Jurassic Park in your own backyard…
That’s what I came away from after devouring the latest (and possible last) techno-thriller penned by Michael Crichton, Micro, which was completed by author Richard Preston (most famous for his chilling 1994 non-fiction thriller, The Hot Zone, about the Ebola outbreak in a primate quarantine building that occurred in Reston, Virginia in 1989).
To anyone having doubts about Mr. Preston picking up where Mr. Crichton left off (rumor has it the manuscript was only 73% completed at the time of Crichton’s unfortunate passing due to Cancer in 2008), rest assured it is seamless – you literally cannot tell where Crichton ends and where Preston begins, nor what ideas and extrapolations belong to whom! It is most definitely feels like a Crichton
novel in it’s entirety!
The plot strays a little further away than most of Crichton’s stories in regards to the actual science utilized, in this case, micronization, but what it lacks in size of real physics in makes up for in the biology showed on display, showing a world that literally exists within our own that is a thriving ecosystem within our own!
Seven grad students in an eclectic assortment of fields (Envenomization, Biochemical Engineering, Arachnology, Entomology, Applied Science Philosophy, etc) are invited by a fellow student, Peter Jensen, on behest of his older brother Eric for recruitment into his start-up company, NaniGen Tech, a start-up company specializing in micro-robotic environmental research tools.
It’s not long before tragedy strikes in the murder of Eric and the mystery of what NaniGen actually does and with which find our protagonists shrunk-down into “micro-humans” and abandoned in a vast rainforest on Hawaii’s big island of Oahu. From here, it becomes a “Lost World” tale of survival as the company of students must somehow trek back to NaniGen and restore themselves, while solving the mystery of Eric’s death.
Fans of Crichton’s work will find this vintage-Crichton at his best with a streamlined plot and enough thorough research and explanation to make even a layman an expert in some of the fields addressed. As well, this always makes the attacks even more frightening when are heroes are confronted by waves of wasps, spiders, and even bats during their journey.
And these attacks are NOT for the feint of heart as Crichton and Preston detail the horrors of the insect world GRAPHICALLY (particularly stomach churning and harrowing is a sequence involving a grub, but I’ll let you discover that on your own).
The weakest flaw in this book is the seven grad students in the group, which are cardboard at the very best – you have the quiet thinker, the outspoken know-it-all, the tomboy, the promiscuous girl, the girl next door, the take-charge and the whiner. I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not – adding in that they behave as academic snobs through 3/4 of the book doesn’t exactly you root them on, with Peter being the sole one you care about because of his relationship with his brother. The villain of the piece seems more at home in a Bond film than here and is extremely over-the-top in his actions and swaggering. I did, oddly, wind up growing the fond of the side-characters, particularly the Spam-sushi-eating, easy going and intelligent Honolulu homicide detective who suspects there’s something foul at work within NaniGen.
Some of the tech concepts displayed are intriguing despite the fact they almost seemed to come from an eighties cartoon-toy line property, with the micro-humans having access to a plethora of miniature tent stations, concrete-brick research labs dotted along the rainforest, six-legged “Hexapod” walkers used to transverse the micro-terrain and even miniature micro-planes! If this gets made into a movie (it’s Crichton so chances are already 60/40 in it’s favor) you could see endless toys taken from the novel alone!
Which brings me to the opening notes from Crichton himself, in which he states some (in my mind, anyway’s) alarming statistics about school children these days, while being aware of insects and animals, couldn’t identify nearly any of the bugs they’d fin in their own backyard, blaming compressed school cirriculums with an emphasis on test scoring to the sad simple fact that kids too busy inside playing video games than playing outdoors in nature. I can’t help but wonder if maybe this was Crichton’s way of hoping kids might pick this up in the same way they read Jurassic Park – inspiring them to get outside and find fascination with the world right in their own lawns? It will certainly help move those bug catching nets and kits you see displayed every spring and summer!
MICRO, while having some small flaws, is MACRO fun!
* Words in red are danger words – Google Image them at risk to your own sanity, or to **know-your-enemy…
**…at which case I suggest a can of Lysol and a lighter; distance is your friend!