..'Prey' was completely outstanding. It is
carved in Crichton's trademark style of taking an emerging technology and
showing how it can run amuck in the wild. This time around he takes three
emerging technologies - genetics, distributed intelligence and nanotechnology
and brews up a terrifying tale of science gone well awry. One criticism often
levelled at Crichton's door has always been with regard to his characterisation
playing second fiddle to his plot. With 'Prey' the plot is so inventive and
'out-there' that no character could compete. Having said that, I must add that
this first-person narrative has very interesting protagonists, with probably
his most well painted landscape yet.
The story starts off in a most straight-forward manner, where software guru
Jack is living the life of a house-husband after being fired from a shady
Silicon Valley firm. He suspects that his wife Julia (a high-powered computer
executive) is having an affair. She is spending more and more time at her
firm's (Xymos Corporation) experimental fabrication plant in the barren desert
of Nevada. Xymos are having a few problems with its prototype nano-device and
so Jack is hired to investigate.
The narrative is loaded with technical details on the three technologies, among
others and this makes for a very enjoyable and plausible read, if you like
techno-thrillers. Crichton then pits man against the swarm of nano-particles in
a time-constrained thriller, which caused me two conflicts. Firstly, I wanted
to zip through the pages like a madman to reach the conclusion, but at the same
time I wanted to read slowly to absorb the concepts that 'Prey' outlined. The
novel reminded me of three books I had read as an adolescent. It shares a great
deal with Crichton's own 'The Andromeda Strain' in term of plot and Jack
Finney's 'Invasion of the body snatchers' in terms of its paranoia. It also
reminded me subliminally of Frank Herbert's little known masterpiece 'The green
brain' with its understanding of 'hive-minds' and distributed intelligence.
It is however, totally it's own book, and for me, I'll never look at a Nikon
Catalogue in the same way again. Highly recommended and big on ideas as well as
one of the fastest evolving plots I have ever read. It has a high scare factor.
The scenes in the desert are worth the cover price alone.
Worth $30 m ? - Judge for yourself as everyone's going to be talking about this
book over Xmas.