Micro review - Michael Crichton and Richard Preston
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-