HarperCollins, £17.99 stg (hardback)
Full concentration is required when tackling Michael Crichton’s latest work of fiction, Prey, but the alert reader is rewarded with a superb, thought provoking, if disturbing, thriller.
The presence of a bibliography indicates the complexity of the subject matter but do not be put off by such a warning – 'Prey' is a fascinating tale filled with subterfuge, suspicion, ambition and desperation.
House-husband Jack Forman's biggest challenge was to find a job - but a week is a long time and now survival is his highest priority. Sacked from his job as a computer programmer six months previously, Jack gets a call from his old company looking to rehire him as a consultant for his wife's technology firm.
Constantly being told that he is rapidly reaching his shelf life on the employment front and suspicious that his wife is having an affair, Jack decides to take the project, against his better judgement. Flown to the company's fabrication plant in the wilds of the Nevada desert Jack soon discovers that the assignment is far bigger and more dangerous than he could ever imagine.
Eight people are trapped inside the plant because outside, waiting to kill them, are multiple swarms of mutated micro-particles that they created, but cannot control. The team leader is acting in a zombie-like fashion, the crew is un-cooperative and everybody there seems to defer to Julia's better judgement - despite her lack of expertise in the field.
With the stakes upped and the assignment getting more dangerous by the hour, Jack is left wondering what role his wife has to play in the debacle and how far she will go to save her company. Although the frequent and detailed references to computer programming, genetics, nanotechnology and distributed intelligence can by trying, Crichton's brilliant storyline far outweighs any drawbacks.
Written in a sharp and pacy manner, 'Prey' is a difficult book to put down. Twentieth Century Fox has already acquired the film rights to the story and it will be interesting to see if the screen adaptation will do the novel justice. Thoroughly enjoyable.