Thursday 17 August 2017

Review: Thriller: Micro by Michael Crichton And Richard Preston

Harper Collins, €13.99

In Honolulu three men are found dead, their bodies mysteriously shredded by tiny knives. Just a few miles away, in the lush forests of Oahu, groundbreaking technology developed by ruthless businessman Vin Drake has ushered in a revolutionary era of biological prospecting.

Trillions of microorganisms, tens of thousands of bacteria species, are being discovered and are feeding a search for priceless drugs and applications on a huge scale that will make Drake and his henchmen rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

Seven ultra-bright Cambridge students are lured to Hawaii by the promise of ground-breaking research, but when they learn of Drake's secret plan to develop deadly miniature weapons they end up shrunk themselves and fighting for their lives in the lush undergrowth of the rain forest.

Luckily, Crichton's band of half-inch tall wanderers in this alien world come from widely different scientific disciplines, including entomology, toxicology, botany, and biochemistry.

Given the enormous variety of threats they face in this strange environment -- ants, wasps, owls, centipedes, spiders, bats and other creatures that now seem as big as houses -- their collective ability to tell the difference between dangerous and benign creatures and poisonous and safe plants becomes quite literally life-saving, but one by one the students fall foul of nature in the raw, or the hired miniaturised goons Drake has sent to eliminate them. Will any survive?

Utterly fantastical it well may be, but Crichton, who was fascinated by the downside of modern technology, was always a great storyteller, so Micro rattles along at a terrific pace, full of shocks and terror and packed with vividly interesting descriptions of the unknown world of nature in the raw beneath our feet.

Myles McWeeney

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