I am green with envy at Michael Crichton. Here's a writer who regularly churns out books that are guaranteed bestsellers. If you scan the bibliography at the end of his books, you'll see that the background for his stories is meticulously-researched. This is clearly a fellow who regularly rubs elbows with the movers and shakers of the high-tech industry. Not a bad occupation, not bad at all.
In the course of my sabbatical thus far, I've already gone through two of his recent books: Timeline and just this afternoon, Prey. Crichton paints a good background owing to his research, but the stories really fall into a predictable pattern. His underlying theme for his recent novels is the folly of placing faith in science and technology. There's the cautious, practical, and well-grounded hero on one side; a grubby, reckless high-tech startup on the other; and in between them, technology gone awry.
Timeline, about archaeology students travelling back to the past to rescue their professor, was utter drivel. I read it through just to see if it ended the way I thought it would end. Truth be told, I've seen better executed time-travel stories; 'Timeline' was just far too confused in the background of the technology on one hand, and the medieval adventures on the other. The startup's motivation was far too fuzzy.
Prey was somewhat better in execution. To begin with, the background technology was more plausible: genetically-assembled nanotechnology evolves beyond the boundaries set by its creators and gains a life of its own. Plausible, up to a point. Then, Crichton starts ascribing an increasingly malevolent intelligence to the nanobots, and from there, it just goes downhill. It's 'Jurassic Park' all over again, only this time with miniscule miscreants instead of deranged dinosaurs.
Crichton does pull together a tight thriller, and it's good brain candy for an afternoon's light reading. After a while, you feel that he's just stretching the tale and belaboring the point. And you just know from the pacing of the book that he's writing it with the end in mind of optioning it for another blockbuster movie.
Oh, I don't know: maybe I'm just getting too old for this sort of thing.