Prey by Michael Crichton
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Let me start out by saying I'm a huge fan of Michael Crichton. His books Jurassic Park and Andromeda Strain are classics. That said, his other work is hit and miss. He tended to work in a formula which didn't always gel: group of people trapped in a building with something scary. Jurassic Park was a hit. Prey is definitely a miss for me.
Despite claims on the cover and the description, this book is not really about nanotechnology. It's about killer dust. The premise is that a computer programmer discovers his wife has been leading a team to create microscopic robots, and the robots have escaped from the lab and become self-aware. When he goes to his wife's lab, he and the other scientists become trapped inside.
For most of the book, the robots take the form of swarms of dust that attack. Not really a realistic representation of nanotechnology. I would compare it to Verne's book on space travel, a book written about a technology that doesn't exist so is horribly misunderstood.
The killer dust is also really stupid as an enemy. To see a group of adult cowering in fear from piles of dust just didn't do it for me. Sometimes, they do get trapped with it and "Oh no, it's in my eyes! It's in my nose! Okay, I took a shower and I'm fine now."
The opening of the book had some wonderful character development. One of the biggest criticisms Crichton got is his weak characters. I thought he did a great job building a story around the main character, unemployed house husband. Unfortunately, it all gets thrown away once the hero gets locked up in a lab, hiding from the killer dust.
Towards the end, the killer dust becomes more interesting with a nest and pretending to be people, but I wish it had been that way from the start. And I also thought it was all pretty outlandish, nothing like what scientists now believe nanotechnology will become. Some nice moments, but overall a disappointment.
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