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Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston

Posted by RB Kollannur on July 15, 2012

Note: This review is part of a weekly book review column that I write for City Journal, an English newspaper based in Thrissur, Kerala.

Published on 05/05/2012

Publisher – HarperCollins; Year of Publication – 2011; Pages – 668; Cost at the time of purchase – Rs 299

Many a millennia ago, before animal life came to land, our ancestors were tiny living beings swimming around the oceans of the world. They were frequently hunted down and eaten by arthropods, larger beings that have their skeletons outside their body. With their strong external skeletons (exoskeletons), they were better adapted to live in oceans. But on land, our ancestors grew to become much larger, unrestrained by the pressure of the ocean on our bones. For the arthropods however, they found their exoskeletons limiting. Instead of growing, they shrunk and became tiny beings that posed no threat to human life – insects.

Until Michael Crichton decided to shrink everyone and make them insect like.

Michael Crichton, the author of Jurassic Park and The Lost World, died in 2008 leaving behind two novels, one of them incomplete. The completed one, Pirate Latitudes, was published posthumously in 2009. Crichton had written a third of his final novel at the time of his death, which has since been completed by Richard Preston, someone who is more familiar with themes related to bio terrorism. Micro deals with nanotechnology, a topic that was dealt in another Crichton book, Next. Initially, I thought the book was a sequel to Next, developing on technology made familiar in that book, only to be rudely awakened by the divergence of the plot.

Crichton had developed many new ideas in his science fiction works, ranging from the most popular cloning of dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and The Lost World to the lesser known invasion by bacteria from outer space in Andromeda Strain. But this is the first time I have seen him writing on a clichéd sci-fi invention – the shrink ray.

While the shrink ray does have a definitive impact on the development story, fortunately the book is about how a group of students face the dangers that our distant ancestors had to face – survival in a world where you are the weaker being. In a way, it recalls the theme of the Jurassic Park novel, where we have a group of scientists being hunted down by the larger dinosaurs. But the plotline harks back to another Crichton novel – Timeline; where an unscrupulous corporate entity decides to put someone else in danger for their own greed.

While this book does not match the scientific insight brought forward by his earlier works, it is still filled with nuggets of information about the insect world. The incomplete introduction written by Crichton seems to indicate the intention of the author to allow his readers get a reality check about nature.

Richard Preston has done a good job finishing the novel, unless of course, the shrink ray was his idea. It is not a predictable adventure novel and Preston relies on some twists and turns to keep the story interesting.


One Response to “Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston”

  1. […]  Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough and John Heylar – Published on 28/04/2012 8)    Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston – Published on 05/05/2012 9)    Litanies of Dutch Battery by NS Madhavan (Translated by Rajesh […]

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