I haven't learned yet. I've made the same mistake with Crichton's last four books, and "Prey" nearly made it an even five. Ever have someone tell you not to start reading a book late at night? You laugh at those admonitions, right? I did. It started when I began reading "Disclosure" at around 9 one night. I didn't put the book down until I finished it at 6 the next morning. I did the same thing with "Lost World" "Airframe" and "Timeline" where I would just sit and read them straight through in nearly one sitting. Crichton has that unique ability to do that to me, something that only Stephen King has been able to do in the past.
It was 8 p.m. on a Saturday night when I sat down to read, "Prey." By the time I had hit page 100, it was nearly 11. I decided to try to get to page 150 before going to bed, since I was battling strep throat and an extended night of reading would definitely not be something that the doctor would have approved. I hit page 150 by midnight and it was a deep struggle to force myself to close the book and crawl into bed. I devoured (yes, semi-intentional pun there) the rest of the book next day.
The book begins with Jack Forman, who is the main character in the novel and also the narrator, at home. He's a stay-at-home dad because he has been let go from his job at a nanotechnology plant due to his blowing the whistle on illicit activities that his boss committed, and to make matters worse, he's been blacklisted. He can't find a job anywhere. As time goes on, he suspects that his wife is having an affair since he is no longer the bread-winner in the family.
Just as he is sinking into the depths of despair, two things happen. First Julia, his wife, after leaving home early again with another vague work excuse gets into a car accident and then he gets a phone call from a former supervisor at Xymos Labs, his former employer. Seems they want him back so that he can consult on a project that he was working on before his termination. He agrees and leaves his kids in care of his sister.
The first signs that things aren't quite ok is that there's extraordinary decontamination measures in place at the laboratory facilities. Then Ricky, someone who he used to work with before, isn't behaving like himself, being moody and erratic. The fact that he's in charge of this nanotechnology lab makes things even shakier. Then Forman finds out what is really going on.
Forman had been in charge of PREDPREY, a program that makes cameras the size of atoms swarm together and act like they are hunting something. It turns out that since he's been gone, people have made changes to the codes, and they haven't been good changes. To make matters worse, Forman has learned that they've allowed a swarm to get outside. They can't get it back to the lab, since it won't respond to their communications. The fact that they can kill now makes a dicey situation even worse, and then to top it off, they are adaptable, learning and evolving at a rate that far surpasses anything in human technology. So the people in the lab have become the Prey. Forman also learns that his wife isn't what she seems.
Crichton retains his ability to explain even the most scientific things in a way that the everyday lay person can understand and keep it from sounding boring. He also weaves the story in a way that kept me going up until the very end, and like all Crichton books save for "Jurassic Park", he doesn't leave the door open for a sequel.
He does leave the door open for me to start another streak of sleepless nights when reading any books that he releases in the future.
Click here to buy this book, or read more about it at Amazon.com: Prey