On Writing

Michael Crichton’s Micro: How not to preserve a legacy

2 Comments 04 January 2012

As readers of A Rush of Green will know, I am a huge fan of Michael Crichton. In fact, he is the reason I became a writer in the first place. If you have read my debut eco-thriller The Human Race, you will know that Michael Crichton also helped to define the genre of my storytelling. Known as “science faction”, it is a mash of fact and fiction so closely woven together that you don’t know where one starts and the other begins.

Jurassic Park and Prey are amongst my favourite novels of all time, so words can’t begin to express my crushing disappointment as I read the last page of Micro, the latest thriller from the estate of the great man himself. Since the manuscript was found uncompleted in Crichton’s archives following his death in 2008, bestselling author Richard Preston was co-opted in to finish the book. Apparently just one third of Micro was completed by Crichton and the publishing company hired Preston to finish the book from the author’s remaining outline, notes, and research.

Since Richard Preston is principally a non-fiction writer – best known for The Hot Zone, a brilliant true story about the origins and incidents of viral hemorrhagic fevers, particularly the Ebola and Marburg virusesMicro sounded like a winning combination. Surely this would be a mixing of fact and fiction at its best? However, the alarm bells began to sound ever so briefly at the sight of his name as I scooped the novel off the shelves just before boarding a flight to Florida to spend Christmas with my wife’s family.

So, what didn’t I like about Micro?

Firstly, the science is contrived beyond belief. Here’s why:

*PLOT SPOILER ALERT*

A group of science students are shrunk to half an inch tall and abandoned in the Hawaiian Jungle. My first thought: it’s a little farfetched, but I was more than happy to read on. After all, Crichton improbably brought dinosaurs back to life from prehistoric DNA embedded in the mummified bodies of mosquitoes. Yet unlike Jurassic Park, the science simply isn’t believable here. The shrinkage of the students and the storyline building up to their shrinking is so contrived that when the cursory explanation of the science behind it is provided, you are not willing to suspend your disbelief. And isn’t that the purpose of great science-based fiction? To believe the unbelievable?

Micro simply left me scratching my head in annoyance and frustration.  I got the feeling that the authors wanted mini-humans in the jungle. But how they got to be there appeared to be of no consequence.

However, once in the jungle, Micro did start to improve slightly. The science was better and more believable, but that’s where it stopped. Unfortunately, I didn’t care what happened to the now miniature students because no attempt had been made to develop their characters. They were dispatched in a haphazard and meaningless manner, much as you would expect to happen in a popcorn extravaganza like Transformers or worse still, The Expendables. They were merely cannon fodder. The main character – interestingly, the only one I had any empathy for – is inexplicably killed off quite early on. After that I lost interest.

So who’s to blame?

It would be an oversimplification to point the finger at Richard Preston. After all, he’s not even a fiction writer. Most of his writing is non-fiction and it shows in Micro. The same can be said for the publishing company, which exists purely to make money from its authors, both dead and alive.

No, it must be said that the blame rests with the estate of my beloved hero, who must be turning in his grave. His legacy has been sacrificed for a quick buck.

For me, Micro is an abject case study in how not to preserve the memory of a great storyteller.

Image credit: Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston

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2 Comments so far

  1. Kel says:

    Crichton will always be remembered as a great writer. I don’t think blame should be placed on any individual or group of individuals in any circumstance. Crichton left the book Preston who did what he knew. I think it was great for him to even attempt it, most writers do not finish other writers work, There is an interview with Richard Preston on The Book Report, http://www.bookreportradio.com if you want to listen to it. There is obviously a change of writing style where Preston continues, understandable. Elaine talks to Preston and other Authors on the show, I enjoy listening to it. Give it a listen.

    • OC Heaton says:

      Kel – thanks for this. I will definitely listen to the interview. Maybe you’re right not to apportion blame. I think it is a reflection of my frustration at the book. Wanting it to be great but realising it isn’t.


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Unputdownable. Yes, I know it's not a word, but it definitely applies here, anyway. That's the word I'm going with, to describe The Human Race by O.C. Heaton. - Hira N. Hasnain

An outstanding first novel from O.C. Heaton that catapults him into the Best Seller league… - Justine Bond

"This is an exciting, fast-paced read. The Human Race is a book that is very easy to forget to put down. Bring on part two!" - L. H. Bowers

"If you are looking for a well-plotted and well-written thriller to while away the hours of a long flight, this offering might suit you very well." - David Bryson, Amazon Top 50 Reviewer

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Charles Heaton British thriller writer O.C. Heaton, author of The Human Race, is fascinated by the past, present and future of human evolution. (Image credit: Ross Parry Agency) Read More>>

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