by Michael Crichton
The Crichton Strain
A review by Adrienne Miller
A depressed, emasculated, unemployed husband/father named Jack, discusser of the virtues of Huggies v. Pampers, cutter of own finger while chopping carrots, reader of Redbook, is the hero/antihero of Michael Crichton's problematic but captivating (often despite itself) new thriller. Jack's wife Julia is a powerful and sexy (this is a thriller of course the wife has to be sexy) executive at a tech firm (from which Jack was fired) called Xymos. In Prey's first act, she becomes so increasingly distant and weird (not to mention wearing her "fuck-me" shoes) that Jack is left with no choice but to believe she's having an affair. As if that's not bad enough news, Jack's little baby comes down with a horrific rash, which then turns into a disconcerting body-covering bruise. Then Jack gets re-hired by Xymos to look into problems with the "PREDPREY" system he developed before he got canned, and Julia is involved in a car accident. Now, I could be really mean and point out that lines such as "I read confusion on her face" and "I left the room, feeling odd" have no business being in any book, even a manifestly commercial genre novel, but Crichton is not an author to be evaluated on the poetry of his sentences, nor should the genre be evaluated thusly. And while there's no genuine feeling evidenced anywhere in Prey, we knew that already, too: Crichton does emotion like Al Gore does emotion. He's a terrible writer, but we do learn a lot about algorithms and systems here. And how many novels can you say that about?
Adrienne Miller is Esquire's literary editor.
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