Easy Go – Michael Crichton (writing as John Lange)

2 out of 5


A heist novel without much of a heist, Michael Crichton – then writing under his pulp pseudonym of John Lange – presumably wanted to tap into a cultural / personal zeitgeist fascination with Egyptian tomb robbings and curses, bringing a more factual and scientific edge to such the splashier aspects. And there’s definitely good work in Easy Go towards that pursuit, with archeologist Barnaby discovering, coded amongst poorly-translated hieroglyphics, signs of an otherwise unknown tomb, and gathering various adventuresome types – a reporter, a financial backer, some ne’er-do-wells – to concoct a plan to sneak out the presumed treasures from that tomb. However, there’s a weird lack of urgency and stakes near from the get-go of this tale, with the worst that can happen being that the team… fails. And gets caught by the Egyptian government, sure, which maybe had some clearer bad results at the time, but reading now, the fallout of this job going South is never really clear, so it just seems like whimsy that might fall flat.

Still, as with any heist story, there’s fun to be had in learning of the particulars, which Crichton does string us along on for a bit, because, after all, it’s not firstly easy to bring large chunks of treasure out from supervised sites, and secondly – how would one go about selling such illegally-obtained things without drawing attention? But within our 270 page story, though these particulars are withheld for a bit, they’re still resolved for us well before we get to the actual dig and discovery of the tomb.

That, also, provides some intrigue, but it feels a bit fake: again, the worst that happens is that they don’t discover their hopeful goal. And by this point, Crichton has already well seated the story within reality, so there’s no real concern over curses or mummies. Someone shoots some cobras at some point; that’s about the extent of the danger.

The research brings occasional flavor – the (I’ll assume) realistic construction details of the tomb, and the precautions its builders took toward securing it, but, again, all we’re really doing is stretching out the story. And while it kind of is part of the reason the tension dips pretty frequently, I did appreciate Crichton’s asides into some details of the (then) current culture of Egypt, making sure we had an understanding that extended past most stereotypes.

The main characters interact well, and a last-minute twist is interesting, if somewhat pointless (and, fitting with the underwhelming tone of the book, somewhat betrayed for impact by how the concluding chapters are structured), but there’s very little pulp and very little heist in this pulp heist novel, coming across moreso as a way for Crichton to present us with some insights into Egyptian culture, modern and ancient, dressed up with some genre trappings.