This comes as a sad shock: Megaselling author and blockbuster machine Michael Crichton has died at age 66 from what a spokesperson is calling "courageous and private battle against cancer." He's best known for his science-based cautionary thrillers like The Andromeda Strain, Sphere, and Jurassic Park, many of which he had a hand in adapting for the big screen. He also directed a few movies, including Yul Brynner animatronics-run-amuck classic Westworld and The Great Train Robbery, and created ER based on his own experiences as a resident. A statement from his representatives follows after the jump:

"While the world knew him as a great story teller that challenged our preconceived notions about the world around us — and entertained us all while doing so — his wife Sherri, daughter Taylor, family and friends knew Michael Crichton as a devoted husband, loving father and generous friend who inspired each of us to strive to see the wonders of our world through new eyes. He did this with a wry sense of humor that those who were privileged to know him personally will never forget. Through his books, Michael Crichton served as an inspiration to students of all ages, challenged scientists in many fields, and illuminated the mysteries of the world in a way we could all understand. He will be profoundly missed by those whose lives he touched, but he leaves behind the greatest gifts of a thirst for knowledge, the desire to understand, and the wisdom to use our minds to better our world. Michael's family respectfully asks for privacy during this difficult time. A private funeral service is expected, but no further details will be released to the public."