By Michael Crichton and Richard Preston
Harper, reprint edition September, 2012 ($9.99)
Reviewed by Larry Jung
What kind of book/story is MICRO?
MICRO is in the tradition of the science fiction adventure story. There is perverted science in the form of a shrinking device that miniaturizes anything, including humans. Human beings are reduced to barely ½ inches tall. Vin Drake, an evil business man, murders two of his colleagues to keep secret this device in order to make a fortune. Unfortunately seven graduate students learn that Vin Drake murdered the brother of one of the graduate students shortly before they arrive on a recruitment trip to work for Nanigen MicroTechnologies, Drake's company.
Drake tricks the students into getting shrunk to micro size. His scheme is to "lose" the miniature students in the lush Hawaiian landscape where they will perish in the micro world where insects are the dominant species. The students must use their knowledge of the insect world to survive and fight back. Along the way, they fashion poison blow-darts from blades of grass and a harpoon out of an ordinary straight pin. It is a deadly world. Each species of insect has evolved their own defensive mechanisms and killing weapons.
The students get some practical lessons on how the now giant insects kill with poison tipped fangs or rip their prey apart with vicious mandibles. The insect world is filled with scents: to attract, to repel, and to kill. The students must quickly learn how to read the scents in the air and the vibrations of the ground if they are to survive. In this micro world, nature is merciless. One of the students remarks that nature doesn't care. Each species is both predator and victim. The tragedy of an individual's death has no meaning in the insect world. But the students have three things that may be enough for survival: teamwork, detailed knowledge of insects and their environment, and the ability to use tools.
While reading MICRO, the movies FANTASTIC VOYAGE (1966), THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957), DR. CYCLOPS (1940), ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE (1958), THEM (1954), and of course TARANTULA (1955) came to mind. This isn't necessarily bad when done by Michael Crichton and Robert Preston. They are able to take the reader into a bizarre and alien world that is truly frightening because it actually exists. Doing what Crichton does best, he blends real biology and science with an exciting adventure story. Don't get me wrong: this is no JURASSIC PARK or ANDROMEDA STRAIN. The characters are pretty much cliché for this genre. The bad guy Drake laughs as he shrinks the students. There is a cynical student, a woe-is-me student, a no-nonsense student, as well as the hero student. There is a plodding police detective. There are also the ubiquitous ex-soldiers-turned-security-guards as bad guys who are hunting the students. Crichton and Preston echo the B grade science fiction movies of the 50s and 60s when they have one of the students lament that Americans awaken technological demons they can't control, yet they seem to enjoy the power and the profits. If we didn't have atomic bombs, there would never be 60 foot ants or giant spiders or the incredible shrinking man. But second-rate Crichton is still a good read for commuting to work on the train or waiting at the doctor's office.
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