Some time ago, I read the John Le Carre novel The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. Le Carre’s sober, unromantic description of espionage during the cold war was very gripping and powerful. There are no fantastic gadgets, or cat stroking villains plotting world domination, just ordinary fallible people working two sides of a complex and grim international conflict. His novels make for fascinating and engrossing reading and he was very successful in his day, but something that stood out to me about this book and the rest of Le Carre’s works was how very rare it seems to be that we see a down to earth approach to spy stories. I suppose that, for as interesting as the real world of spies is, it is far too complex and depressingly serious for broad general appeal. Sometimes you just want to see the good guy fool absurdly evil bad guys. People long for the thrill of a sudden gunfight or a final act twist. That may be why one of the most enduring franchises in media history is Ian Flemming’s James Bond.
Author Michael Crichton often dabbled in other skills besides writing. He directed the sci-fi film Westworld in 1973, and later the period piece The Great Train Robbery in ’79. In the early 80’s, Crichton started to get interested in computer games. He taught himself basic, and after teaming up with a programmer and artist, set about designing an adventure game around his recently released jungle adventure novel Congo. Unfortunately for the project, Crichton did not realize that he had already sold the rights to the novel and could not base their game on it. After some hasty tweaks and alterations, Crichton and his team released Amazon. In essence it is the same story as Congo, but with a change of setting, some characters renamed, and set pieces altered.