Book Review : Micro by Michael Crichton

Book Cover

Book Cover

I’m a little wary of dead authors. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’ve ever been haunted by any of them. It’s because of this thing that the publishers do nowadays : getting other people to continue writing stories whose original authors have died. These books are almost inevitably disappointments. But people still buy them. Sometimes out of curiosity or loyalty. Sometimes being fooled by the name of original author emblazoned on the cover. For example, I was a victim of this ruse : Alistair Maclean‘s Air Force One Is Down by John Denis. And don’t even get me started on Robert Ludlum‘s The Bourne Whatever-s by Eric Van Lustbader. i doubt if poor Ludlum’s soul will ever rest in peace.

American author and speaker Michael Crichton s...

American author and speaker Michael Crichton speaking at Harvard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The point of this rather lengthy introduction, is to give you an idea of the dilemma I was in at the bookstore last week when the guy there gave me Michael Crichton’s Micro. I was barely out of school when I had read “Congo” for the first time, and I have been a fan of Michael Crichton ever since. Except his very early novels which I couldn’t find anywhere (the ones he wrote under the pen-name of John Lange or Michael Douglas), I’ve read just about everything he ever wrote, and I’ve loved most of it. So I spent quite a few minutes fidgeting with the book until loyalty won over caution. Also, the summary on the back cover did seem interesting.

I finished the 659 page book in two nights. It’s a terrifying blend of nature and technology, and it rocks! Time and again while reading the book I was reminded of the vintage Crichton masterpieces like Sphere and Jurassic Park. The story goes like this : A company called Nanigen has developed the technology the change the dimensions of both living organisms and non-living objects using very strong magnetic fields. They invite a few graduate students for a field demonstration and recruitment to their bio-preserve in Hawaii. Pete Jansen, one of the students is reluctant at first. However, after a cryptic message from his brother who worked for the company and died under mysterious circumstances, Peter decides to go to the company labs and investigate.

The students eventually end up being shrunk to about a centimeter tall versions of themselves, and find themselves stranded in the rainforest. What follows is a race against time and a running battle of survival with nature, with near impossible odds. It’s here that the plot turns genuinely scary. The author produces a terrifying view of the rainforest that is completely unknown to any of us. The research that has gone into the novel is both astonishing and extensive. The astonishing variety of dangers that a tiny human being would face in such an environment is hard to accept, and yet, the book never fails to convince you. The things that we never pay attention to in our normal lives, like an apparently harmless beetle or a mosquito, Micro shows how a simple change of scale can turn them into predators far more menacing than any shark or wolf that you see on Animal Planet. Throughout the book, it’s this theme that stands out : how amazing and varied a world lives within an inch of the ground, unknown to us, and how a man’s chances of survival in that world range from slim to none. Added to that are the fascinating and equally dangerous micro-bots or miniature robots manufactured and operated by Nanigen.

I’m not telling you any more of the story. Believe me, if you are a science fiction lover, you should at least give it a shot. As for the dead author issue that I mentioned at the outset, you have nothing to fear. It is said that Crichton was well into Micro when he passed away. Richard Preston, the guy who was selected to finish the book, has done his job well. You’ll hardly get the “this-is-not-Crichton” feeling, even if you’re a fan.

One last thing about the book : once you’ve read it, you’d probably look at wasps and birds and caterpillars with a new-found respect. How is that?

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7 thoughts on “Book Review : Micro by Michael Crichton

  1. Pingback: Aliens, Michael Crichton, and Faster Than Light | Trutherator's Weblog

  2. Good review. I LOVED Micro. SOOOOO much fun! And so deadly. The seeming hero is just about the 1st to go–Crichton let’s us know early on that no one is safe.
    God I miss this guy!! Has America ever produced a better novelist? As you say, posthumous stuff can be sketchy, put Crichton’s post mortis works have been positively fabulous. Did you read Pirate Latitudes? Maritime ecstasy! Next is great also, and as far as I’m concerned State of Fear is the most important novel since Orwell’s 1984.
    My favorite author. We’ll not see his like again.

    • Hi Joe,
      It’s kinda stupid responding to a comment 16 days after it has been posted, but I hope you’ll forgive the delay. Thank you for stopping by. I would agree with you on State of Fear. That opened my eyes to a lot if things. As for Pirate Latitudes, I have this small objection against Krakens and such stuff. Not very Crichton-like in my opinion. Having said that, yes, I still loved the story. Merry Christmas to you!

      • You Clever Dog You: Delighted with your response, not really tardy anyway. Regarding the kraken, I think the reader is expected to “re-normalize the model” with what we know today (giant squids are real, etc.) and what the impressions and expectations of contemporaneous sailors were. But when I really knew I loved *P. Latitudes* was when he gets back to Port Royal and the entire political scene is upended, and he must stand trial. Crichton’s best courtroom stuff since *The Great Train Robbery*!

        And a Happy New Year to you, Dog! Joe Guiney

      • PS It may be of possible interest to you that I’m a publisher http://www.intermittentpublications.com And our current work-in-progress is going to be a book which is being authored by a dog: *Cur Vitae; The Collected Writings of Talrich deYorkshire.* Attached is a recent picture of the author.

        Regards, JG

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