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Micro review - Michael Crichton and Richard Preston

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TINY FIGHTERS Crichton envisions a battle between rice grain-sized men and insects in his second postmortem novel


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Michael Crichton, Richard Preston

We gave it a B-

Michael Crichton was a master of the what-if novel, bringing enough originality and ”Yeah, I can buy that” science to lift his novels above the airport-bookstore competition. Micro — the second novel to be published since his death in 2008 — was discovered unfinished along with 2009’s unfortunate jetsam Pirate Latitudes. The tale suffers from a hackneyed premise but also serves as an homage to what Crichton did best, even if he wrote only part of it.

Micro is essentially Jurassic Park on a smaller scale. ­Borrowing a concept trotted out by everyone from Richard Matheson to Rick Moranis, Crichton shrinks his characters down to the size of rice grains and has them battle for ­survival against not dinosaurs, but insects. Of course, the real villain is that perpetual troublemaker, scientific hubris, here in the form of an unscrupulous tech-company head. He uses his unstable shrinking technology — lent the veneer of credibility by repeated mentions of quantum physics and ”tensor fields” — to zap the people who know too much and leave them in the wilderness to die.

Richard Preston, whose own nonfiction science thriller The Hot Zone was a 1994 best-seller, penned two-thirds of Micro, and he has done a good job of concealing the seams. It feels fully like something Crichton would have written. Unfortunately, that also means the ­characters are underdeveloped, and the research can be ostentatious. Still, it’s a fitting final statement from the man who helped make airplane reads respectable, which itself is no small feat. B-