Saturday, October 02, 2004

Prey for mercy

I'm just about finished reading Michael Crichton's Prey, a tale of nanotechnology gone mad (I bought the book yesterday). As is true with Dan Brown, Crichton relies on a stock formula for his novels. Unlike Brown, however, Crichton's research is a bit more solid and his characters, while still relatively flat, are more dimensional than Brown's are. It's been a while since I dug into a Crichton book; I'd forgotten how depressing his stories can be, given the apocalyptic scenarios they usually portray.

Prey is written as a first-person narrative. It reminds me of Stephen King's science fiction short story, "The End of the Whole Mess," in Nightmares and Dreamscapes. Prey's premise is that, somewhere out in the Nevada desert, a nanotech plant has created a new strain of nanite that attacks living things (and, apparently, memory chips) in swarms. People die gross deaths. The nanite swarms get exponentially smarter as hours pass. They can even shape their nanocloud to look like people. We learn a lot about swarming behavior and artificial intelligence along the way; pretty damn cool for what is essentially a cyber-rehash of Jurassic Park. Crichton's formulaic, but he's Old School compared to Brown, so maybe that's why I'm enjoying this thriller more than The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.

I'll be finished in another couple of hours, once I get home, order a pizza, and settle down to read the climax. Ball-scratching fun for the whole family.


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