08 May 2009

28. Prey

Prey - Michael Crichton

An exciting story in typical Michael Crichton fashion...and I think I know what I mean by that this time. I have read a bunch of his books. This one was recommended by a bunch of dudes at work. When I saw it on the shelf at Goodwill, I grabbed it.

It was a very quick read. The story is about a high-tech company that designs nano-bots which are to be used for a new medical imaging system. Well, actually, that was an after thought when they were losing federal funding for the weapons project that they were really working on. :-)
There is a serious amount of scientific stuff as there always is in Crichton's books. Think of the tour part of the Jurassic Park movie before the breakdown. How does it work? Chaos Theory? All that kind of stuff. This time it is centered around the production of nano-robot machines, virus manipulation, evolution, computer programming taken to extremes that I do not know even exist, behavior of biological organisms in swarms/packs/colonies, symbiosis, environmental impact, etc etc etc..... a LOT of scientific stuff.
So much science that the book became very very interesting to me. The story kept on following different theories and tied lots of different reasoning together in larger picture formulas to explain micro level problems.
Then I realized that the science was making the story. The story itself was not the best part of the story at all. in fact, the story itself could have been a 1950's B monster movie (think of Them or The Blob).
Why was this better than those? It is because of the tremendous amount of detail Crichton uses in the scientific parts of the books. It is not just the obligatory Gamma radiation cloud causing problems like in so many other stories. It feels like his "science" could be real. Maybe it is. I don't know.
I thought of his other books. Andromeda Strain, Terminal Man, Jurassic Park, Next. They were the same way. Other than Jurassic Park, these were just OK stories with suspense built in due to some excellent science. Is that bad? No, not really bad. Is it a "formula"? When I think of writing books using a formula I think of Jackie Collins cranking out a zillion books with the same basic story set in different places with different people in different circumstances and the occasional twist. Is that what Crichton has done? Maybe. In some ways I am sure he has. Always science. Always heavily detailed. Always against tremendous odds that seem impossible to overcome. Then again...many people use that same basic premise for books.
It was a good book that I enjoyed. Again, I must qualify that with the fact that I really enjoy the genre. It moves along quickly and kept me wondering what they would do next, though in parts I did not think the actions or words fit with some of the characters very well, but those moments were fleeting.
Check it out.

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