge-of-your-seat suspense shared by Crichton's other work. --Paul Hughes

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:35 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

On an expedition to return Amy, his talking gorilla, to her home in the Congo, Professor Peter Elliot is joined by others who hope to find a legendary diamond mine guarded by mutant gorillas.

» see all 5 descriptions

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