The Before and After of Michael Crichton
December 5, 2012
Seamless. I could not distinguish Crichton’s writing from that of his successor-writer, Richard Preston. Crichton scholars can argue all day long about how Micro stands up against his previous work. It doesn’t matter to me. This story kept me turning pages. I zipped through over 400 pages in just a few hours. Some writers work from a detailed outline written in advance. Some writers write both the first and last paragraphs or chapters at the outset. Writing habits and conventions are as numerous as there are writers. I’m not familiar with Crichton’s work habits — other than I read once that he worked for hours at a time in seclusion with lots of coffee available.
Supposedly, Preston was selected and agreed upon by both Crichton’s heirs and his publishing house, HarperCollins. If Crichton did not leave detailed notes or outline, Preston carried on with an obviously intimate awareness of and effective emulation of Crichton’s plotting and story lines.
Some readers may have had a problem with the science in Jurassic Park. It made sense to me. In fact, every novel that Crichton wrote that involved a projection of current science made sense. Seemingly impossible events happening at a breakneck pace create what some would consider absurd. One of his famous peers agreed.
If a prophet could describe the future exactly as it was going to take place, his predictions would sound so absurd, so far-fetched, that everybody would laugh him to scorn. – Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The science in Micro involves miniaturization. Late in the first quarter of the book, the authors spend less than ten pages on the science and expect the reader to suspend disbelief from that point on. Get into the groove, follow the logic, and it’s easy, especially for Crichton’s regular readers. Baby boomers will identify with Fantastic Voyage and younger readers will connect with Inner Space.
Once engaged in the unknown (and largely unexplored) world of the micro – as opposed to the Jurassic — era, readers follow the adventures of seven graduate students forced to use their knowledge and individual skills to survive in a natural environment made alien by its size. Survival in this world is not much different than that found in Jurassic Park. Machines that are reminiscent of the nanotechnology of Prey (Crichton’s 2002 novel) become significant characters in a story where humans become pawns in a technological venue run amok.
Crichton revisits a theme introduced in previous works (especially State of Fear) in which the human protagonists are overwhelmed by a phenomenon they not only thought they knew, but one they falsely assumed they could control – nature.
In the introduction, Crichton brings up one of his favorite examples, our failures at wildlife management. The experiences of the characters in Micro show us again that we have little control over our environment. Micro features a bibliography to support the technical details of the life in the unseen world. Only one reference is given to non-biological data. Funding for research is discussed in the novel and referenced HERE.
Interacting with the natural world, we are denied certainty. And always will be. – Michael Crichton
Micro was released on November 22, 2011. Must reading for Crichton fans and a great introduction for those not familiar with his work.