Tag Archives: Review of Michael Crichton

Review: Micro (By Michael Crichton and Richard Preston)

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Source: Goodreads

Length: 540 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Eric Hansen works at Nanigen Micro-technologies, a company whose operations and products are shrouded in secrecy. But Nanigen is huge and stands at the cutting edge of science and technology. Eric, his girlfriend and company CFO, Alyson, and Nanigen CEO, Vincent Drake, travel across the country looking for new recruits who would want to take advantage of the technology and equipment at Nanigen, tools that could help them shape the future. Eric’s brother, Peter, and his six colleagues accept an offer to visit Nanigen before deciding whether they want to be employed by the company.

But the day before the visit, Peter gets a message from Eric telling him not to come. Before he can decipher the short and abrupt message, he gets a call from Alyson. His brother, Eric, died in a boating accident. Shocked and confused, Peter travels to Hawai, where Nanigen is located, a day before his colleagues. He is barely able to digest the information he receives over the next twenty-four hours. And decides to confront the people he believes are responsible for Eric’s death. But things don’t go as planned. Peter and his friends are exposed to the bizarre technology that Nanigen has perfected, and tossed into the rainforest. Now, it is up to these seven young individuals to find a way back home before nature defeats their survival instinct. In the wild, you don’t get points for trying. It’s either win or lose for Peter and his friends. And the only thing at stake, is their lives.

The Bottom Line:

An interesting but too fantastic premise, which lays the groundwork for a fast-paced thriller that falls short of being truly Crichton-esque.

My take:

Micro received a lot of flak for being very un-Crichton-like. One of the main problems that readers have been vocal about is that the language isn’t Crichton’s style, and the disparity too obvious and, consequently, unpleasant.

But, given that it was supposed to be his last (unfinished) work, I didn’t go in expecting too much, which is probably why that disparity (which really is obvious) didn’t bother me too much. I did draw parallels to Crichton’s other work, although that was more on the things that I really like about his work, and not as much on style.

Coming to the review of Micro

The story itself is good, even if it’s a bit on the fantastic side. I mean, re-engineering dinosaurs through fossilized mosquitoes and frog DNA is actually more believable than the scientific premise of Micro. The lack of scientific explanation may be the reason, but the entire premise is sort of a given, and you’re just supposed to believe it. There is no moral discussion on it, there is no skepticism, and there’s very little time (in the story arc) to even understand the tech (for characters or readers). That makes the entire sci-fi angle, which could have been pretty great, fall a bit flat.

The rest of the story is interesting though. You get a detailed look into how dangerous nature can be, and the character arcs move along pretty well. There is an expected bit of violence, but the extent of its graphic nature can catch you a bit off-guard. The story moves along smoothly, and is fast-paced. The plot twists aren’t really surprising, but do add interesting dimensions to the story.

What I really missed in Micro, though, was the detail to human nature.

Crichton’s work has a very unique perspective on human nature, and the many good and bad things it makes people do. It’s not explicitly described, but can be gleaned from his choice of dialog and character development. And it’s always instrumental in the way the story progresses. That is something that I’ve always loved about his work and really missed in Micro.

The lack of that touch is also probably what makes Micro move along like an interesting sci-fi, mystery read, but doesn’t leave an incredible impression like many of his other books. The style of the book is also more mystery-like than sci-fi, something that will strike (and has struck) a lot of Crichton fans as odd and unpleasant.

All in all, Micro is an interesting read for many reasons (general story, pace, thrill), and so makes for an enjoyable experience (minus some aspects). But it isn’t really Crichton-esque. So, I’d recommend the book to those who enjoy all types of sci-fi; but if you’re a hard-core Crichton fan, only pick this book up if you can do so with no expectations.

Read Micro? Share your thoughts on the book and what you liked/disliked about it in the comments section below!

– Rishika

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Review: Sphere (By Michael Crichton)

Sphere Source: Goodreads

            Sphere
Source: Goodreads

Length: 371 pages

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Psychologist Norman Johnson, mathematician Harry Adams, astrophysicist Ted Fielding and zoologist Beth Halpern form the team of scientists that accompany a small Navy group into one of the deepest parts of the South Pacific. Their mission is one that seems incredible – investigate the spaceship that sits at the bottom of the ocean, a spaceship that is at least three hundred years old. But Captain Harold Barnes, the project commander and USN officer in charge of the operation knows more than he’s telling.

And yet, when the team finds a seemingly alien spherical object with nothing but some indentations along one side of its smooth surface, even Captain Barnes doesn’t have the answer that they all want – what is the sphere and where did it come from? Faced with the sphere that cannot be opened, the project comes to a near standstill… until something begins communicating with the team through their computer screen. Cut off from the surface, the team is forced to face the only plausible explanation – the messages have something to do with the sphere.

Then the messages become hostile. Whoever or whatever is transmitting the messages is getting angrier… and more powerful. And as the messages grow angrier and more hostile, the dangers become more real. With no way out of the habitat that sits at the bottom of the Pacific ocean, the team of Navy officers and scientists are forced to fight against the growing terrors even as their lives are left at the mercy of the one who is communicating with them. But how do you fight for your sanity and your life against an unknown enemy who may know no mercy?

My take:

Let me begin my review by saying that I have read Sphere before – around a decade ago. The only thing I remembered about the book though, is that I couldn’t keep it down in spite of being severely jet lagged and in dire need of some shut eye. So when I picked Sphere up again, I was quite sure that my expectations would only lead to me being disappointed by the book.

Never have I been so happy to be wrong!

Sphere is one of those books that has pretty much everything you need to make it unputdownable. It’s got great action, cliff hanging chapter ends, suspense, mystery, emotion and a little bit of drama too. Crichton, in his usual style, weaves a tale that moves rapidly and interestingly. I’ve always liked his writing style and this book only served to reiterate that liking. I especially like the way he explains theories and the nitty griitties of science without boring the reader to tears. He writes his theories simply, in a manner that makes for interesting conversation or narration, rather than a science lesson – one of the reasons I enjoyed reading the book so much. It was informative and managed to teach me a lot without making me feel like the words were jumping over my head.

The story itself is really interesting. An alien spacecraft with an alien object and a group of scientists and navy personnel that is sent down to investigate it. The story plays out really well, with each chapter leaving you wanting more and catching you by surprise (even on the second time around). And it doesn’t take long for things to get incredibly terrifying!

Many readers feel that the book does not have an ending that can be called gratifying, that Crichton simply finished the book because he got bored of writing it. But I thought that the ending was fine. Maybe, it could have some added explanation that would have gone on for a few pages more. But I don’t think that that would have really made it better. I think the ending was the way it was because that was the best way to end it. It wasn’t meant to tell you something specific, it was simply meant to lead you towards a particular direction where you walk on. And for me, that’s what it did.

That bring me back to my previous point. Sphere is terrifying and the ending leaves you scared. But this isn’t a fear of something physical or harmful. It is a fear that goes much further, much deeper. Without giving too much of the suspense away, the only way to describe it is the fear of possibility. Possibility exists positively and negatively; and unfortunately for us, we don’t realize the extent of the negative possibilities that lay dormant all around us. We don’t know where they can come from and what they may do… and that, in my opinion, is the most terrifying thing there is.

In Sphere, Crichton has taken an amazing look into the human psyche, something that he’s shown through the brilliant character building of each of his story’s characters. Using a group of brilliant minds that are forced to stay together in a cramped environment as the carriers of his story, Crichton shows us the strengths and weaknesses that every human being has. He depicts just how strong and weak the primal part of every human being is and often, how unpredictable and horrible it can be. This is something that Crichton shows in almost every book of his, but nothing that he has shown comes close to the depth that Sphere reaches.

All in all, a fast paced, suspense filled, amazing read that garners a 4.5 out of 5 even with its ending that is often described as dissatisfying. I walked away from this book knowing that it will remain a favorite of mine and I would recommend it to all Crichton fans and those who love a quick moving, page turning psychological suspense novels or science fiction.

– Rishika

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