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Honey! I Shrunk the Research Students!

An observation first. I’ve started to notice that I become aware of things when I visit the supermarket. I don’t haunt the supermarket often, but I don’t visit the ‘town centre’, and I certainly don’t haunt retail parks on a regular basis. This means the touch point opportunities for ‘encountering stuff in a shop’ are minimised and I’m not one to ‘browse shop’, which leaves the supermarket. So, it was noticing Uncharted 3 for cheap last time and, a while back, it was the first time I encountered the book Micro.

Micro is the latest and, since he died of cancer in 2008, the last book by Michael Crichton. Well, the last book ‘completed to some degree’ by Michael Crichton, with Richard Preston filling in on completion duties. I didn’t know Micro existed or was being published. It was a surprise to find it on the shelf. I didn’t know what Micro was about. I read the back and I remember it being about very small robots. This surprised me as Crichton had already done the nanotechnology thing in Prey. I took the opportunity to buy it when it was going cheap on the Amazon Kindle Christmas Sale.

I was very surprised to find it was effectively Honey! I Shrunk the Research Students!

Simple plot. A cutting edge technology company in Hawaii has found a way to shrink people and equipment through electronic fields, cue lots of uses for medical procedures and nature research as well as the obligatory defence uses which forms the heart of the conspiracy which results in the brother of the chief technology officer and his student colleagues being shrunk and left to fend for themselves against nature. It’s handy that they are researching nature, since that allows them to know how much danger they are in, inform the reader and also affords them some handy weapons. Needless to say the students get attacked by millipedes, wasps and ants as they die off one by one.

I like Michael Crichton books, the combination of science, action and adventure just works for me. I like how he tends to take an issue and create a story out of it, even when its the idea of sexist behaviour towards men in the workplace as women enter the corridors of power (the subject of Disclosure). The only time this hasn’t worked is in State of Fear, which tended to read more like a lesson for or against global warming, memory fades, and politicising science than an actual narrative. This one is the same. The science is interesting. It feels like a ‘bit more of a realistic take’ on shrinking people. The positioning of insects as the dinosaurs of the natural world when you’re shrunk works. The deaths are gruesome. It stretches things a bit with micro-planes and whatever else, but it was fun.

It’s safe to say Micro isn’t his best book, which is understandable. Certainly written when he was ill, and finished by someone else known for similar novels, but probably without the depth of research. It just feels less grounded and etches up the ‘cheese factor’ rating. Despite this, I tore though the book and really enjoyed it. A combination of the action and the science elements got me past the ‘Crichton by the numbers’ story and difficulty in taking a story about miniature people seriously due to numerous other previous efforts kicking in.

It could make a great film, if it keeps enough of its edge.

About Ian O'Rourke

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