Californian Artificial Intelligence systems expert Jack Forman, fired for trying to expose his boss's criminal activities, is practically unemployable and finding life as a house-husband very stressful. His wife Julia however, is riding high an an executive in a nanorobotics company on the verge of perfecting a revolutionary new nano-technology based medical imaging technology.
When Julia starts working very long hours and behaving very oddly, Jack suspects she's having affair. But then his daughter develops a strange rash that disappears as soon as she's put in an MRI and when his son's MP3 player's memory chips simply corrode away and he finds a strange device in his daughter's room, he suspects something much more sinister is afoot.
When he gets invited to help with a software problem at Julia's company fabrication plant out in the desert, he doesn't think twice. However, that's when things start to get really out of control!
Prey serves us up a tale of nanobots gone rogue. However, these aren't just your average nanobots, these are intelligent, solar-powered and self-replicating with a drive to succeed and prosper as a "species" and all of this was programmed into them by us short-sighted humans. In essence, Crichton is trying to tell us what could happen when commercial pressures force companies to disregard the proper controls over scientific research and produce something that could threaten our very existence on Earth.
Frankly, I didn't buy it! Sure, it's an entertaining enough read but the science just didn't ring true enough and as someone with a fair bit of programming experience, the idea of them being able to install a whole AI predator-based program into something of just above atomic size, seems highly doubtful. Not impossible but just very, very unlikely with our current silicon technology. On top of that it was a bit predictable and it seemed obvious that Mr. Crichton had written it with the potential for a movie deal in mind.
A sensationalist, over-hyped, sci-fi thriller - quite readable but switch off your logic circuits first.
Genre: Science-Fiction, Thriller
My Rating: 6/10