Worth the read, fall ‘Prey’ to Crichton’s new work

Ted Pigeon

Over the past 30 years, author Michael Crichton has consistently released novels that have reached number one on the New York Times Bestseller list — “Andromeda Strain,” “Congo,” “Jurassic Park,” “Disclosure,” “Airframe” and “Timeline,” to name a few.

Known for science-based fiction and unique talent to build suspense, Crichton has established himself as one of the most successful writers in history — and deservedly so. His most recent novel, “Prey,” is an exceptionally well-told and compelling story that is testimony to the author’s outstanding storytelling ability.

The basis of the story involves the ever-growing field of nanotechnology, a realm in science that involves man-made machinery of extremely small size undetectable to the naked eye. In the near future, as Crichton explains in the introduction, this new technology will be used in treating diseases such as cancer and will also provide new weapons in war. The possibilities are endless for this relatively new discovery that will likely have an enormous influence in the future of technology. It is with all of this information that Crichton is able to launch his narrative, which in short is about a mechanical plague and a group of scientists’ desperate attempts to stop it.

The book is told from the perspective of the Jack Forman, a househusband scientist between jobs with too much time on his hands. While he is spending his time looking after the house and kids, his wife Julia (also a scientist) is at work day and night. Her company is on the verge of breaking new ground in the realm of nanotechnology and as one of the leading researchers, she must work an exorbitant amount.

Jack is convinced that she’s cheating on him, and the novel deals with these thoughts of his for a good while as his suspicion grows and his wife’s activities become more mysterious. This is a brilliant tactic that Crichton uses to slowly unveil where the story is going.

The story develops and before he knows it, Jack is at a fabrication plant in the Nevada desert with the task of fixing an experiment that has gone horribly wrong. He and a team of scientists must stop a cloud of nanoparticles that has escaped from the facility.

The particles travel together as a “swarm” that has intelligence, is self-reproductive and learns from experience. By all reasonable accounts the swarm is alive, and Jack and his team have to find a way to stop this predator.

Crichton’s storytelling is flawless; he pushes all the right buttons at all the right times, delivering one thrill after another with a heightened sense of danger.

The scientific details are explained in terms that anyone can understand and are employed during the times of rest. Instead of diverting attention away from the story, these moments of reflections increase interest and add depth to the overall narrative not only due to their informational value, but also because of how they balance out the events of the story.

In terms of plot, several different styles of storytelling are used to unfold the tale and further develop it. It has the atmosphere of a mystery in the first half and the action of a suspense-thriller in the second half, as well as an interesting first-person perspective throughout.

With the exception of Jack’s character, none of the characters seem developed. But in this particular genre, character development isn’t crucial as long as the characters can function, which in this case they do.

Regarding the action, much of Crichton’s earlier work resonates strongly and there are a handful of creatively-written sequences that will have any reader squirming in their seat and anxious with anticipation.

“Prey” is a novel that paradoxically accomplishes two things — it functions as pure escapist entertainment and it also provides plenty of interesting ideas that send the mind racing. And it all seems so effortless.

Crichton has proven once again that he can tell an absorbing, thrilling and even thought-provoking story, which is nothing new since he has done precisely that time after time. But what makes his work so unique is that it has variety, since he always writes about something different and interesting, even if it much of it is in one particular genre.

“Prey” is obviously no exception. It is ceaselessly engaging not only because the story is so well told, but also because the story is fresh and original in the first place. While some people would consider Michael Crichton confined by a genre, he can better be considered as transcending a genre. His unparalled dedication to creating brilliantly entertaining novels, never cease to amaze us.