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 Cahners Business Information.
Crichton's latest thriller combines the biotechnology of Jurassic Park with nanotechnology, creating a new menace for the human race. Julia Foreman and her team at Xymos Technologies have developed microscopic artificial organisms designed to function together as a group. However, they used a computer program, developed by Julia's at-home husband and programmer Jack, which employs a hunter and prey behavior model to allow the organisms to achieve stated goals through experimenting with different behaviors. However, the organisms escape the Nevada-based factory and begin to reproduce, evolve, and learn, and they are learning to hunt other life forms. This story is fast paced, with interesting characters and enough twists and turns to hold the listener's attention. Narrator George Wilson effectively tells this exciting tale in both productions; except for the price, the recordings are the same. Recommended for all audio collections.-Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ., Parkersburg Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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.