Ask any writer if, after their passing, they would mind someone digging up their unfinished works, handing them to another author, and mass producing the result with their name on the front, and you’ll likely be met with a look of horror and possibly an audible note-to-self to password-protect their computer. So you can imagine the world’s surprise when, having passed on in 2008, Michael Crichton seemed to have penned a new book called ‘Micro’ in 2011? While it was nice to have one last hurrah with the science-fiction great we’ve loved for so long, perhaps some things go unpublished for a reason.
Humorously summarized as “Honey, I Shrunk the Jurassic Park,” ‘Micro’ follows a handful of Cambridge scientists invited away from their research by one scientist’s brother to work for his nanotechnology corporation in Hawaii. When the scientist’s brother mysteriously goes missing the day before they’re set to arrive, the scientists quickly march on the scene in Hawaii with suspicion instead of eagerness and, in a confrontation with the company’s evil founder, are shrunk down smaller than an ant, scooped up, and, through a convoluted series of events, are released into the unforgiving jungle. You know, because shrinking your enemies to microscopic heights instead of just shooting them is much less of a hassle.
Now fighting for their lives with the poisonous flora and gigantic fauna, the scientists must use their specified areas of research to survive and make their way to safety. The essence of Crichton’s genius is there, but it’s missing the heart. I’m not sure if it was Richard Preston’s contribution to the book that made various excerpts so condescending, but the fun of reading Crichton is that he explains the science in clear and uninsulting terms, respecting the intelligence of the reader without making the subject matter too cerebral.
Multiple passages explained things going through a character’s mind, such as how they were able to breathe or smell when the now relatively huge molecules should be overtaking their relatively tiny senses. Immediately following the narration, that same character would suddenly exclaim, “Hey, how are we able to breathe or smell, when the now relatively huge molecules should be overtaking our relatively tiny senses?” I am paraphrasing, but not exaggerating. That was intensely frustrating, and it happened repeatedly over the course of the book.
The intriguing cast of characters, lush setting, and potentially thrilling plot all had the makings of another brilliant Crichton techno thriller, but sadly, the core and the heart — something Crichton no doubt would have fleshed out with enough editing — was sadly missing.
All that said, I wouldn’t leave it out of the realm of possibility for the Crichton name to inspire a movie adaptation of this book. Get a skilled-enough screenwriter on board, and perhaps the heart could be manufactured in, after the fact. Until then, though, read through the ‘Jurassic Park’ series again for Crichton nostalgia, and leave this one to airport bookshelves.