The Terminal Man

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This article is about the novel. For the biography 'The Terminal Man' of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, see Mehran Karimi Nasseri. For the concept articulated and named by Friedrich Nietzsche, see Last man.
The Terminal Man
First edition cover
Author Michael Crichton
Cover artist Paul Bacon[1]
Country United States
Language English
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Knopf
Publication date
April 12, 1972
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 247
ISBN 0-394-44768-9
OCLC 213300
LC Class PZ4.C9178 Te PS3553.R48
Preceded by The Andromeda Strain
Followed by The Great Train Robbery

The Terminal Man is a novel by Michael Crichton about the dangers of mind control. It was published in April 1972, and also serialized in Playboy in March, April, and May 1972. In 1974, it was made into a film of the same name.


The events in the novel take place between March 9 and March 13, 1971. Harold Franklin "Harry" Benson, a computer scientist (specializing in artificial intelligence) in his middle thirties, is described as suffering from psychomotor epilepsy[2] following a car crash he had endured in 1969.

The operation implants forty electrodes in Benson's brain, controlled by a small computer that is powered by a plutonium power pack in his shoulder. Benson must wear a dogtag that says to call University Hospital if he is injured, as his atomic power pack may emit radiation. While he is recovering, a woman identifying herself by the name of Angela Black gives Morris a black wig for Benson, whose head was shaved prior to the operation.

Morris goes back to his normal work, where he interviews a man who volunteers to have electrodes put into his mind to stimulate pleasure. Morris refuses him, but realizes that people like Benson could potentially become addicts. He recalls a Norwegian man with schizophrenia, who was allowed to stimulate himself as much as he wanted, and did so much that it actually gave him brain damage.

basement of University Hospital, where the computer mainframe is located. Ellis searches at a strip club where Benson, who is fascinated with all things sexual, spends a lot of time, but fails to find him.

Ross is awakened by Gerhard. She has a call from Benson. When Anders traces the call, he realizes that Benson is inside the hospital. Gerhard's and Richards's computers begin to malfunction, as if somebody was disturbing the mainframe.


At one stage it was known as The Sympathetic Man.[3]

Crichton stated at one point that out of his body of work, it was his least favorite.[4]

Film adaptation[edit]

The Terminal Man was made into a film in 1974.[5]


Like his previous bestseller The Andromeda Strain, reviews for The Terminal Man were widely positive.

The Los Angeles Times called it "an entertaining and unsparing narrative, compressed and scientifically sound."[6]

The New Yorker called the novel "A fascinating, splendidly documented thriller."

Life Magazine said it was "An absolutely riveting novel."

John Barkham Reviews called it "A superb thriller..." and said "It will make you think-and shudder."[7]

The novel was criticised by the American Epilepsy Foundation who said it unfairly linked epilepsy with violence.[8]


  1. ^ Modern first editions - a set on Flickr
  2. ^ This was changed to Acute Disinhibitory Lesion (ADL) syndrome in subsequent reprints.
  3. ^ Hollywood Today: Mike Crichton, a Skyscraper in Any Form Norma Lee Browning. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 30 Aug 1970: s2.
  4. ^ Interview at
  5. ^ The Terminal Man (1974) at the Internet Movie Database
  6. ^ THE BOOK REPORT: Mind Control by Surgeon's Scalpel Kirsch, Robert. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 24 May 1972: f6.
  7. ^ First Ballantine Books Edition: January 1988
  8. ^ CROMIE ON BOOKS: Is Crichton bestseller unjust to epileptics? Cromie, Robert. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 06 Aug 1972: h5.