Micro: Crichton’s Novel That Never Should

Micro: The Last Crichton Novel

At the time of Michael Crichton’s death –  God bless his literary and Emmy-winning soul – His assistant found a few unpublished works in his possession. I’ve managed to get my hands on both and will give my personal views on them, though I will focus more on Micro, since Pirate Latitudes is pretty old news.

Pirate Latitudes

Follow Pirate Captain Charles Hunter on A High Seas Adventure In The 17th Century

Follow Pirate Captain Charles Hunter on A High Seas Adventure In The 17th Century

The first one, Pirate Latitudes, is a completed manuscript that for some reason M.C. did not give to his publishers. Released posthumously anyways with approval from his family, I got my hands on it as soon as I could, and dug into it with as much fervour as I had for his earlier books.

Turns out, and this is my personal opinion by the way, there is a good reason why M.C. did not want it published. I found it to be as good a novel as any, for lack of a better way to describe it, it is just not a Crichton book. Having read it twice (I love the setting by the way), it lacks the scale and flair of his previous adventures, and it also lacks the blurring the lines between science and fiction that he is so well-known for. There is still some of it of course, but most of it is lost in translation when you’re talking about gunpowder and rat intestines, instead of lasers and computer-programmed nanobots.

Still a good read, just not a typical M.C. read. Will I recommend this – Yes, highly entertaining, though the proper ending should have come much earlier instead of dragging it on for the low-key ending.

Micro

An adventure of Micro proportions!
An adventure of Micro proportions!

Unlike Pirate Latitudes, Micro is a completely different beast. Firstly, a bit of background, M.C. did not complete this novel in time before his unfortunate demise. HarperCollins, his publisher, chose science-writer Richard Preston to complete the novel from Crichton’s remaining notes and research, and it was finally published in 2011, three years after M.C.’s passing.

Unlike Pirates, which was announced pretty close to his passing and thus enjoyed quite a bit of publicity. Micro was a pretty low-key release. Unless you happen to be specifically watching out for it, there was little about this book in the mainstream media, which led to me getting this book only recently. (I don’t live in the states, books here are a bit more limited.)

In a nutshell, I read about a third of the book a couple of days ago, and haven’t picked it up again since. I was skeptical when I picked it up, and when I started reading it, turns out I was right.

Firstly The Good – This is typical M.C. stuff here, but smaller in scale, a contained adventure which harkens back to his days of Jurassic Park and Sphere instead of the global catastrophes in Next or State of Fear. Pick a group of experts specifically chosen for the purposeful scientific adventure that goes horribly wrong, and push them in the right direction using science-blended fiction goodness to move the plot along. It has worked for Crichton his whole life, it works here as well.

The Not-So-Good – M.C. was never known for tight writing, but this is ridiculous. When I put down the book, I was close to one third in, and it still hasn’t gotten into the main adventure yet. We’re introduced to a bunch of characters and a plot (murder) that just seems pretty meh by Crichton standards. It trudges along for way too long, especially given that Crichton already has taken the liberties of making sure the ENTIRE freaking group knows each other from the very start!

The Bad:

Shortcut to character intros – Crichton’s novels always starts of as an assembly of special talent from across the globe. Even in the case of Timeline, where the cast is pre-assembled in the setup, at least it still makes sense. Micro however, takes the short cut and just dumps the entire cast conveniently as a bunch of scientist-to-bes who happen to not only be in the same university, but also in the same lab, studying completely different things side by side but still behaving like old schoolmates trying to get into the book goods of their professors. By chapter 4, I was already like… why is the botanist in the same lab as the guy extracting Cobra venom. To worsen this introduction, the main protagonist basically goes round the lab talking to each one of his friends and that’s how their work and personalities get introduced. That’s it. At least in Timeline, the protagonist is introduced via his hobbies, the cave-climbing girl via exploring a cave etc. Here, they’re all thrown into the lab and revealed in a contestant 1-2-3 manner.

Poor sub-plot leading to main plot – Lastly, the first pillar, or the point that drives them towards the conflict. It was just too convenient. A minor character dies suddenly and suddenly the protagonist is thrust into action via a sub-plot that somehow leads to the main plot. It was pretty ‘forced’ honestly, like two stories taped together to make it flow.

Forced initiation of main plot without input from main characters – I’ve read just up to the point where the adventure officially begins, but by then I was already half-asleep. Again, not helped by the ridiculousness of how they ‘translated’ into their new settings for the main adventure to being. (WTF moment 3 and game-breaker) Basically, it’s just ‘Follow me! You stand here! You stand there! No questions? Good, fire the laser!” A room full of characters and no one reacted….zzZZZzzz. Sure you can say the subplot led to this point, but given how badly that plot has begun, no surprises that the end fizzled here.Should I finish reading the novel? Maybe. Is it fair that I reviewed the book only on the first 1/3? Why not, would you sit through a bad movie just because it has a super ending… hmm reminds me of StarWars: The Clone Wars.All in all, I think this novel was just the first draft of M.C.’s work and shouldn’t have been released to the public. It makes a mockery of his earlier work in my opinion, and I was so hyped for this just  month back. Now, I think I’ll go back to Prey or AirFrame.

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Michael Crichton: The Method Writer

Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton is my favourite author of all time. Even if you do not know him, you probably would have seen one of the movies based on his books. From blockbusters like Jurassic Park, Congo, and Lost World, to middling fare like Sphere, 13th Warrior , Timeline etc. He has 14 movies made alongside all the bestsellers he has written over the years.

I suddenly thought about him this afternoon and did a quick google on his name. Clicking on the first link in the results brought me to his wikipedia page. Firstly, despite being a so-called fan, I did not realise that he had a half-finished novel called Micro, which was released towards the end of 2011. It was finished by another author called Richard Preston. I will be making a point to check out both the final book and the work of Richard Preston in future.

But the point of this post was not to talk about Micro. It’s about Michael Crichton, the man. Or more specifically the novellist, since I never really cared for ER. Reading through the entire wiki which made him sound like a god amongst men. (He was even voted into the fifty most beautiful people of 1992 in People magazine.), I noticed a quick tidbit about him towards the end of the article. It described the writing process of the man himself.

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