4.1 527
by Michael Crichton

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In the Nevada desert, an experiment has gone horribly wrong. A cloud of nanoparticles—micro-robots—has escaped from the laboratory. This cloud is self-sustaining and self-reproducing. It is intelligent and learns from experience. For all practical purposes, it is alive.

It has been programmed as a predator. It is evolving swiftly, becoming more deadly

…  See more details below


In the Nevada desert, an experiment has gone horribly wrong. A cloud of nanoparticles—micro-robots—has escaped from the laboratory. This cloud is self-sustaining and self-reproducing. It is intelligent and learns from experience. For all practical purposes, it is alive.

It has been programmed as a predator. It is evolving swiftly, becoming more deadly with each passing hour. Every attempt to destroy it has failed.

And we are the prey.

Editorial Reviews

Time Magazine
"INTRICATE PLOTTING AND FLAWLESS PACING…you won’t be able to put it down."
New York Times Book Review
“Crichton’s books [are]…hugely entertaining.”
Time magazine
“INTRICATE PLOTTING AND FLAWLESS PACING…you won’t be able to put it down.”
Entertainment Weekly
Detroit Free Press
“This is how to write a thriller …Crichton’s latest page-turning triumph.”
Charlotte Observer
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“INCREDIBLY SCARY and relentless”
Chattanooga Times
“He is without peer.”
Raleigh News & Observer
USA Today
“Crichton delivers.”
The Oregonian (Portland)
“A TERRIFYING TALE…combining technological verisimilitude with heart-pounding suspense…”
Washington Post Book World
“Serious and scary…”
Denver Post
“Crichton has proved he knows how to ratchet up the fear factor.”
St. Petersburg Times
“…so god-awful scary and relentless, it’ll knock your head clear of whatever ails you.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Once again, Crichton has proved to be uncannily timely.”
Detroit News
“Crichton is a master storyteller.”
Columbus Dispatch
“A cross between Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain….”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“PREY delivers that expected Crichton charge.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“A terrific novelist…He could make most readers lose sleep all night and call in sick the next day.”
San Antonio Express
“Readers turn to Michael Crichton’s novels for entertainment with relentless drive.”
Des Moines Sunday Register
“Crichton is a doctor of suspense.”
Chicago Tribune
“Crichton writes superbly…the excitment rises with each page.”
New York Newsday
“One of the great storytellers of our age…What an amazing imagination.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Michael Crichton has written some of America’s most fantastic novels.”
The New York Times Book Review
"Prey" is irresistibly suspenseful. You're entertained on one level and you learn something on another....
Don McLeese
Concept is king for Michael Crichton. The bestselling novelist has parlayed a background in science and medicine and an uncommonly fertile imagination into a multimedia entertainment empire, building a readership numbering well into the millions through his knack for distilling complex issues into page-turning plots. Millions more know Crichton from the blockbuster movies inspired by his novels, such as Jurassic Park, and from ER, the smash television series he created.

Though Crichton's novels typically show little concern for depth of character or believable dialogue, reading Prey can be as addictive as munching movie popcorn: You can't stop until you've finished the bucket even though you know there's minimal nourishment. As Prey stretches plausibility toward the outer limits—swarms of man-made particles threaten the survival of civilization as we know it—fans will suspend disbelief just to see how it all turns out.

The hero of this tale is Jack Forman, a stay-at-home dad who was recently terminated as a supervisor of computer programmers at MediaTronics. A whistle-blowing episode left him branded as a troublemaker, rendering him all but unemployable. While Jack takes care of the baby, shops at Crate & Barrel and listens to his two older kids call each other "butt breath" and "weasel puke," his wife, Julia, works ever longer hours under increasingly mysterious circumstances at Xymos Technologies, "World Leader in Molecular Manufacturing."

Eventually, Julia shares a secret with Jack: The company has developed a camera smaller than a red blood cell, a dramatic, lucrative breakthrough. It can circulate through the body and diagnose cardiovascular disease far more effectively and less expensively than any existing method. Yet even the excitement surrounding this success can hardly explain the changes Jack has been noticing in his wife: She's talking faster, and she's quicker to snap. She's even dressing differently. Is she overworked, exasperated with her unemployed husband or harboring a secret that threatens their marriage? "Everything about her was different," thinks Jack, "her manner, her appearance, her mood, everything—and in a flash of insight I knew why: my wife was having an affair."

If only. As Jack ponders divorce (unbelievably blabbing his suspicions to a lawyer he encounters while out shopping), a series of convenient coincidences puts him back to work, sidelines his wife and brings his sister to town to watch the kids. (The Formans have a housekeeper, but she doesn't seem to do much of anything.) Abruptly returned to good graces as a MediaTronics consultant, Jack quickly departs for the desert "fab complex," where Xymos has been fabricating synthetic molecules under tight security and Julia's supervision.

It's apparent that there are some crucial details she hasn't shared with him. Not only do these microscopic-scale cameras have potential uses beyond the medical, but the accelerated evolution of the particles threatens the ability of their manufacturers to control them.

At the conceptual crux of Prey is the pervasive fear that man has no idea of the dangers inherent in the technology he's unleashing, that it is progressing beyond our ability to understand or contain it. Crichton frames his story with an introduction sounding the alarm that "sometime in the twenty-first century, our self-deluded recklessness will collide with our growing technological power" and includes a three-and-a-half page bibliography. Yet the bulk of this techno-thriller owes more to the cheesiest strains of sci-fi horror than to the scientific concept of "emergent behavior." As the plot devolves into an Invasion of the Body Snatchers scenario, the novel finds some of the dimmest characters ever to inhabit Silicon Valley engaging in some of the most stilted dialogue this side of Flash Gordon.

The problem with the literary division of the Crichton brand is that novels have no special effects. Though Prey will inevitably make the leap from the printed page to the big screen—where the battle between the swarms and their human prey will undoubtedly look spectacular—here it makes for weird science and a shallow story. At the end of Forman's ordeal, the reader could easily apply Jack's verdict on the man-made mess he'd encountered to the novel as a whole: "It was so dumb, it was breathtaking." Popcorn, anyone?
Publishers Weekly
The concept of nanotechnology can be traced back to a 1959 speech given by physicist Richard Feynman, in which he offered to pay $1,000 to "the first guy who makes an operating electric motor... which is only 1/64-inch cube." Today the quest is to make machines that would be about 1,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Enter Jack Forman, a recently unemployed writer of predator/prey software, whose nearly absentee wife, Julia, is a bigwig at a tech firm called Xymos. When a car accident hospitalizes Julia, Xymos hires Jack to deal with problems at their desert nanotechnology plant. The techies at this plant have developed nanomachines, smaller than dust specks, which are programmed with Jack's predator/prey software. Not only is a swarm of those nanomachines loose and multiplying, but they appear to be carnivorous. The desert swarms are the least of Jack's worries, however, as the crew inside the plant are not entirely what they seem. Like Jurassic Park, this "it could happen" morality tale is gripping from the start, and Wilson's first-person reading as Jack sets the pace. His confident, flinty voice and his no-nonsense delivery makes this a solid presentation of a high-speed techno-thriller. Crichton gives the audio an air of sobering authenticity by reading its cautionary foreword himself. Simultaneous release with the HarperCollins hardcover (Forecasts, Oct. 28, 2002). (Nov.)
Library Journal
Crichton's latest thriller combines the biotechnology of Jurassic Park with nanotechnology, creating a new menace for the human race. Julia Foreman and her team at Xymos Technologies have developed microscopic artificial organisms designed to function together as a group. However, they used a computer program, developed by Julia's at-home husband and programmer Jack, which employs a hunter and prey behavior model to allow the organisms to achieve stated goals through experimenting with different behaviors. However, the organisms escape the Nevada-based factory and begin to reproduce, evolve, and learn, and they are learning to hunt other life forms. This story is fast paced, with interesting characters and enough twists and turns to hold the listener's attention. Narrator George Wilson effectively tells this exciting tale in both productions; except for the price, the recordings are the same. Recommended for all audio collections.-Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ., Parkersburg Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-An absorbing cautionary tale of science fact and fiction. Jack Forman has been laid off from his Silicon Valley job as a senior software programmer and has become a househusband, while his wife continues her career with a biotech firm involved in defense contracting. Jack is called in as a consultant to debug one of their products, and finds himself confronting a full-blown emergency, about which his wife and others in the organization have been suspiciously deceptive. Crichton's sure hand sustains a tension-filled narrative as harrowing events unfold. Jack discovers that the "problem product" is a lethal, self-replicating swarm of bioengineered particles released into the desert that imperils the environment as well as the scientists who created it. He is pitted against an exponentially growing and increasingly sophisticated organism encoded with predator/prey behaviors, capable of mimicry as well as learning. Final scenes are dramatic, brutal, and jarring, with the outcome tantalizingly unresolved. Significant chunks of scientific information are packaged within the story line, and some segments are blended less smoothly than others. This scarcely matters, however, as most readers will speed past the rough spots and accept improbable leaps of imagination whenever necessary in hot pursuit of the gripping, fast-paced action. Overall, a compelling read for students intrigued by cutting-edge technologies, and rife with opportunities for discussion of ethics in scientific research.-Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Nanotechnology goes homicidal in the latest of this author's ever-more self-derivative thrillers.

All is not well in Silicon Valley. In an intriguing opener, we get a scary little flash forward where 40-year-old Jack is sitting at home listening to his three desperately sick children, hoping they don't die. Flash back a few days before that and Jack is running to Crate & Barrel, playing the role of house-husband ever since he got laid off as program division head at MediaTronics. Wife Julie is now the primary breadwinner, doing hush-hush Pentagon work with nanotechnology at the Xymos Corporation. Julie has seemed distracted recently, Jack is increasingly sure that she's having an affair, and his sister is telling him to get a good divorce lawyer on deck. Then the baby, nine-month-old Amanda, comes down sick with a bizarre and terrifying illness that inexplicably disappears as suddenly as it arrived. Things aren't going too well at Xymos, meantime, so Jack is called in to consult at their research facility out in the middle of the Nevada desert. The project that Julie was working on involved creating swarms of nanotech entities that the military could then use as weapons, surveillance systems, or whatever they wanted. Except the Pentagon was about the pull the plug because Xymos can't get the bugs worked out. Pretty soon Jack and a few survivors are running about the lab jerry-rigging defenses against some highly evolved and deadly nanotech swarms gone rogue, which Julie just might have let escape on purpose. All the usual Crichton elements are here: pedantic display of research about an emerging technology (Jurassic Park), the emasculated husband (Disclosure), isolated researchfacility in lockdown (Andromeda Strain), and a motley crew of people trying to survive in a hostile environment (just about all of them). Normally, this would not be a problem, as even Crichton (Timeline, 1999, etc.) on autopilot still makes for a quick and entertaining, if ultimately unsatisfying, read. But this time the product is so by-the-numbers that even die-hard fans may find themselves bored.

Disappointing effort from an author who simply refuses to change an old, tired template.

First printing of 2,000,000; film rights to 20th Century Fox; Book-of-the-Month Club/Literary Guild/Doubleday Book Club main selection; Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selection; author tour

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HarperCollins Publishers
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HL600L (what's this?)

Read an Excerpt


7:12 A.M.

With the vibration of the helicopter, I must have dozed off for a few minutes. I awoke and yawned, hearing voices in my headphones. They were all men speaking:

"Well, what exactly is the problem?" A growling voice.

"Apparently, the plant released some material into the environment. It was an accident. Now, several dead animals have been found out in the desert. In the vicinity of the plant." A reasonable, organized voice.

"Who found them?" Growly.

"Couple of nosy environmentalists. They ignored the keep-out signs, snooped around the plant. They've complained to the company and are demanding to inspect the plant."

"Which we can't allow."

"No, no."

"How do we handle this?" said a timid voice.

"I say we minimize the amount of contamination released, and give data that show no untoward consequence is possible." Organized voice.

"Hell, I wouldn't play it that way," said growling voice. "We're better off flatly denying it. Nothing was released. I mean, what's the evidence anything was released?"

"Well, the dead animals. A coyote, some desert rats. Maybe a few birds."

"Hell, animals die in nature all the time. I mean, remember the business about those slashed cows? It was supposed to be aliens from UFOs that were slashing the cows. Finally turned out the cows were dying of natural causes, and it was decomposing gas in the carcasses that split them open. Remember that?"


Timid voice: "I'm not sure we can just deny-"

"Fuck yes, deny."

"Aren't there pictures? I think the environmentalists took pictures."

"Well, who cares? What will the pictures show, a dead coyote? Nobody is going to get worked up about a dead coyote. Trust me. Pilot? Pilot, where the fuck are we?"

I opened my eyes. I was sitting in the front of the helicopter, alongside the pilot. The helicopter was flying east, into the glare of low morning sun. Beneath my feet I saw mostly flat terrain, with low clumps of cactus, juniper, and the occasional scraggly Joshua tree.

The pilot was flying alongside the power-line towers that marched in single file across the desert, a steel army with outstretched arms. The towers cast long shadows in the morning light.

A heavyset man leaned forward from the backseat. He was wearing a suit and tie. "Pilot? Are we there yet?"

"We just crossed the Nevada line. Another ten minutes."

The heavyset man grunted and sat back. I'd met him when we took off, but I couldn't remember his name now. I glanced back at the three men, all in suits and ties, who were traveling with me. They were all PR consultants hired by Xymos. I could match their appearance to their voices. A slender, nervous man, twisting his hands. Then a middle-aged man with a briefcase on his lap. And the heavyset man, older and growly, obviously in charge.

"Why the hell did they put it in Nevada, anyway?"

"Fewer regulations, easier inspections. These days California is sticky about new industry. There was going to be a year's delay just for environmental-impact statements. And a far more difficult permitting process. So they came here."

Growly looked out the window at the desert. "What a shithole," he said. "I don't give a fuck what goes on out here, it's not a problem." He turned to me. "What do you do?"

"I'm a computer programmer."

"You covered by an NDA?" He meant, did I have a non-disclosure agreement that would prevent me from discussing what I had just heard.

"Yes," I said.

"You coming out to work at the plant?"

"To consult," I said. "Yes."

"Consulting's the way to go," he said, nodding as if I were an ally. "No responsibility. No liability. Just give your opinion, and watch them not take it."

With a crackle, the pilot's voice broke in over the headsets. "Xymos Molecular Manufacturing is dead ahead," he said. "You can just see it now."

Twenty miles in front of us, I saw an isolated cluster of low buildings silhouetted on the horizon. The PR people in the back all leaned forward.

"Is that it?" said Growly. "That's all it is?"

"It's bigger than it looks from here," the pilot said.

As the helicopter came closer, I could see that the buildings were interlocked, featureless concrete blocks, all whitewashed. The PR people were so pleased they almost burst into applause. "Hey, it's beautiful!"

"Looks like a fucking hospital."

"Great architecture."

"It'll photograph great."

I said, "Why will it photograph great?"

"Because it has no projections," the man with the briefcase said. "No antennas, no spikes, no things poking up. People are afraid of spikes and antennas. There are studies. But a building that's plain and square like this, and white-perfect color choice, associations to virginal, hospital, cure, pure-a building like this, they don't care."

"Those environmentalists are fucked," said Growly, with satisfaction. "They do medical research here, right?"

"Not exactly . . ."

"They will when I get through, trust me. Medical research is the way to go on this."

The pilot pointed out the different buildings as he circled them. "That first concrete block, that's power. Walkway to that low building, that's the residences. Next door, fab support, labs, whatever. And then the square windowless three-story one, that's the main fab building. They tell me it's a shell, it's got another building inside it. Then over to the right, that low flat shed, that's external storage and parking. Cars have to be under shade here, or the dashboards buckle. Get a first-degree burn if you touch your steering wheel."

I said, "And they have residences?"

The pilot nodded. "Yeah. Have to. Nearest motel is a hundred and sixty-one miles. Over near Reno."

"So how many people live in this facility?" Growly said.

"They can take twelve," the pilot said. "But they've generally got about five to eight. Doesn't take a lot to run the place. It's all automated, from what I hear."

"What else do you hear?"

"Not very damn much," the pilot said. "They're closed-mouthed about this place. I've never even been inside."

"Good," said Growly. "Let's make sure they keep it that way."

The pilot turned the stick in his hand. The helicopter banked, and started down.

I opened the plastic door in the bubble cockpit, and started to get out. It was like stepping into an oven. The blast of heat made me gasp.

"This is nothing!" the pilot shouted, over the whirr of the blades. "This is almost winter! Can't be more than a hundred and five!"

"Great," I said, inhaling hot air. I reached in the back for my overnight bag and my laptop. I'd stowed them under the seat of the timid man.

"I have to take a piss," said Growly, releasing his seat belt.

"Dave . . ." said the man with the briefcase, in a warning tone.

"Fuck, it's just for a minute."

"Dave-" an embarrassed glance toward me, then lowering his voice: "They said, we don't get out of the helicopter, remember?"

"Aw hell. I can't wait another hour. Anyway, what's the difference?" He gestured toward the surrounding desert. "There's nothing the fuck out here for a million miles."

"But, Dave-"

"You guys give me a pain. I'm going to pee, damn it." He hefted his bulk up, and moved toward the door.

I didn't hear the rest of their conversation because by then I had taken off my earphones. Growly was clambering out. I grabbed my bags, turned and moved away, crouched beneath the blades. They cast a flickering shadow on the pad. I came to the edge of the pad where the concrete ended abruptly in a dirt path that threaded among the clumps of cholla cactus toward the blocky white power building fifty yards away. There was no one to greet me-in fact, no one in sight at all.

Looking back, I saw Growly zip up his trousers and climb back into the helicopter. The pilot pulled the door shut and lifted off, waving to me as he rose into the air. I waved back, then ducked away from the swirl of spitting sand. The helicopter circled once and headed west. The sound faded.

The desert was silent except for the hum of the electrical power lines a few hundred yards away. The wind ruffled my shirt, flapped my trouser legs. I turned in a slow circle, wondering what to do now. And thinking about the words of the PR guy: They said, we don't get out of the helicopter, remember?

"Hey! Hey, you!"

I looked back. A door had cracked open in the white power block. A man's head stuck out. He shouted, "Are you Jack Forman?"

"Yes," I said.

"Well, what the hell you waiting for, an engraved invitation? Get inside, for Chrissake."

And he slammed the door shut again.

That was my welcome to the Xymos Fabrication Facility. Lugging my bags, I trudged down the dirt path toward the door.

Things never turn out the way you expect.

* * *

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Prey 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 527 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Prey By Michael Crichton Reviewed by Josh There are always problems with finding a good book to read. You want to try to find a topic you like, and then you see if the book has a well known reliable author, then you see how long the book is. All these challenges can be solved with this book Prey by Michael Crichton. I initially chose this book on a recommendation from my dad. He had just recently read it and said it was an extraordinary book. Unfortunately, I wasn¿t very keen on reading a 300 odd page book however I was looking for something enticing and something I was interested in. He had recommended this book before but I had put the idea aside. Finally we were assigned an independent reading assignment, so I said ¿Ah, why not,¿ and I picked it up and started to read. Ever since then, I haven¿t been able to put the book down. If you¿re a person that¿s interested in today¿s technology and science this is definitely a book for you. This is a realistically based fiction of technology and modern science with a bit of romance. Jack Forman, a currently unemployed programmer is assigned the position of ¿house dad¿ and he¿s doing a heck of a job, but when things start going awry with his hard working wife Julia, he starts to suspect she¿s having an affair in Townsend 2 the office. She works at Xymos Technology, one of the leading technology distributors in the Silicon Valley. Jack is hired as a consultant to Xymos and takes a trip out to the companies¿ fabrication building. He is surprised to find out they are currently programming nanotechnology as a military weapon. After they get the technology advanced enough, the nano- bots begin to learn from experience and think on the spot. This ends up as a terrible outcome and could mean the end of human civilization as we know it. Crichton has done a magnificent job with his descriptive sci-fi action writing It really makes you think you¿re in the story so much, that it¿s scary. Though Prey is a great read, I would suggest limits and restrictions. It should be noted that if you are influenced by harsh language, this book is definitely not for you. There are feelings expressed in language that normally would not be accepted as polite or even correct for that matter. Also, there is slight sexual content but nothing to be alarmed about. Other than that, this book is a fantastic read and should be taken into consideration next time you¿re looking for a book worth your while. Prey is for those interested in today¿s modern science and technology, and for those looking for a good book. I recommend this book if you are looking for a good action adventure and a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. But be careful, to be human¿is to be hunted.
EBoges More than 1 year ago
Prey is a book by the famous author Michael Crichton. He has written many other famous and award winning books that are also worth a read. Prey itself is a book that commands you to keep reading it all the way through. It is definitely worthy of anyone who reads love stories or science fiction romance novels. This book is also similar to some other Crichton books that follow the theme of massive technological discovery destroying humans for their insolence and hubris. The protagonist of prey is Jack Forman. He is a middle aged father of three that has a loving wife and a good job. Everything goes wrong from here, Jack has almost everything taken from him and events push him to the edge. It starts with his job being taken away and then his family is also hurt. This leads to other events that show how human expansion of technology can be very dangerous. Michael Crichton's style can be summarized by saying that he allows the actions to speak for themselves. He perfectly balances action and suspense, and romance and dialogue. He writes in a style that purely exemplifies the actions that are pushing you to your seat. Prey is also divided into 4 parts that all have specific problems and answers. Each part seems to answer one of the questions you are thinking, but as each is answered another is proposed until finally the final truth is revealed. I highly recommend this book as one that will entertain and surprise.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Im gonna give it to you straight: the book was slow and boring and i stopped reading it for about two weeks. It was just sitting here on my nook. I started reading again, and at page 124 it got amazing. There is language and suggestive themes, but a great book for a mature 12 year old and up.
bookworm71CH More than 1 year ago
Keeps you in suspense for the entire read. Don't know much about nanotechnology, but the implicantions are frightful, if maybe unrealistic in this book. If you like suspense, this is for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Savannah Dougherty More than 1 year ago
Starts slowly but stick with it by page 200 you wont be able to put it down! :)
zola_natalie More than 1 year ago
I have read this book so many times (at least 4). I even have two copies, one paperback and one hardcover. As with all other books from this author. I love it!
Anonymous 11 months ago
This was the first book by Crichton that I've read, and I am so excited to read more. I appreciated the research he used about nanotechnology to not only interest the reader, but to inform the reader about the field. That is something I dont see in many authors. I strongly encourage others to read this nail-bitting book; I can't wait for more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
See above.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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CharliGirl12 More than 1 year ago
This is the book the introduced me to Crichton. I was at a Christmas party with a friend and his grandma handed me this book. It was a used worn out copy but she said I would like it. At the time I was pretty heavy into fantasy and I didn't think that I would like. HOWEVER, this was book was amazing and it launched me into the science fiction genre. I read everything of his that I can get my hands on!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BioHazard More than 1 year ago
Great read makes you think about nano-technology, and artificial intelligence. Watch Out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Keeps you turning the pages.
Win1 More than 1 year ago
PREY is a real thriller. Scary but fascinating. It's one of his best.
Joy_R More than 1 year ago
I had trouble putting it down. I love books by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Too technical
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. A little too technical for me at times, so I would just skip. Good tension. Kept me guessing and enthralled throughout the book. Mass45
Anonymous More than 1 year ago