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Prey Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 25, 2002

1,227 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

In Prey, bestselling author Michael Crichton introduces bad guys that are too small to be seen with the naked eye but no less deadly or intriguing than the runaway dinosaurs that made 1990's Jurassic Park such a blockbuster success.

High-tech whistle-blower Jack Forman used to specialize in programming computers to solve problems by mimicking the behavior of efficient wild animals--swarming bees or hunting hyena packs, for example. Now he's unemployed and is finally starting to enjoy his new role as stay-at-home dad. All would be domestic bliss if it were not for Jack's suspicions that his wife, who's been behaving strangely and working long hours at the top-secret research labs of Xymos Technology, is having an affair. When he's called in to help with her hush-hush project, it seems like the perfect opportunity to see what his wife's been doing, but Jack quickly finds there's a lot more going on in the lab than an illicit affair. Within hours of his arrival at the remote testing center, Jack discovers his wife's firm has created self-replicating nanotechnology--a literal swarm of microscopic machines. Originally meant to serve as a military eye in the sky, the swarm has now escaped into the environment and is seemingly intent on killing the scientists trapped in the facility. The reader realizes early, however, that Jack, his wife, and fellow scientists have more to fear from the hidden dangers within the lab than from the predators without.

The monsters may be smaller in this book, but Crichton's skill for suspense has grown, making Prey a scary read that's hard to set aside, though not without its minor flaws. The science in this novel requires more explanation than did the cloning of dinosaurs, leading to lengthy and sometimes dry academic lessons. And while the coincidence of Xymos's new technology running on the same program Jack created at his previous job keeps the plot moving, it may be more than some readers can swallow. But, thanks in part to a sobering foreword in which Crichton warns of the real dangers of technology that continues to evolve more quickly than common sense, Prey succeeds in gripping readers with a tense and frightening tale of scientific suspense. --Benjamin Reese

From Publishers Weekly

From the opening pages of Crichton's electrifying new thriller, his first in three years, readers will know they are in the hands of a master storyteller (Timeline, Jurassic Park, etc.). The book begins with a brief intro noting the concerns of Crichton (and others) with the nascent field of nanotechnology, "the quest to build manmade machinery of extremely small size, on the order of... a hundred billionths of a meter"-for this is a cautionary novel, one with a compelling message, as well as a first-rate entertainment.Rare for Crichton, the novel is told in the first person, by Jack Forman, a stay-at-home dad since he was fired from his job as a head programmer for a Silicon Valley firm. In the novel's first third, Crichton, shades of his Disclosure, smartly explores sexual politics as Jack struggles with self-image and his growing suspicion that his dynamic wife, Julia, a v-p for the technology firm Xymos, is having an affair. But here, via several disturbing incidents, such as Jack's infant daughter developing a mysterious and painful rash, Crichton also seeds the intense drama that follows after Julia is hospitalized for an auto accident, and Jack is hired by Xymos to deal with trouble at the company's desert plant. There, he learns that Xymos is manufacturing nanoparticles that, working together via predator/prey software developed by Jack, are intended to serve as a camera for the military. The problem, as Crichton explains in several of the myriad (and not always seamlessly integrated) science lessons that bolster the narrative, is that groups of simple agents acting on simple instructions, without a central control, will evolve unpredictable, complex behaviors (e.g., termites building a termite mound). To meet deadlines imposed by financial pressures, Xymos has taken considerable risks. One swarm of nanoparticles has escaped the lab and is now evolving quickly-adapting to desert conditions, feeding off mammalian flesh (including human), reproducing and learning mimicry-leading to the novel's shocking, downbeat ending.Crichton is at the top of his considerable game here, dealing with a host of important themes (runaway technology, the deleterious influence of money on science) in a novel that's his most gripping since Jurassic Park. In the long run, this new book won't prove as popular as that cultural touchstone (dinos, nanoparticles aren't), but it'll be a smash hit and justifiably so. Film rights sold to 20th Century Fox; simultaneous abridged and unabridged audiotape and CD editions; large-print edition. (One-day laydown Nov. 25)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (November 25, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066214122
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066214122
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,227 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #341,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Michael Crichton was born in Chicago in 1942. His novels include Next, State of Fear, Prey, Timeline, Jurassic Park, and The Andromeda Strain. He was also the creator of the television series ER. One of the most popular writers in the world, his books have been made into thirteen films, and translated in thirty-six languages. He died in 2008.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

184 of 207 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on November 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Just as "Jurassic Park" was a cautionary tale for the dangers of tampering with the genetic code, so to is "Prey" a warning. This time, Michael Crichton has chosen to explore the potential and hazards of nanotechnology; the fashioning of robots at the molecular level. The power of these machines is that they are small enough to go anywhere, and their capabilities are limited only by human creativity. However, since they are so small, they need to be able to apply adaptive learning in order to accomplish their assigned tasks, and that's where the trouble starts.
The novel begins with Jack Forman, stay at home dad, and long time, but currently unemployed software engineer, shopping for placemats. This touch of normalcy sets up an environment where Crichton can rapidly ratchet up the tension, as an all-American home life turns distinctly scary. Moreover, Crichton has written the book in the first person, so the reader really has the opportunity to roam around Jack's head. As a result, Jack may be the best character Crichton has written to date. His emotions leap off the page, and his thought processes allow Crichton to seamlessly integrate necessary expository elements into the flow of the novel.
Of course, Jack doesn't remain the house-husband for long. It turns out that there are problems at Xymos Corporation, where his wife is a vice-president. It seems that they've lost control of some of the nano-particle swarms that they were working on, and they need Jack to help bring them back into the fold. As it turns out, Jack wrote an early version of the software (which is based upon predator-prey relationships) that is being used as the brains behind the swarm.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Corey on January 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
When I first started reading Prey, I noticed something that I'd never seen in any of the other Crichton novels I've read. He immediately plunges into the character of Jack Forman, an unemployed computer programmer and current "house-dad" who is beginning to suspect that his wife was having an affair, writing in the first person. By using the first-person perspective, he makes the character more real by directly stimulating a reader with the thoughts and emotions of a single character, something he hasn't tried in any of his other books that I've read. A reader sees the growth and development of Jack as he has to further deal with the new micro-camera swarms that are being developed at his wife's start-up company Xymos when he is called in to review some of the computer code at the company's Nevada fabrication plant.
In terms of the science topics discussed in Prey, Crichton does a marvelous job of introducing and tying together genetics, nanotechnology, and computer science into the race against the rapid swarm evolution within the text. As always, he takes many pauses to inform a reader to the meaning and importance of many scientific terms involved in the book. For those less ignorant to the material than others, the reviews can get a little cumbersome.
Overall, I thought Prey was a strong read. Here's to an amazing writer who always does his homework. (if nothing else, his three page biliography at the end of the book clearly shows Crichton's dedication to his work)
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Edwards VINE VOICE on December 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
First off, I'm a die-hard Michael Crichton fan...absolutely LOVE his stuff...however -- 'Prey' is definitely a 'formula' novel...most notably a Crichton formula novel which borrow extensively from previous works like 'Jurassic Park' & 'Timeline'. If you have read many of his other novels, this formula will become immediately apparent: Big corporation is messing with technology they don't fully understand nor appreciate, and in the process unleash something baaaad. First it was the Dinosaurs when InGen toyed around with genetic manipulation where they shouldn't we have a very similar company in 'Timeline' that wanted to send the elite on once-in-a-lifetime trips through time, using science again that was a bit beyond our control and now we have nanotechnology in 'Prey' that provides a frightening look at what *could* happen should this kind of near-future science fall into the hands of those who attempt to use it for all the wrong reasons.
Just because Crichton is using his 'formula' here, that doesn't mean he doesn't provide us with some great cliff-hangers and genuine surprises along the way...his writing talent is far too refined to have forgotten how to pull a few strings with the readers. 'Prey' begins with poor Jack, a reluctant house-husband with a wife who has quickly become one of the powerhouse leaders at Xymos (you guessed it, the 'big corporation' that funds experiments that go horribly wrong). Her sudden and suspiciously odd actions make Jack begin to suspect that she (Julia) just might be having an affair. He pushes this thought away every time more and more evidence begins to mount that this is no longer a theory and more likely a fact.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Keithly on March 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In 'Prey,' Michael Chrichton continues to stay at the forefront of scientific and technological issues to write a thriller. In 'Jurassic Park', Chrichton tackled genetic cloning, and this time around he addresses the field of nanotechnology. For the uninitiated, nanotechnology is a field of science concerned with creating microscopic machines to carry out real world functions (which is probably a grossly inadequate description of the field).
Jack Forman is an unemployed programmer. His area of specialty is agent based programming. When not searching for a new job, Jack stays at home while his wife, Julia, goes to work for a company involved in nanotechnology. In a sharp departure from past novels, Chrichton tells Jack's story in the first person, which is especially efective in the first half of the book. At the opening of the book, Jack begins to notice odd behavior in his wife. She has become blunt and short tempered with him and the kids. Jack begins to suspect an affair.
The first third of the book is probably the best part. In addition to Julia's odd behavior, things start happening around the house. One night, Jack awakes to find his baby daughter screaming bloody murder while a rash breaks out across her body. After a trip to the emergency room, everything at home seems to be a little out of place. Then some minor electronics begin to fail around the house and Jack discovers a suspicious looking surge protector beneath the baby's crib. Chrichton is incredibly successful at establishing an eerie atmosphere in which the reader is just on the edge of comprehending what is going on.
The book moves into it second phase when Julia is involved in a car crash. Jack suspects, for reasons you'll find adequately laid out in the book, that her new project is somehow involved.
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