In the locked office of a Honolulu building, three men are found dead, with no sign of struggle except for ultrafine, razor-sharp cuts covering their bodies.
In the lush forests of Oahu, groundbreaking technology has ushered in a revolutionary era of biological prospecting. Here, seven brilliant graduate students recruited by a pioneering microbiology start-up company are thrust into a hostile wilderness that reveals profound and surprising dangers at every turn. Prey to a technology of radical and unbridled power–armed only with their knowledge of the natural world–they must harness the inherent forces of nature itself to survive.
I picked this book up immediately when it came out, but had to put it down after 100 pages or so. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood… so I picked it up again now, years later. I still had the same problems I had with it back then, but I am happy that I pushed through seeing as it did get slightly better later on.
This book is definitely fast paced; I flew through it in just a few sittings. People die, mostly in not pretty ways, and the details are not withheld from the reader. But then the constant action is broken up by Crichton showing off how much he knows about nature and science. Stories like these do need proper research to make them work. But you can also take it too far. There is a literature reference list at the end the length of a decent chapter. And paragraphs like: ‘The beetles produce boiling-hot benzoquinone spray, which they make from precursors stored in the body. They have two sacs in the rear of the abdomen. The first sac contains the precursor hydroquinone along with the oxidant, hydrogen peroxide. The second sac is a rigid chamber, and contains enzymes, catalases, and peroxidases. …’ make you sometimes believe you are reading a scientific journal instead of a techno thriller.
The writing is a bit clumsy at times, scenarios are quite predictable, there are plot holes you can drive a truck through and things are often a bit too convenient. But Crichton did not have a chance to finish this book the way he would have wanted to, so we will forgive him for that. But then there is the character development, or the lack thereof really. The villain is just an evil psychopath lacking any motivation. The students are all geniuses and flat stereotypes. These are almost all graduate Biology students. I have almost finished my Master’s in Biology, and believe I should therefore be able to relate to these people in some way… but it’s very difficult. You never care about these characters. They die, but you don’t feel anything (apart from a bit sick from all the gore and detail).
Overall, it is an entertaining, fast paced, action packed read. But it could have been so much better.