First edition cover
|Cover artist||Chip Kidd|
|Publication date||January 1994|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Dewey Decimal||813/.54 20|
|LC Classification||PS3553.R48 D57 1994|
|Preceded by||Rising Sun|
|Followed by||The Lost World|
Disclosure is a novel by Michael Crichton, published in 1994. The novel is set in a fictional high tech company, just before the beginning of the dot-com economic boom. The plot concerns protagonist Tom Sanders, and his battle against unfounded allegations of sexual harassment.
Tom Sanders, the head of advanced products manufacturing at DigiCom, expects to be promoted to run the advanced products division after DigiCom's merger with a publishing house. Instead, his ex-girlfriend, Meredith Johnson, who recently moved to Seattle from the company's headquarters in Cupertino, California; is given the promotion.
Later that day, Meredith calls Tom into her office, ostensibly to discuss an advanced CD-ROM drive. She aggressively tries to resume their relationship, despite Tom's repeated attempts to resist. When he spurns her sexual advances, Meredith angrily vows to make him pay.
The next morning, Tom discovers that Meredith has retaliated by falsely accusing him of sexual harassment. DigiCom president Bob Garvin, fearing that the incident could jeopardize the merger, tells the company's general counsel, Phil Blackburn, to propose transferring Tom to the company's Austin facility. However, Tom's division is due to be spun off as a publicly traded company after the merger, and if he's transferred, he will lose stock options which would make him a wealthy man.
Seemingly out of options, Tom gets in touch with Seattle attorney Louise Fernandez, who agrees to take the case. Tom threatens to sue Meredith and DigiCom for sexual harassment unless Meredith is fired, throwing the merger and his future with the company in jeopardy. During a mediation, Tom discovers that when he called one of his colleagues, John Levin, about the problems with the drive, John's answering machine recorded the whole incident with Meredith. He and Louise also discover that DigiCom officials have known for some time that Meredith has a history of unwelcome advances toward male coworkers, and yet did nothing to stop it. Confronted with this evidence, DigiCom is forced to agree to a settlement in which Meredith is quietly pushed out and Tom is restored to his former post.
That night, Tom gets an email from "A Friend" warning him that all is not normal yet. Later, he overhears Meredith and Phil planning to make it look like Tom is responsible for defects in the CD-ROM project, thereby giving DigiCom an excuse to fire him for incompetence. Tom is unable to access information in the database that would prove his innocence since Meredith has locked him out of the system. Through a prototype of the company's virtual reality machine, Tom discovers that Meredith changed the quality control specifications at the Malaysian plant manufacturing the drive. These changes, ostensibly to appease Malaysian government demands and cut costs, resulted in the defects. With the help of one of his Malaysian colleagues, Tom obtains enough evidence to turn the tables on Meredith, resulting in her getting fired instead, even though she claims that Tom is to blame.
The primary theme is sexual harassment. According to Crichton, it is based on a true story of a male protagonist who is being sexually harassed by a female executive, reversing the expected gender roles. Not surprisingly, the book has been harshly criticized by feminist commentators and accused of being anti-feminist. Crichton offered a rebuttal at the close of the novel which states that a "role-reversal" story uncovers aspects of the subject that would not be as easily seen with a female protagonist.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (January 2009)|
Minor threads of the plot include two issues which have become relevant in the 21st century IT industry: outsourced American manufacturing and virtual reality. The book explores the implications of outsourcing American manufacturing to developing worlds through the fictional case study of disc drives that the protagonist's company is manufacturing in an Asian country. The drives are failing at higher rates than ever, due to the Malaysian government's demands for more manpower instead of automation, which would have produced better drives. Virtual reality is briefly addressed as the protagonist's company is building a head-up display for a small virtual world created for data retrieval and other purposes.
Reviews were mostly favorable.
The New York Times's Christopher Lehmann-Haupt said of Disclosure, that it is "an elaborate provocation of rage in which a thousand fragments of revenge finally fall into place, like acid rain on wildfire. Meanwhile, Mr. Crichton also irrelevantly entertains us with a complex vision of the digital future, complete with cellular phones the size of credit cards, CD-ROM players that can store 600 books and database environments you can virtually walk around in with the guidance of a helpful angel who cracks wise."
- Modern first editions - a set on Flickr
- Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (1994-01-06). "Books of The Times; Sex, Power and a Workplace Reversal". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-01.