In 2008, throat cancer robbed the world of one of the most creative minds in literature: one that gave us “Jurassic Park,” “The Andromeda Strain” and numerous other science fiction adventures. “Micro” is the last novel from Michael Crichton, the inventor of the techno-thriller, and in it he takes readers on a final thrill ride. While Crichton’s untimely death prevented him from finishing the book, author Richard Preston completed it based on Crichton’s notes. “Micro” serves as a fitting send-off to a literary legend.
While most of Crichton’s works explore giants of the natural world, “Micro” focuses on things that can barely be seen by the human eye. The story centers on a group of graduate students who are invited to Hawaii for job opportunities with a mysterious biotechnology corporation. The students discover that the corporation has found a way to shrink humans for the purpose of gathering material in the micro-world that could be used in pharmaceuticals, but things are not as they seem. After the students overhear the CEO confess to murder, they are unwillingly shrunk and left for dead in the Hawaiian rainforest. The students now must put aside their personal differences to survive and find a way to make themselves big again.
Yes, the plot sounds over-the-top and overdone, but Crichton managed to make the story seem feasible, having a scientific explanation for everything that occurs. Although Crichton at times got a little too involved in the science of it all, he always kept the story moving quickly.
The protagonists are likable (except for Crichton’s signature cowardly, out-for-himself character), helping draw readers even further into their plight. The characters’ confrontations with seemingly harmless insects such as ants and centipedes are written as terrifyingly as Crichton’s characters’ battles with dinosaurs and gorillas in past works. It is truly unknown who will survive until the end, or what unusual and gruesome deaths await the characters. Raindrops have never been as dangerous as they are in “Micro,” and it is hard to imagine a death caused by a wasp laying eggs inside a human arm.
“Micro” is not Crichton’s best work, but it is by no means his worst. The novel is an excellent example of Crichton’s ability to blend science and fantasy to produce a compelling story. He will be missed.
Sean Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.