Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston

It seems as if I've been reading Crichton's books as long as I've been around, sometimes. I was wondering to myself just how old he is, and whether he's still alive or not, as I began this book, and was saddened to see that he died in 2008, while in the middle of writing Micro, and the book was finished by Preston.

In Hawaii, a private investigator and the men who hired him are mysteriously murdered in a locked room, apparently stabbed to death, after he breaks into a facility owned by Nanigen, a research company investigating pharmaceutical prospects of biological compounds, using a new sort of nanotechnology. The police are stumped, and there's nothing tying the men's deaths back to Nanigen, so the investigation goes nowhere.

Meanwhile, a group of grad students doing research at Cambridge is approached by the brother, Eric, of one of the students, Peter Jansen, with a proposal to fly to Hawaii all expenses paid for a recruitment pitch by Nanigen's CEO, Vin Drake. The night before they depart, Peter receives a cryptic text message from his brother telling him not to come, and when he arrives in Hawaii he finds that his brother is missing, presumed dead, after a boating accident.

After the police show him a video taken by picnickers in the area of his brother's leap into the sea, Peter becomes suspicious of Nanigen's CFO, Alyson Bender and Drake, and resolves to confront them about their involvement in Eric's death. Things go horribly awry when he does, though, and he and his friends are all subjected to a process which shrinks them to about a half-inch in size, and then stranded in the Hawaiian rain forest, trying to make their way back to the Nanigen facility so that they can be un-shrunk.

Was it Asimov that wrote Fantastic Voyage? This is not quite as extreme - they're not inside the human body, but the concept is pretty much the same.

The students have to make their way across very hostile territory, where all of the insects and arachnids are at least their size, and where even the smaller creatures, such as nematodes, mites, and worms, can be very unsettling. The entire time they're trying to get back to Nanigen, Drake and his minions are trying to kill them, so they won't reveal the company's dark secrets.

Judging by the bibliography at the end of the book, it was extremely well researched, as far as its attention to details of biology and the behavior of all of the creatures the students encounter. The shrinking machine and some of the nanotech on display require us to willingly suspend our disbelief to get into the swing of the story, but some of the nanotech may not be too far away. I'm definitely going to have to put some of these books on my TBR list.

Nothing wrong with the addition of Preston as co-writer, he did a superb job of finishing in the usual Crichton style. I am going to miss him, though.

1 comment:

Bob (Beauty in Ruins) said...

Good to hear! I've seen so many negative reviews of Pirate Latitudes, I've been leery of another posthumous effort, but the addition of Preston as an acknowledged coauthor definite has had me curious. Might have to give this one a bit more priority in the TBR pile.