Prey was written by Michael Crichton, author of ‘The Andromeda Strain’ and ‘Jurassic Park’, amongst many others. He was also screenwriter for the enormously succesful medical drama ER. I had previously read ‘Timeline’, a well researched time travel story, set in 1357, which I had greatly enjoyed. Prey is a sort of ‘techno-thriller’ in which self reproducing nano technology gets out of control. In this fashion, it serves as a cautionary tale, warning about developments in Science and Technology.
The book is narrated by its protagonist, Jack Forman, who is an unemployed programmer who had previously coded software that looked at ‘flocking’ algorithms and ‘predator-prey’ movements. He is called up to help a programming team in the desert where nano technology is being trialled. As the nano-bots form a swarm and start to kill, Jack becomes aware of changes in people, specifically his wife, and the story develops from there.
I found the book to be a real page turner, and the uncomplicated narrative meant that I finished the book quite quickly. This is a good thing, I tried to read a Booker Prize winning author – Hilary Mantel, but found her writing difficult to follow and a bit dull. Prey’s story is told from the perspective of Jack, who emerges as a rounded and believable human being. The same cannot be said of the other characters in the book, such as his wife, who merely serve to move the plot forward.
Crichton conveys interesting Scientific concepts clearly and concisely throughout his prose, which lends an authority and believability to his novel. This worked particularly well for him in ‘Jurassic Park’, but his research here is undone by a preposterous final act, in which Jack turns from an everyman into an action hero. Wheras ‘Jurassic Park’ worked well as a novel and as a movie, I think that Prey would be best appreciated as an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ or ‘The Outer Limits’.
Prey is an entertaining page turner that you won’t be able to put down, as Crichton efficiently builds a sense of fear and suspense. Sadly, the book often comes across as a screenplay as much as it does a novel, and there is a lack of depth to the characters. Unfortunately, when you reflect on the story, its generic action film conclusion lets it down. The technology getting out of hand theme is one that Crichton covered to greater effect in ‘The Andromeda Strain’,’Jurassic Park’ and ‘Westworld’.