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Jurassic Gnats

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Michael Crichton is a very talented storyteller. Unfortunately, he seems to be running out of stories to tell.

In his new book Prey, a company creates some micro-organisms that behave much like tiny insects. They are supposed to functions as cameras that can travel through the human body, helping doctors see medical ailments. Yet the technology backfires, and the “insects” turn on their creators.

Sound familiar? Crichton’s theme that humans are cavalier about the unintended consequences of technology dates back to his books The Andromeda Strain and The Terminal Man. He revisited it in works like Sphere, and Jurassic Park, and has now taken the same approach with nanotechnology in Prey. Crichton is beginning to sound like “Johnny One Note” (or is it “Johnny One Theme” in literature?) This might explain why Prey is not selling well.

Among the other problems with Prey is that Crichton continues his long habit of prognosticating. Prey is supposed to serve as a warning of the real-life dangers that lie ahead. Yet Crichton’s abilities as a prognosticator are, to put it kindly, lacking. (For what may arguably be his biggest disaster on this score, see the anti-Japanese screed Rising Sun.) While technology certainly has unforeseen consequences, it has produced nowhere near the horror scenarios Crichton envisions.

Apparently no one has informed Crichton that after thirty plus years of writing about technology disasters, his warnings ring hollow. Thus Prey ends with the lines:

They didn’t understand what they were doing.

I’m afraid that will be on the tombstone of humanity.

I hope it’s not.

We might get lucky.

On the very next page Crichton tells us “This novel is entirely fictitious, but the underlying research programs are real.” This is the lead for another Bibliography that the concerned reader can use to inform himself of the coming dangers. It comes off as ridiculous.

As I said earlier, Crichton is a very talented storyteller. Unfortunately his books are becoming formulaic and predictable. Hopefully, after the poor sales of Prey, someone at HarperCollins will insist to Crichton that he come up with original material.

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