[By Nic Lindh on Thursday, 20 November 2003]
Michael Crichton is an 800-pound gorilla, and as I’d never read any of his other books, I figured I’d give Prey a whirl. Mr. Crichton is a consummate craftsman of the page-turner: the plotting and pacing are great, and the action scenes are exquisitely put together.
The main problem with Prey is that it isn’t a novel–it’s a movie script masquerading as a novel. Some of the ways the characters think and interact are of the kind that will work in a movie, where you don’t have time to really think too much about what’s going on, but feels a bit off in a novel where you have the luxury of re-reading passages and putting the book down to think about what you just read. A lot of times I wanted to smack the protagonist upside the head and yell, “Hello! Do you need more clues? Pay attention!”
Basically the bugaboo in Prey is a bunch of nanobots (very very tiny little robots) that have gone amok and evolved in scary and lethal directions. The cause of the nanobots’ frightful evolution is that arrogant scientists and business people have encouraged them. The bastards. So it’s up to our hero Jack Forman to set things right.
Perhaps I’m just a bit dense, but the whole concept of the swarms of nanobots being these ominous black swirling clouds kind of struck me as weird. I thought the idea with nanobots is that they’re too small to be seen with the naked eye? And if they’re hunting people, shouldn’t they separate enough that they are invisible instead of spending a lot of effort ganging up close enough that they become visible? Oh, well.
Mr. Crichton does his homework, and there’s enough plausible-sounding science in Prey to cause a frisson of “it could happen,” but in the end it’s probably better to wait for the movie.