Michael Crichton's "Prey": A book review
"It's midnight now. The house is dark. I am not sure how this will turn out. The kids are all desperately sick, throwing up...." and so begins "Prey". It starts with you wondering what's going on and keeps you wondering throughout. This book was published in 2002 but has lost nothing in the years since.
I found this a page turner that I couldn't put down. I had to continue my daily life so it took me almost three days to read it though I would have preferred one day! Michael Crichton gave us "The Andromeda Strain", "The Lost World - Jurassic Park", "Westworld" and more. If you've read any of his books you know the edge of the seat is where you'll be sitting till the book is finished.
But, back to "Prey". Though I quoted the opening lines of the book, the first chapter called "Home" introduces us to 'househusband' Jack Forman. He's the main character in the book and I liked him right from the start. After all he was in Crate & Barrel buying placemats! We meet his wife Julia when she calls him on the cell phone while he's shopping. Backgrounds are given on both characters as Jack goes home to get dinner ready for the kids.
Your instincts kick in and you know that something is going on that very same night when Julia comes home from work...tension between Jack and Julia over the kids. Jack tells us, "I started to have the feeling Julia had changed. She was different, somehow, tenser, tougher." You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know this is not a good sign and things could get pretty interesting...which they do. As it appears Julia has lost touch with her children and the tension between Jack and Julia continues to build.
Did I mention Jack was the lead team manager at a software company before being fired for uncovering a "software scandal" involving his boss?
Julia convinces Jack to watch her demo tape on Advanced Medical Imaging for her company Xymos Technology...its obvious she's trying to appease Jack. When Julia falls asleep and Jack notices the date on the video he realizes it was done the day before Julia said it was...cheating and lying? He starts thinking and wondering if she is having an affair. The two older children, Nicole and Eric, are mostly normal siblings, fighting all the time. Then there's the baby, Amanda. It seems Jack truly has his hands full but this is only the groundwork for what's to come.
Julia is involved in a car accident (with mystery swirling around it) and suddenly after months of trying to find a job (his old boss had him labeled as untrustworthy) his boss wants him to come to work for Julia's company and try to find out what's gone wrong with their program code. Seems Jack's old team is now working there and everyone believes Jack can solve the problem. While Jack can most likely solve the problem this is where the action begins. You see, Jack had developed code for his "PredPrey" ("Predator Prey") based on actual Predator and prey. A predator is an organism that eats another organism. Preys is the organism whih the predator eats.....starting to see things are going to go awry? Jack's code is the basis for the 'project' at Xymos.
Jack takes the job partly because he thinks it will help him find out if Julia is having an affair. The twists and turns on this subplot keep you guessing to the very end. The job, at Julia's facility is located in the Nevada desert in a very secure facility.
When Jack arrives he fins out he will be dealing with nanotechnology, genetic engineering and artificial intelligence...a combination which turns out to be more intelligent than anyone ever dreamed. Even though everyone is nice to Jack and his old workmate Ricky seems to be in charge at the plant, right from the beginning Jack feels things aren't quite right.
Of course the protagonist is never wrong and it turns out the nanobots are using swarm technology...something Jack is familiar with but...they appear to be shape-shifting nanobots who feed on human flesh...not something Jack or anyone else is familiar with. My storyline description ends here. I never want to give too much detail or ruin reading the book for someone who hasn't read it yet.
Once Jack's helicopter lands at the facility, the next twenty-four hours (amidst a load of technical, scientific jargon) are the real backbone of this book and Crichton takes the reader on a ride through suspense, danger, and suspicion until the last page.
I know this isn't everyone's cup of tea and I know the blend of modern technology and science with fiction can often get heavy and technical, but it is so worth following through. His descriptions of his characters and their everyday qualities help you to relate and root for them! Even Ellen (Jack's sister)...she's a minor character in the book but you meet her and understand her quickly.
Anyone who likes suspense and/or science fiction will enjoy this book. As I said, I know its not for everyone but those who like this genre will certainly like this book!
About Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton (sounds like 'frighten') was born October 23, 1942 and died on November 4, 2008. In addition to the list of books he wrote, Michael was the creator of the TV series "ER".
Crichton graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College, received his MD from Harvard Medical School, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, researching public policy with Jacob Bronowski. He taught courses in anthropology at Cambridge University and writing at MIT. Crichton's 2004 bestseller, State of Fear, acknowledged the world was growing warmer, but challenged extreme anthropogenic warming scenarios. He predicted future warming at 0.8 degrees C. (His conclusions have been widely misstated.)
Crichton's interest in computer modeling went back forty years. His multiple-discriminant analysis of Egyptian crania, carried out on an IBM 7090 computer at Harvard, was published in the Papers of the Peabody Museum in 1966. His technical publications included a study of host factors in pituitary chromophobe adenoma, in Metabolism, and an essay on medical obfuscation in the New England Journal of Medicine. (Michael Crichton The Official Site, About Michael Crichton, http://www.crichton-official.com/aboutmichaelcrichton-biography.html)
Read "Prey" the whole book online at http://www.harpercollins.com/browseinside/index.aspx?isbn13=9780061703089.
Read another hubber's tribute to Mihcael Crichton by Gypsy Willow at
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