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Book Review – Micro: A Novel by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston

January 11, 2012 1 comment

Book Description:

In Jurassic Park, he created a terrifying new world. Now, in Micro, Michael Crichton reveals a universe too small to see and too dangerous to ignore.

In a locked Honolulu office building, three men are found dead with no sign of struggle except for the ultrafine, razor-sharp cuts covering their bodies. The only clue left behind is a tiny bladed robot, nearly invisible to the human eye.

In the lush forests of Oahu, groundbreaking technology has ushered in a revolutionary era of biological prospecting. Trillions of microorganisms, tens of thousands of bacteria species, are being discovered; they are feeding a search for priceless drugs and applications on a scale beyond anything previously imagined.

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, seven graduate students at the forefront of their fields are recruited by a pioneering microbiology start-up. Nanigen MicroTechnologies dispatches the group to a mysterious lab in Hawaii, where they are promised access to tools that will open a whole new scientific frontier.

But once in the Oahu rain forest, the scientists are thrust into a hostile wilderness that reveals profound and surprising dangers at every turn. Armed only with their knowledge of the natural world, they find themselves prey to a technology of radical and unbridled power. To survive, they must harness the inherent forces of nature itself.

An instant classic, Micro pits nature against technology in vintage Crichton fashion. Completed by visionary science writer Richard Preston, this boundary-pushing thriller melds scientific fact with pulse-pounding fiction to create yet another masterpiece of sophisticated, cutting-edge entertainment.

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Wow, looks like the Robert Jordan estate really lucked out with the excellent Brandon Sanderson when they chose him to finish the Wheel of Time series (at least, fans have been happy so far). In contrast, Micro: A Novel, a posthumously published novel from Michael Crichton (two-thirds of which was actually completed by co-author Richard Preston based on Crichton’s outline and notes) reads like a half-finished first draft. This is NOT a good addition to the Crichton library and I’m guessing I’m not the only Crichton fan super-disappointed with this new book. And I was so ready to like this one too – I really love the concept of shrinking people down to insect size or even smaller (one of my fave movies is Fantastic Voyage) and having to fight for their lives while lost in a rain forest.  But seriously, the awful execution of the plot (particularly the unrealistic beginning [minus the pretty intriguing prologue], and the predictable ending!) plus the weak characterization just spoiled it for me.

Characterization has never really been Crichton’s strong suit, and looks like Mr Preston has done nothing to improve on that with Micro. In fact, it’s even worse! The villains here are idiotically ruthless cartoon caricatures, and the heroes (i.e. the seven graduate students) are one-dimensional personality-challenged blank slates who need labels so you can tell them apart (i.e. the leader, the fighter, the whiny one, the cynic, the nerd, and so forth). Plus, they love to engage in lengthy discourses when their lives are hanging in the balance?! But I’ve always been able to overlook Crichton’s weaknesses since his strong suit for me was how he was able to present cutting-edge science/medicine/technology in his books as something plausible within the framework of an adventure story (like recreating extinct dinosaurs by extracting their DNA from amber for a theme park!). In Micro, the shrinking technology is very Honey, I Shrunk the Kids lite – flimsy science with the explanations glossed over (It’s done with super magnet technology! Don’t ask how! Since we don’t know either!).

The best parts of Micro are when our half-inch sized heroes are interacting with the terrible wonderland that is the micro world around them (around Part II of the book) – it can be as peaceful as playing with a snowfall of pollen or drinking nectar straight from a flower, or as violent as being dismembered by a soldier ant or as awful as having parasitic baby wasps hatching in one’s arm. Those parts are where the book shines – it’s realistic, scary, even educational, and most of all, just sheer entertainment (for the reader, at least!)

Micro: A Novel by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston (Harper) is available on Amazon as a Kindle edition, Hardcover, Paperback Large Print and Audiobook. *also available at Amazon UK.

The ebook is also available at B&N, Kobo books, iTunes, and Sony.

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