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Prey

A book by Michael Crichton

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The REAL Human Weakness

  • Jan 6, 2003
Rating:
+3
Crichton introduces his cautionary tale of technology run amok with a fairly dire summation of human shortsightedness. "The total system we call the biosphere is so complicated that we cannot know in advance the consequences of anything that we do." Add greed and arrogance to ignorance and technology and you have the basic ingredients for one of Crichton's page-turning plots. "Unfortunately, our species has demonstrated a striking lack of caution in the past. It is hard to imagine that we will behave differently in the future."

The story itself gets off to a liesurely start. A brief preface begins at the end - the kids sick, people dead, a world of scary uncertainty. The narrator, Jack Forman, reflects: "Sitting here in the dark, it's hard to believe that a week ago my biggest problem was finding a job. It seems almost laughable now." The novel then drops back to that week ago, to Forman's increasingly satisfying routine as a stay-at-home dad, refereeing arguments between his pre-teen daughter and son, changing the baby, getting everyone fed and clothed and ferried. Months before, Forman had lost his job as a computer programming manager as a result of trying to do the right thing - now he finds himself blackballed all over Silicon Valley.

But his wife, Julia, has a good job at Xymos, a nanotechnology company on the verge of a breakthrough. The company, she tells Jack, has had a stunning success. It has broken the nanotechnology manufacturing barrier and is producing a sub-microscopic camera, which can roam the human blood stream, with obviously spectacular medical implications. Crichton delivers a bit of technical data, explaining some of the stumbling blocks to successful nanotechnology, information delivered painlessly between Julia's increasingly irritable moods, and Jack's growing conviction that there's more than workaday tension behind her erratic behavior. He suspects an affair.

But before he can confront Julia, their baby daughter breaks out in a mysterious, painful, posibly life-threatening rash, which baffles the emergency-room doctors and then disappears as suddenly as it arrived. The pace begins to pick up. Strange events - a broken MP-3 player, out of place items in the baby's room, sightings of imaginary people - charge the atmosphere as Julia grows ever more hard and beautiful.

Then Jack is called in to consult at Xymos. Apparently it's one of his artificial intelligence programs, PREDPREY, "a goal-seeking program based on predator/prey dynamics" that Xymos is using to control their real nanotech project - self-guiding micro-cameras for the military - and they are having problems keeping the goal steady. Jack is uncertain, but after his wife has a car accident, he takes the job. Now the pace goes into overdrive.

There's been contamination, leakage from the plant resulting in some dead animals. The project manager, an old protégé of Jack's, is evasive, even deliberately misleading. But it's not giving anything away (the jacket copy does that) to say that the project itself has escaped human control and is evolving rapidly, according to the basic parameters of its predator/prey programming, but with lots of rapid and unforseen innovations. Humans have become the prey.

Can Jack stop the proliferating nano-clouds before they change the world?

Crichton ("Jurassic Park," "Congo," "The Terminal Man")mixes in the science effortlessly, giving his readers some fairly complex lessons without slowing the action. He's less successful with characters, though, and it's hard to believe Jack's motivations at times - refusing the consulting job, despite his suspicions and then abruptly taking it after his wife's accident - yes, there was an odd van that showed up at the scene and yes, maybe there was someone else in the car, but his wife's condition is critical and what about the kids? There are worse crimes though - Jack, the seasoned project manager, heading out on a mission of extreme danger and not bothering to organize the equipment they will need or even make sure someone else has done it. But these are minor quibbles and nothing you won't find in any Crichton novel. Crichton's strength is ideas and action and there's plenty of both in this one.

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More Prey reviews
review by . November 12, 2010
I have had little success with popular thriller writers.   Clive Cussler's writing is comically inept (but not enough to make me read a second title), and Dan Brown's DaVinci Code is passable but tepid and hardly worth a followup.  This Michael Crichton came highly praised for its technical topic, as his books always are, and since I hadn't read any of them, I thought to try it.      Well, it is better than Cussler, faint enough praise, and about on …
review by . August 19, 2010
   Prey is science fiction in a much more pure form than what most science fiction writers put out. Michael Crichton was always brilliant about that. He did the same thing for Dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, and for many other subjects in his books. Crichton takes a real idea with real science behind it and takes it to the logical (extreme) conclusions. What would be the logical conclusion (taken to the extreme) if we figured out how to get Dinosaur DNA and started cloning them? What would …
review by . April 15, 2008
Pros: Exciting, freakish, well-researched and well-constructed novel     Cons: Some things I think Jack should have figured out (because I did before him)     The Bottom Line: The scary part is that this is something that could happen sometime in the future...     Jack Forman is unemployed. Bummer. He used to be in charge of creating computer programs that are based on animal behaviors, this way the programs can run on their own and still …
review by . May 31, 2005
As per usual, Michael Crichton takes a top that he is currently interested in (nanotechnology in this case) and weaves an entertaining story around this central theme. Better than Crichton's last book (Timeline), I quickly got through this story and wasn't disappointed in the slightest bit.    For all Michael Crichton fans I would recommend "Prey" and I think you would find it a good, albeit light read. If for nothing else, Crichton's meticulous research into the field of nanotechnology …
review by . September 20, 2004
A repeated theme in Michael Crichton's "Prey" goes something like this: "Things never turn out the way you think they will." I find myself wishing that this were true of the novel itself. "Prey" is a novel that only Michael Crichton could have written, and that comes with both the good and the bad.    Crichton's plot, timing, and his ability to keep a story clipping along at a brisk pace are all in evidence here. Michael Crichton books are sometimes better than others, but he …
review by . June 10, 2004
Crichton does an excellent job of writing a heart-pounding high tech thriller! This is a story of nano-technology gone out of control. Those familiar with Ben Bova's tales (Venus, The Asteroid War series, etc.) would know the concept of nano or microscopic computer technology going in. In both cases the potential is there for both good results and total disaster. It is scary because science is probably trying very hard to perfect this technology and the way things seem to be designed today; the …
review by . March 05, 2004
Remember the plot of Jurassic Park? The well meaning scientists, the crazed mercenaries, the bewildered civilians and the villians---tons of ready-made living dinosaur meat cultivated from Jurassic era DNA? All this made for a good story and a fully blown cinematic spectacle when the creatures were brought to life on the big screen.     That's pretty much the tale of Prey---instead of dinosaurs, the menace consists of a "swarm" of nano-sized computers created by a Silcon Valley …
review by . February 09, 2004
Michael Crichton has produced another high-tech page-turner that will hold your interest to the very end. You might call it Andromeda Strain meets Jurassic Park since the human-engineered malevolence is at the microscopic level in the form of nanoparticle-sized machines that have escaped from their laboratory and begun reproducing at an alarming rate.The narrator of this adventure, Jack Forman is an expert in distributed programming. Only now his career has been interrupted by some Silicon Valley …
review by . January 05, 2004
A hallmark of Michael Crichton's work over the years has been the issue of technology with unintended consequences thanks to human error. We are not as smart as we think we are, in short. From his first book, "Andromeda Strain" (which later became a movie of the same name) his literary vision has been of forefront technology coupled with human error bringing about unintended and often disastrous results. In "Andromeda Strain," the spacecraft brings to earth space microbes that grow and kill. A concern …
review by . January 29, 2003
this was highly intersting and suspenceful. Jack is a lovable character, and one roots for him, through this weird ordeal he got himself into. The enemy is hard to evade, since it can be invisible, unless it forms into a big black swarm. It's kinda like the 1986 Chernobly accident, the invisible radioactive rays that killed so many people. The silent and invisible enemy! You think it's not there, untill you see what happens to ya! awesome book, one of Crichtons bests!
About the reviewer
Lynn Harnett ()
Ranked #183
I love to read, always have, and have been writing reviews for more years than I care to say. Early on, i realized there are more books than there is time to read, so I read only books I like and mostly … more
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About this book

Wiki

InPrey, bestselling author Michael Crichton introduces bad guys that are too small to be seen with the naked eye but no less deadly or intriguing than the runaway dinosaurs that made 1990'sJurassic Parksuch a blockbuster success.

High-tech whistle-blower Jack Forman used to specialize in programming computers to solve problems by mimicking the behavior of efficient wild animals--swarming bees or hunting hyena packs, for example. Now he's unemployed and is finally starting to enjoy his new role as stay-at-home dad. All would be domestic bliss if it were not for Jack's suspicions that his wife, who's been behaving strangely and working long hours at the top-secret research labs of Xymos Technology, is having an affair. When he's called in to help with her hush-hush project, it seems like the perfect opportunity to see what his wife's been doing, but Jack quickly finds there's a lot more going on in the lab than an illicit affair. Within hours of his arrival at the remote testing center, Jack discovers his wife's firm has created self-replicating nanotechnology--a literal swarm of microscopic machines. Originally meant to serve as a military eye in the sky, the swarm has now escaped into the environment and is seemingly intent on killing the scientists trapped in the facility. The reader realizes early, however, that Jack, his wife, and fellow scientists have more to fear from the hidden dangers within the lab than from the predators without.

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Details

ISBN-10: 978-0066214122
ISBN-13: 0066214122
Author: Michael Crichton
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Harperaudio
Date Published: November 01, 2002
First to Review

"The REAL Human Weakness"
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