March 9, 2003
After dinos, it’s the nanos’ turn to thrill
by Michael Crichton. Harper Collins.
Pages 367. Rs. 195.
are deadlines and then there are deadlines. And while reviewing
Michael Crichton’s books, they tend to fall in the latter
category. After all, you have to make sure the book review comes out
before the movie review does! Already topping the bestsellers
charts, it is only a matter of time before Crichton’s latest
thriller Prey tops the box office charts in its movie avatar,
If you are a Michael
Crichton fan, Prey might disappoint somewhat, particularly if
you are expecting the non-stop, and almost believable, thrill of Jurassic
Park. Which is ironic, really, because dinosaurs, as we all
know, are history and will never roam the earth again, while
nanoparticles, the tiny microscopic robots whose ‘escape’ from a
research lab in the Nevada desert gives the plot its drama, are
actually being developed in labs in the USA. Science fiction closely
rubs shoulders with non-fiction here, and as the story of one
harrowing week in Jack Forman’s life unfolds, one can only be
thankful that there is still less of science and more of fiction in
the events narrated.
The suspense holds
till half way through the story after which Crichton just simply
gives up all attempt at holding the narrative together and the
proceedings careen out of control. A promising beginning is let down
by a flat-as-Coke-without-fizz climax. Jack, lately househusband and
stay-at-home dad to his three children and formerly team manager
with MediaTronics who loses his job, notices wife Julia looking and
acting strange, and suspects infidelity to be the reason. Julia,
Vice-President at Xymos Technology, a firm engaged in research in
nanotechnology, is, indeed, acting strange. Infidelity, at least in
the sense you and I understand the term and not in its technically
advanced version— yes, there is a difference between the two —
is not really to blame. And Julia’s behaviour isn’t the only
thing strange. Infant Amanda, the youngest of the Forman children,
develops a mysterious rash, which just as mysteriously disappears.
Her older brother Eric claims to have been woken up by a
"ghost" vacuum-cleaning the apartment.