Michael Crichton has written a long string of edge-of-your-seat, cutting-edge techno-thrillers that have entertained and often enlightened. Now comes State of Fear, 18.5 hours of race-paced, death-defying derring-do mixed with a heavy agenda of controversial soapbox speechifying about global warming or, rather, global non-warming, read by George Wilson. Crichton's bad guys are environmentalists, proponents of the yet-to-be U.S.-signed Kyoto protocol, misguided believers in a media-hyped, nonexistent altered atmosphere. Most are muddleheaded, Gulf Stream-flying liberals, but some, like the character Nick Drake, head of NERF (the National Environmental Resource Fund), are stop-at-nothing radicals who are trying to trigger natural disasters (think tsunami) that will reinforce their multimillion-dollar fund-raising efforts. In between diatribes, the good guys (a brilliant, right-thinking ex-MIT professor and his attractive young entourage) just barely escape fatal hypothermia in the Antarctic, Solomon Island cannibals, the bite of a deadly, tiny blue-ringed octopus and much more. Crichton is surely provocative; he provoked me one way, but may provoke you another so, why not give it a try.