Micro

This techno-thriller (448 pages) was published in November of 2011 by Harper. The book takes you to the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Melissa read Micro and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

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Micro

Michael Crichton, Richard Preston

In 1976, Saturday morning TV — best enjoyed in pajamas with a bowl of cereal — was dominated by The Krofft Supershow, a live-action variety show for kids. Dr. Shrinker, one of the recurring segments, was an over-the-top adventure story about a group of teenagers shrunken by a mad scientist. This novel is the grown-up, science-based version of that story, and it is a ride.

Welcome to Nanigen MicroTechnologies, a mysterious biotech company on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. At the helm is a billionaire named Vin Drake. He possesses the dual gifts of charm and dubious ethics — and he uses both to lure a group of talented graduate students to the island with the promise of lucrative jobs. But on their visit to corporate headquarters, they see and hear things they shouldn’t. Before you can say, honey, I shrunk the kids, the students have fallen victim to Drake’s powerful shrinking technology. A mere half-inch tall, they’re dumped into the rain forest by the evil overlord, their deaths all but a certainty.

Except these pesky kids keep finding ways to survive.

Conveniently, each of them had been studying the very disciplines that will help them endure the dangers of the jungle: There’s a beetle expert and a botanist who studies plant hormones, a specialist in pheromones and an arachnologist who, in one of the book’s more playful scenes, refers to a passing herd of daddy long legs as the giraffes of the micro-world.

Because our heroes are minuscule, ordinary things are imbued with super-sized danger. They run afoul of angry ants, sticky spider webs, a marching centipede, and a hungry, hungry grub. As the entomologist points out, insects are armored. They have built-in chemical weapons, and their jaws are designed specifically for biting and cutting. And the botanist reminds us that plants, literally rooted in place, have developed defense mechanisms to protect themselves. All of which makes for death-defying action scenes that showcase the majesty and menace of flora and fauna of any size.

This story is preposterous, and if you give yourself over to it, you’ll love every minute.

When Michael Crichton died in 2008, he’d written about one-third of Micro. It was finished by Richard Preston, a science writer for The New Yorker and author of several well-received nonfiction books about infectious disease and bioterrorism. So while this plot might seem over-the-top, the science and technology are grounded in reality.

But it’s an adventure story at heart, so there’s an entertainingly villainous villain, thrilling showdowns between humans and nature, and — fair warning — lots of gross-outs with bug-related stuff. (When Richard Preston was accused of writing like a 14-year-old boy who likes to gross out the girls, he said, ‘I think Michael Crichton had something of that in him, too.’)

This is the very definition of a page-turner, and the climax is appropriately improbable and delightful. So strap in for pure escapism in a lush island paradise — and raise your mai tai to nature, ingenuity, and evil billionaires who get their comeuppance.

Something drifted past Jen’s eyes, falling downward through the thick air. It was a small nugget the size of a peppercorn, studded with knobs. ‘What on earth is that?’ she said, stopping in her tracks to watch it. The nugget landed at her feet. Another fell slowly past. She put out her hand and caught it in her palm, then rolled it between thumb and forefinger. It was tough and hard, like a small nut. ‘It’s pollen,’ she said with wonder. She looked up. There was a hibiscus tree overhead, bursting into a profusion of white flowers, like a cloud. For some reason she could not explain, her heart leaped at the sight of it. For a few moments, Jenny Linn felt glad to be very small. — Michael Crichton

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There's a lot to love about the 50th state. You can start with palm trees galore, soft sand beaches (more than 100!), lush hiking trails, and volcanoes you can climb. Plus dreamy island music and luau-worthy cuisine.
There's a lot to love about the 50th state. You can start with palm trees galore, soft sand beaches (more than 100!), lush hiking trails, and volcanoes you can climb. Plus dreamy island music and luau-worthy cuisine.

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