Congo by Michael Crichton

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Set in the 1970s, Congo follows the journey of Karen Ross, Peter Elliot, and Amy (a gorilla) deep into the jungle of the Congo. Karen, a brilliant computer programmer for a company that investigates the location of natural resources, is sent to investigate the death of a field team and continue their work. Peter, who is a primate language researcher, takes his subject Amy into the Congo in hopes of understanding her upsetting dreams and to study her communication with wild gorillas. Ross, Elliot, and their companions (“Captain” Munro and Kahega and friends) are in a situation much more serious than they realize.

This story starts off with a rather shocking event- the ERTS field team is attacked by an unknown entity and most of them are immediately killed. Most disturbing is the manner in which they die- their skulls are crushed with great force. An unfocused image of the attacker is captured and it appears to be an ape-like creature. Crichton has a way of capturing the reader’s attention almost immediately and holding it through the entire story.

There is a feeling of urgency during their journey to the location of the murdered field team. Karen Ross must also beat an opposing team of resource contractors to the site, which contains a rare type of diamond. At the same time they are also facing the perils of angry hippopotamuses, cannibals, and armies. Needless to say, there are no dull moments.

Ross et al. arrive at the site to find what she expected- an overgrown, abandoned city. During the following nights, they encounter the killers of the field team. Turns out it wasn’t a mystical creature, but a new species of gorilla that was trained to kill by the long gone inhabitants of the derelict city.

Following this, a gorilla war (no pun intended) ensues, diamonds are found, a volcano erupts, and both Karen Ross and Peter Elliot go home with varying degrees of disappointment.

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