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Prey by Michael Crichton


Rating: (Recommended)


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Mechanical Plague

Michael Crichton’s imagination far surpasses his writing skills, but readers are usually willing to cut him some slack as they enter into the worlds he creates, and become engaged in the plot. Crichton’s latest offering, Prey, continues his tradition of weak dialogue and sub-par writing, but a solid plot and scary story. Under Crichton’s watchful eye, genetic engineering, computer programming and nanotechnology merge, leading to mishap that could become disaster. The merger of real research programs and Michael Crichton’s imagination produce a recipe for a tale to illuminate and frighten readers.

Here’s an excerpt of what to expect in terms of dialogue, ideas, plot and momentum (pp. 176-7):

"And the PREDPREY program means they can solve problems. And the program generates enough random elements to let them innovate."

"Right. Yes."

My head throbbed. I was seeing all the implications, now, and they weren't good.

"So," I said, "what you're telling me is this swarm reproduces, is self-sustaining, learns from experience, has collective intelligence, and can innovate to solve problems."


"Which means for all practical purposes, it's alive."

"Yes." David nodded. "At least, it behaves as if it is alive. Functionally it's alive, Jack."

I said, "This is very fucking bad news."

Brooks said, "Tell me."

"I'd like to know," I said, "why this thing wasn't destroyed a long time ago.

David said nothing. He just smoothed his tie, and looked uncomfortable.

"Because you realize," I said, "that you're talking about a mechanical plague. That's what you've got here. It's just like a bacterial plague, or a viral plague. Except it's mechanical organisms. You've got a fucking man-made plague."

He nodded. "Yes."

"That's evolving."


"And it's not limited by biological rates of evolution. It's probably evolving much faster."

He nodded. "It is evolving faster."

"How much faster, David?"

Brooks sighed. "Pretty damn fast. It'll be different this afternoon, when it comes back."

"Will it come back?"

"It always does."

"And why does it come back?" I said.

"It's trying to get inside."

"And why is that?"

David shifted uncomfortably. "We have only theories, Jack."

“Try me.”

"One possibility is that it's a territorial thing. As you know, the original PREDPREY code includes a concept of a range, of a territory in which the predators will roam. And within that core range, it defines a sort of home base, which the swarm may consider to be the inside of this facility."

I said, "You believe that?"

"Not really, no." He hesitated. "Actually," he said, "most of us think that it comes back looking for your wife, Jack. It's looking for Julia."

If you’re prepared for what Crichton has to offer, Prey will be an enjoyable book to read. If you wince at bad writing, take a pass, or read it quickly.

Steve Hopkins, January 7, 2003


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The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the February 2003 issue of Executive Times

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