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Literature / Disclosure

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Disclosure is a 1994 crime novel written by Michael Crichton.

Tom Sanders is the head of advanced products manufacturing at the fictional high-tech company DigiCom. He is so sure that he is going to be promoted to run the advanced products division after DigiCom's merger with a publishing house. Unfortunately for him, Meredith Johnson, his ex-girlfriend, gets the promotion. Then, she calls Tom into her office, ostensibly to discuss an advanced CD-ROM drive. But it turns out that she wants to resume their relationship, and she gives Tom aggressive sexual advances, which leads him to spurn her advances. She promises to make him pay. She makes good on that threat by falsely accusing him of sexual harassment. Now Tom must do something to fix this before it's too late.

This book got a film adaptation in 1994.

This book provides examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Betsy, Meredith's assistant.
  • Asshole Victim: After all his scapegoating and lies about Tom, the reader isn't going to feel bad when Phil Blackburn is fired for leaking the story about Sanders to a reporter.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Everyone at DigiCom fears CFO Stephanie "Stealth Bomber" Kaplan, who has the power to kill anyone's project with nary a word of warning. When she does speak, she proves to have sharp insight into everything going on around her. As we later learn, though, she's most effective when she operates from the shadows.
  • Big Eater: John Levin, an executive with one of DigiCom's suppliers. He spends most of his only scene stuffing his face with seafood and mashed potatoes.
  • Bittersweet Ending: While Tom's name is cleared and he manages to keep his job while Phil and Meredith are fired, the DigiCom merger ultimately doesn't go through and Tom doesn't get the promotion he was hoping fornote . Meanwhile, despite being fired in disgrace, both Phil and Meredith are able to find employment in other companies, Ed Nichols gets early retirement and a consulting job out of Nassau, and even Constance Walsh gets an out-of-court settlement after suing for wrongful termination and sexual discrimination.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: We are introduced to Tom's daughter, Eliza, while she is mid-tantrum over not getting to pour the milk into her cereal.
  • Caught on Tape/Smoking Gun: Tom realizes halfway through the day of his mediation that his encounter with Meredith was accidentally recorded onto a third party's answering machine.
  • Consummate Liar: Meredith tries to play the victim card so much that it naturally makes her a very skilled and smooth liar when she is accused of doing something wrong, except for when she is caught off guard by a detail that surprises her.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Geez, where do we even start?
  • Crusading Lawyer: Louise Fernandez, who is hyper-aware of the flaws in 90s-era harassment law. The epilogue reveals that after she earns a judgeship, she delivers a speech calling for change that is not received especially well.
  • Deus ex Machina: All of Tom's investigating in the second half of the book is basically for nothing. He knows what Meredith is up to, but has no way to prove it. In fact, he could have sat at home for the entire time, completely unaware there was still a plot against him, and he still would have gotten the call from Jafar, the plant foreman who gives him all the evidence he needs to save himself.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Meredith was determined to cut costs across the supply chain in order to make the company look better to its buyers. Unfortunately, any cost savings resulting from those cuts have been quickly wiped out by ensuing production delays. Her desperation to hide her responsibility for this informs her central motivation throughout the story.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Meredith Johnson sexually harasses Tom Sanders, and Tom finds himself having to fight hard to prove that he wasn't the aggressor.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Max Dorfman, an elderly former DigiCom board member. He may be a Dirty Old Man who delights in riddles, but his guidance is always on target and taken very seriously.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: The Sanders family employs a cleaning lady named Consuela.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Tom discovers photographic evidence suggesting that, in order to curry favor with Bob Garvin, Meredith changed her hairstyle and may even have gotten plastic surgery to resemble his recently deceased daughter.
  • Girl Friday: Cindy, Tom's assistant.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Mark Lewyn, DigiCom's head of product design. Crichton wrote this character with Dennis Miller as a model, which naturally led to Miller being cast in the role in the movie.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Averted. Several characters fear Tom will prove to be this or accuse him of already being this, but he isn't; he has strong respect for two other female executives in his company, just not Meredith for obvious reasons.
    • Ultimately, however, sexism against women helps to bring Meredith down. She claims she has never even seen the production line in Malaysia that's been creating so many headaches for the company. A video from Malaysian state TV proves that she is lying: The station took the unusual step of making her the focus of the segment to blame her, the uncooperative woman, for the government's difficult relationship with DigiCom.
  • Hired Guns: Companies like DigiCom pay hackers to find out if any of their employees are sharing trade secrets outside the company. One such hacker, Gary Bosak, both helps and hinders Tom throughout the story depending on who's paying him.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Garvin is this to Meredith, who has actually been manipulating and preying on him for quite a few years to advance her career and desires. He is completely blind to her incompetence or any negative publicity or behavior he hears about her and will argue with anyone who tries to criticize her. Ultimately subverted when he fires Meredith for her mistakes after Tom proves her incompetence, showing that he cared more about the merger more than Meredith herself.
  • Immoral Journalist: Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Constance Walsh is determined to destroy Tom. When her story is killed off, she goes behind her legal department's back and leaks the story to the reporter of a local news station who shares her attitude. The scheme backfires, as it gets both her and Blackburn fired.
  • Inside a Computer System: DigiCom's "Corridor" system transforms a company's server into a virtual library, complete with the sound of feet on a marble floor as the user moves through it.
  • Insufferable Genius: Don Cherry, the smart-mouthed head of advanced products programming.
  • It's All About Me: Pretty much all of the bad guys are looking out for their own benefit with little regard for the effect of their surroundings and decisions. Even Garvin's decision to fire Meredith instead of Tom as planned probably had something to do with this, rather than firing her for the effort of everyone else.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Blackburn plays this to truly unsympathetic levels when he accuses Tom of sexually harassing Meredith, when it's later revealed he knew that Tom was telling the truth the whole time and was helping Meredith getting rid of him behind Garvin's back so she could blame him for her incompetence.
  • Last-Minute Reprieve: It's likely that Meredith's plan to bring Tom down would have worked if the foreman of the Malaysia plant hadn't faxed over the information Tom needed to save himself.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Susan tries to seduce Tom one night, but since he was being pawed by Meredith hours earlier, he's really not in the mood.
  • Never My Fault: Meredith will stop at nothing to pin the blame for her bad decisions on others. Even at the end, totally exposed, she continues to point the finger in all directions but at herself.
  • Non-Promotion: Phil's first effort to get Tom out of the way is to offer him a "lateral promotion," which would give him an improved title but the same compensation package, as well as requiring him to move to the Austin facility that Tom knows is about to be sold.
  • Obviously Evil: We know what to expect from Conley-White CFO Ed Nichols because of his sour expression when we first meet him.
  • Parental Neglect: Tom thinks Susan's career gets in the way of her concern for their children's nutrition. Which is entirely her responsibility, apparently.
  • Political Overcorrectness: Company counsel Phil Blackburn is said to embody this.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Meredith delivers one to Tom as a last-ditch effort to save herself from his revelations of her bad decisions. It doesn't work.
    • A couple of scenes later, Tom delivers one to Meredith as she is packing up her office.
  • Sci-Fi Name Buzzwords: This appears to Meredith's approach to coming up with possible names for the spun-out Advanced Products Division: SpeedCore, SpeedStar, PrimeCore, SynStar, MicroDyne...
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: Bob Garvin used to dress for work in jeans and chambray shirts, like everyone else at the company. After the death of his daughter, he began wearing dark blue designer suits. This reflects a change in his management approach as well: He used to care only about results, but he's since become an overt favoritist.
  • Sleeping Their Way to the Top: Meredith has an affair with an executive of the company looking to buy DigiCom.
  • The Smurfette Principle: DigiCom seems to have only three women in management roles.
  • Standard Office Setting: Most of the story takes place at the DigiCom office, which shares the "stripped-down functionality" of other high-tech firm offices.
  • Suburbia: The Coastal Regions variant: Tom and his family live on Bainbridge Island, a bedroom community within a 40-minute ferry ride of Seattle.
  • Techno Babble: Meredith often uses this to give the impression that she has deeper knowledge of her company's products than she does. In one scene, Tom figures out that she's just showing off, but he plays along for the benefit of the others in the room.
  • Title Drop: Tom's lawyer, Louise Fernandez, advises him to make a "full and complete disclosure" of the situation with Meredith to his wife.
  • The Vamp: Tom discovers that Meredith is already known to be sexually predatory: Nine men, including one who is hinted to be gay, who directly reported to her resigned or transferred to an office in another city because of her aggressive advances.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Meredith perceives herself as this, though it's just really for attention and validation. Garvin is implied to play this straight as he is more focused on the merger than Meredith herself, and only sides with her over Tom, because losing the merger would leave him to start over and would likely grant him negative publicity from his subordinates for failing in the merger.
Phil Blackburn, on the other hand doesn't appear to be this so much. Unlike Garvin, he's completely in on Meredith's plot from the beginning to force Sanders out of the company, and it is implied that he possibly has an ulterior and personal motive for wanting to get rid of him.
  • West Coast Team: DigiCom is about to become this, effectively, of the New York-based educational publishing house Conley-White. The book notes that the Conley-White executives all wear suits, while the only DigiCom employees to wear suits are Garvin and the legal team. Truth in Television as this is a fairly typical difference between West Coast and East Coast offices of the same company.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Tom Sanders manages to prove his innocence, DigiCom is forced to agree to a settlement in which Meredith is quietly pushed out and Tom is restored to his former post. But then he gets an email from "A Friend" warning him that everything's not back to normal yet. Then he finds out that Meredith and Phil intend to pin the blame for CD-ROM defects on Tom and get him fired.