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Prey [Mass Market Paperback]

Michael Crichton
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,005 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-An absorbing cautionary tale of science fact and fiction. Jack Forman has been laid off from his Silicon Valley job as a senior software programmer and has become a househusband, while his wife continues her career with a biotech firm involved in defense contracting. Jack is called in as a consultant to debug one of their products, and finds himself confronting a full-blown emergency, about which his wife and others in the organization have been suspiciously deceptive. Crichton's sure hand sustains a tension-filled narrative as harrowing events unfold. Jack discovers that the "problem product" is a lethal, self-replicating swarm of bioengineered particles released into the desert that imperils the environment as well as the scientists who created it. He is pitted against an exponentially growing and increasingly sophisticated organism encoded with predator/prey behaviors, capable of mimicry as well as learning. Final scenes are dramatic, brutal, and jarring, with the outcome tantalizingly unresolved. Significant chunks of scientific information are packaged within the story line, and some segments are blended less smoothly than others. This scarcely matters, however, as most readers will speed past the rough spots and accept improbable leaps of imagination whenever necessary in hot pursuit of the gripping, fast-paced action. Overall, a compelling read for students intrigued by cutting-edge technologies, and rife with opportunities for discussion of ethics in scientific research.
Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Crichton is the master of the sci-tech thriller, and nowhere is that more evident than in his latest page-turner, a scary, wild ride that is, without a doubt, his best in years. Jack Forman has been a stay-at-home dad since losing his job at an up-and-coming Silicon Valley technology company. Fired for discovering the company's illegal activities, Jack is taking care of his three children while his successful wife, Julia, is working at a similar company, Xymos Technology. Xymos has developed sophisticated nanoparticles for medical use, and Julia has been working long hours on the project. Jack suspects she is having an affair, but it turns out to be much more sinister than that. When Julia is injured in a car accident, Jack is called to the secretive Xymos lab in Nevada to help out with the project. It turns out the lab is in trouble; a swarm of nanoparticles escaped into the wild and has been evolving based on a program Jack designed called PREDPREY, which incorporated predator/prey interactions. The swarm is not only acting like a predator but also reproducing and killing desert animals. It is hunting the people in the Xymos compound, and it quickly becomes apparent that it can kill humans as well. As Jack uncovers the magnitude of the swarm's power, he realizes that the threat extends far beyond the isolated lab in the desert. As always, Crichton does an admirable job of explaining complex scientific ideas and integrating them with his gripping story. Like Jurassic Park (1990), Prey is a cautionary tale of the dangerous roads that carelessly used technology can take us down. This unpredictable, wild ride is not to be missed. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.



“INTRICATE PLOTTING AND FLAWLESS PACING…you won’t be able to put it down.” (Time magazine)

“CRACKLING…MYSTERIOUS….” (Entertainment Weekly)

“Just what his fans expect: A WILD, SCARY RIDE…” (Detroit Free Press)

“Another PAGE-TURNING TRIUMPH” (Charlotte Observer)

“INCREDIBLY SCARY and relentless” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)



“… a harrowing tale of nanoparticles gone beserk.” (USA Today)

“A TERRIFYING TALE…combining technological verisimilitude with heart-pounding suspense…” (The Oregonian (Portland))

“Serious and scary…” (Washington Post Book World)

“This is how to write a thriller …Crichton’s latest page-turning triumph.” (Detroit Free Press)

“Crichton has proved he knows how to ratchet up the fear factor.” (Denver Post)

“…so god-awful scary and relentless, it’ll knock your head clear of whatever ails you.” (St. Petersburg Times)

“Once again, Crichton has proved to be uncannily timely.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

“Crichton is a master storyteller.” (Detroit News)

“A cross between Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain….” (Columbus Dispatch)

“PREY delivers that expected Crichton charge.” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

“A terrific novelist…He could make most readers lose sleep all night and call in sick the next day.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Readers turn to Michael Crichton’s novels for entertainment with relentless drive.” (San Antonio Express)

“Crichton is a doctor of suspense.” (Des Moines Sunday Register)

“Crichton writes superbly…the excitment rises with each page.” (Chicago Tribune)

“Crichton’s books [are]…hugely entertaining.” (New York Times Book Review)

“Crichton delivers.” (USA Today)

“He is without peer.” (Chattanooga Times)

“One of the great storytellers of our age…What an amazing imagination.” (New York Newsday)

“Michael Crichton has written some of America’s most fantastic novels.” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

From the Back Cover

In the Nevada desert, an experiment has gone horribly wrong. A cloud of nanoparticles—micro-robots—has escaped from the laboratory. This cloud is self-sustaining and self-reproducing. It is intelligent and learns from experience. For all practical purposes, it is alive.

It has been programmed as a predator. It is evolving swiftly, becoming more deadly with each passing hour. Every attempt to destroy it has failed.

And we are the prey.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Michael Crichton has sold over 200 million books, which have been translated into thirty-eight languages; thirteen of his books have been made into films. Also known as a filmmaker and the creator of ER, he remains the only writer to have had the number one book, movie, and TV show simultaneously. At the time of his death in 2008, Crichton was well into the writing of Micro; Richard Preston was selected to complete the novel.

Richard Preston is the internationally bestselling author of eight books, including The Hot Zone and The Wild Trees. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker. He lives with his wife and three children near Princeton, New Jersey.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From AudioFile

Michael Crichton can combine science and suspense in riveting stories. He introduces nanotechnology--the developing field of building electronic circuits from single molecules--with a terrifying story of technology run amok. Integrating the scientific details and propelling the action is not an easy task, but Robert Sean Leonard handles the story with skilled understanding. The author leads off with a foreword that puts the reality of nanotechnology in context, but it then becomes Leonard's task to keep the listener engaged. He succeeds beautifully. Portraying the scientists with cool normalcy, Leonard allows the developing crisis to terrify and enthrall without resorting to overdramatization. The abridgment is excellent, and though listeners will certainly be aware of consolidation of the timeline, the pace of this version suffers no detractions. Riveting. R.F.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2003, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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