by Michael Crichton & Richard Preston
I was, and am, a huge fan of Michael Crichton's work. I never had very high expectations for this final novel, but that's no reflection on the choice of Richard Preston to complete the work. In any case, for better or worse, Micro lived up to my tempered expectations.
Like several of Crichton's earlier novels, Micro has a high concept hook. Most nanotech companies fabricate on a nano scale, but Nanigen MicroTechnologies has developed revolutionary shrinking technology. Not only can they reduce machines and robots, they can reduce living beings and then return them to full size. I won't get into all the details of the novel's set-up, but seven graduate students learn about this technology the hard way once they become a threat to Nanigen's president. Seven against one is much easier to manage when the seven (and one unlucky Nanigen employee) are half an inch tall. Before they can be dispatched quickly, however, the students escape into Hawaii's verdant "micro world."
Crichton is great about translating the wonder of science. His amazing shrinking technology won't send me running to the textbooks this time around, but there's still plenty of gee whiz science to be enjoyed in Micro's pages. More than that, he effectively shows the beauty as well as the horror of the situation his characters are in. As for the horror, I have to admit that I found it especially disturbing this time out. I have no special fear of dinosaurs, but I am absolutely phobic about spiders and insects. There are scenes that I definitely could have done without reading, and if this is an issue for you as well, be forewarned.
Preston appears to have done a good job finishing what Crichton left behind. There is no feeling that this is the work of another author. Still, I do find myself wondering how the novel would have differed had Crichton written it all. Alas, we'll never know. If you're a hard-core Crichton fan like me, by all means read this novel. Just don't expect this final work to be the man's masterpiece. And even if you're not a hard-core fan, if the premise sounds fun to you, you could do a lot worse for airplane reading.