Binary (novel)

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First edition cover
Author John Lange
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 225
ISBN 0-394-47987-4
OCLC 262457
LC Class PS3553.R48 B56 1972
Preceded by Dealing

Binary is a techno-thriller novel written by Michael Crichton in 1972 under the pen-name John Lange. Crichton also directed Pursuit, a television film version.[1][2] The story of both the book and the film revolve around a deadly nerve agent composed by combining two different chemicals. Hard Case Crime republished the novel under Crichton's name in 2013.[3]

Plot summary[edit]

The villain is a middle-class small businessman named John Wright who decides to assassinate the President of the United States. He spends his life savings to carry out the theft of a U.S. Army shipment of the two precursor chemicals that form a deadly nerve gas codenamed VZ when combined.

The ingredients for the nerve gas VZ were intended to be detonated in downtown San Diego, coinciding with the arrival of the President at the Republican party convention taking place there. This nerve gas had no safe antidote, and it kills in two to three minutes after being inhaled or touched.

This nerve gas is contained inside two "Alacran" (a combustible plastic) tanks, and plastic explosives are wrapped around the containers so that after the nerve gas is released the containers explode, rendering the scene of the crime untraceable.


The Guardian said it had a "dotty, old-hat plot made unexpectedly credible with new gadgetry and well-engineered surprises".[4] The New York Times wrote "the author maintains tension ably".[5]


Pursuit was a 1972 made-for-TV movie that screened on the ABC network based on the novel. It was a TV Movie of the Week and marked Crichton's directorial debut.


  1. ^ Pursuit (1972) at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ Pursuit (1972) at Rotten Tomatoes
  3. ^
  4. ^ DOCK BRIEFS Blame the Dead Gavinknowhow: Blame the Dead Gavinknowhow by Matthew Coady. The Guardian (1959-2003) [London (UK)] 26 Oct 1972: 15.
  5. ^ Criminals At Large By NEWGATE CALLENDAR. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 20 Aug 1972: BR26.