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About the Author
Michael Crichton (1942-2008) was the author of the bestselling novels The Terminal Man, The Great Train Robbery, Jurassic Park, Sphere, Disclosure, Prey, State of Fear, Next and Dragon Teeth, among many others. His books have sold more than 200 million copies worldwide, have been translated into thirty-eight languages, and have provided the basis for fifteen feature films. He wrote and directed Westworld, The Great Train Robbery, Runaway, Looker, Coma and created the hit television series ER. Crichton remains the only writer to have a number one book, movie, and TV show in the same year.
Hometown:Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:October 23, 1942
Date of Death:November 4, 2008
Place of Birth:Chicago, Illinois
Place of Death:Los Angeles, California
Education:B.A.. in Anthropology, Harvard University, 1964; M.D., Harvard Medical School, 1969
Read an Excerpt
By Michael Crichton
HarperCollinsCopyright © 2011 Michael Crichton
All right reserved.
Chapter OneChapter 1
DIVINITY AVENUE, CAMBRIDGE
18 OCTOBER, 1:00 P.M.
In the second floor biology lab, Peter Jansen, twenty-three, slowly
lowered the metal tongs into the glass cage. Then, with a quick
jab, he pinned the cobra just behind its hood. The snake hissed
angrily as Jansen reached in, gripped it firmly behind the head,
raised it to the milking beaker. He swabbed the beaker membrane
with alcohol, pushed the fangs through, and watched as yellowish
venom slid down the glass.
The yield was a disappointing few milliliters. Jansen really
needed a half-dozen cobras in order to collect enough venom to
study, but there was no room for more animals in the lab. There
was a reptile facility over in Allston, but the animals there tended
to get sick; Peter wanted his snakes nearby, where he could supervise
Venom was easily contaminated by bacteria; that was the reason
for the alcohol swab and for the bed of ice the beaker sat on. Peter's
research concerned bio-activity of certain polypeptides in cobra
venom; his work was part of a vast research interest that included
snakes, frogs, and spiders, all of which made neuroactive toxins. His
experience with snakes had made him an "envenomation specialist,"
occasionally called by hospitals to advise on exotic bites. This caused
a certain amount of envy among other graduate students in the lab;
as a group, they were highly competitive and quick to notice if anyone
got attention from the outside world. Their solution was to
complain that it was too dangerous to keep a cobra in the lab, and
that it really shouldn't be there. They referred to Peter's research as
"working with nasty herps."
None of this bothered Peter; his disposition was cheerful and
even-handed. He came from an academic family, so he didn't take
this backbiting too seriously. His parents were no longer alive,
killed in the crash of a light plane in the mountains of Northern
California. His father had been a professor of geology at UC Davis,
and his mother had taught on the medical faculty in San Francisco;
his older brother was a physicist.
Peter had returned the cobra to the cage just as Rick Hutter
came over. Hutter was twenty-four, an ethnobotanist. Lately he had
been researching analgesics found in the bark of rain forest trees.
As usual, Rick was wearing faded jeans, a denim shirt, and heavy
boots. He had a trimmed beard and a perpetual frown. "I notice
you're not wearing your gloves," he said.
"No," Peter said, "I've gotten pretty confident"
"When I did my field work, you had to wear gloves," he said.
Rick Hutter never lost an opportunity to remind others in the lab
that he had done actual field work. He made it sound as if he had
spent years in the remote Amazon backwaters. In fact, he had spent
four months doing research in a national park in Costa Rica. "One
porter in our team didn't wear gloves, and reached down to move
a rock. Bam! Terciopelo sunk its fangs into him. Fer-de-lance, two
meters long. They had to amputate his arm. He was lucky to
survive at all."
"Uh-huh," Peter said, hoping Rick would get going. He liked
Rick, but the guy had a tendency to lecture everybody.
The person in the lab who really disliked Rick Hutter was Karen
King. Karen, a tall young woman with dark hair and angular shoulders,
was studying spider venom and spiderwebs. She overheard
Rick lecturing Peter on snakebite in the jungle, and couldn't stand
it. She had been working at a lab bench, and she snapped over her
shoulder, "Rickyou stayed in a tourist lodge in Costa Rica.
"Bullshit. We camped in the rain forest"
"Two whole nights," Karen interrupted him, "until the mosquitoes
drove you back to the lodge."
Rick glared at Karen. His face turned red, and he opened his
mouth to say something, but didn't. Because he couldn't reply. It
was true: the mosquitoes had been hellish. He'd been afraid the
mosquitoes might give him malaria or dengue hemorrhagic fever,
so he had gone back to the lodge.
Instead of arguing with Karen King, Rick turned to Peter:
"Hey, by the way. I heard a rumor that your brother is coming
today. Isn't he the one who struck it rich with a start up company?"
"That's what he tells me."
"Well, money isn't everything. Myself, I'd never work in the
private sector. It's an intellectual desert. The best minds stay in
universities so they don't have to prostitute themselves."
Peter wasn't about to argue with Rick, whose opinions on any
subject were strongly held. But Erika Moll, the entomologist who'd
recently arrived from Munich, said, "I think you are being rigid. I
wouldn't mind working for a private company at all."
Hutter threw up his hands. "See? Prostituting."
Erika had slept with several people in the biology department,
and didn't seem to care who knew. She gave him the finger and said,
"I see you've mastered American slang," Rick said, "among other
"The other things, you wouldn't know," she said. "And you
won't." She turned to Peter. "Anyway, I see nothing wrong with a
"But what is this company, exactly?" said a soft voice. Peter
turned and saw Amar Singh, the lab's expert in plant hormones.
Amar was known for his distinctly practical turn of mind. "I mean,
what does the company do that makes it so valuable? And this is a
biological company? But your brother is a physicist, isn't he? How
does that work?"
At that moment, Peter heard Jenny Linn across the lab say,
"Wow, look at that!" She was staring out the window at the street
below. They could hear the rumble of high performance engines.
Jenny said, "Peter, lookis that your brother?"
Everyone in the lab had gone to the windows.
Peter saw his brother on the street below, beaming like a kid,
waving up at them. Eric was standing alongside a bright yellow
Ferrari convertible, his arm around a beautiful blond woman. Behind
them was a second Ferrari, gleaming black. Someone said, "Two
Ferraris! That's half a million dollars down there." The rumble of
the engines echoed off the scientific laboratories that lined Divinity
A man stepped out of the black Ferrari. He had a trim build and
expensive taste in clothes, though his look was decidedly casual.
"That's Vin Drake," Karen King said, staring out the window.
"How do you know?" Rick Hutter said to her, standing beside
"How do you not know?" Karen replied. "Vincent Drake is
probably the most successful venture capitalist in Boston."
"You ask me, it's a disgrace," Rick said. "Those cars should have
been outlawed years ago."
But nobody was listening to him. They were all heading for the
stairs, hurrying down to the street. Rick said, "What is the big
"You didn't hear?" Amar said, hurrying past Rick. "They've
come here to recruit."
"Recruit? Recruit who?"
"Anybody doing good work in the fields that we're interested in,"
Vin Drake said to the students clustered around him. "Microbiology,
entomology, chemical ecology, ethnobotany, phytopathology
in other words, all research into the natural world at the microor
nano-level. That's what we're after, and we're hiring now. You
don't need a PhD. We don't care about that; if you're talented you
can do your thesis for us. But you will have to move to Hawaii,
because that's where the labs are."
Standing to one side, Peter embraced his brother, Eric, then
said, "Is that true? You're already hiring?"
The blond woman answered. "Yes, it's true." She stuck out her
hand and introduced herself as Alyson Bender, the CFO of the
company. Alyson Bender had a cool handshake with a crisp manner,
Peter thought. She wore a fawn colored business suit with a string
of natural pearls at her neck. "We need at least a hundred first rate
researchers by the end of the year," she said. "They're not easy to
find, even though we offer what is probably the best research
environment in the history of science."
"Oh? How is that?" Peter said. It was a pretty big claim.
"It's true," his brother said. "Vin will explain."
Peter turned to his brother's car. "Do you mind . . ." He couldn't
help himself. "Could I get in? Just for a minute?"
"Sure, go ahead."
He slipped behind the wheel, shut the door. The bucket seat was
tight, enveloping; the leather smelled rich; the instruments were big
and business-like, the steering wheel small, with unusual red buttons
on it. Sunlight gleamed off the yellow finish. Everything felt
so luxurious, he was a little uneasy; he couldn't tell if he liked this
feeling or not. He shifted in the seat, and felt something under his
thigh. He pulled out a white object that looked like a piece of popcorn.
And it was light like popcorn, too. But it was stone. He thought
the rough edges would scratch the leather; he slipped it into his
pocket and climbed out.
One car over, Rick Hutter was glowering at the black Ferrari, as
Jenny Linn admired it. "You must realize, Jenny," Rick said, "that
this car, squandering so many resources, is an offense against
"Really?" Jenny said. "Did she tell you that?" She ran her fingers
along the fender. "I think it's beautiful."
In a basement room furnished with a Formica table and a coffee
machine, Vin Drake had seated himself at the table, with Eric Jansen
and Alyson Bender, the two Nanigen executives, placed on either
side of him. The grad students clustered around, some sitting
at the table, some leaning against the wall.
"You're young scientists, starting out," Vin Drake was saying.
"So you have to deal with the reality of how your field operates.
Why, for example, is there such an emphasis on the cutting edge in
science? Why does everybody want to be there? Because all the
prizes and recognition go to new fields. Thirty years ago, when
molecular biology was new, there were lots of Nobels, lots of major
discoveries. Later, the discoveries became less fundamental, less
groundbreaking. Molecular biology was no longer new. By then the
best people had moved on to genetics, proteomics, or to work in
specialized areas: brain function, consciousness, cellular differentiation,
where the problems were immense and still unsolved. Good
strategy? Not really, because the problems remain unsolved. Turns
out it isn't enough that the field is new. There must also be new
tools. Galileo's telescopea new vision of the universe. Leeuwenhoek's
microscopea new vision of life. And so it continues, right
to the present: radio telescopes exploded astronomical knowledge.
Unmanned space probes rewrote our knowledge of the solar system.
The electron microscope altered cell biology. And on, and on.
New tools mean big advances. So, as young researchers, you should
be asking yourselveswho has the new tools?"
There was a brief silence. "Okay, I'll bite," someone said. "Who
has the new tools?"
"We do," Vin said. "Nanigen MicroTechnologies. Our company
has tools that will define the limits of discovery for the first
half of the twenty-first century. I'm not kidding, I'm not exaggerating.
I'm telling you the simple truth."
"Pretty big claim," Rick Hutter said. He leaned against the wall,
arms folded, clutching a paper cup of coffee.
Vin Drake looked calmly at Rick. "We don't make big claims
without a reason."
"So what exactly are your tools?" Rick went on.
"That's proprietary," Vin said. "You want to know, you sign an
NDA and come to Hawaii to see for yourself. We'll pay your airfare."
"Whenever you're ready. Tomorrow, if you want."
Vin Drake was in a hurry. He finished the presentation, and they
all filed out of the basement and went out onto Divinity Avenue, to
where the Ferraris were parked. In the October afternoon, the air
had a bite, and the trees burned with orange and russet colors.
Hawaii might have been a million miles from Massachusetts.
Peter noticed Eric wasn't listening. He had his arm around Alyson
Bender, and he was smiling, but his thoughts were elsewhere.
Peter said to Alyson, "Would you mind if I took a family moment
here?" Grabbing his brother's arm, he walked him down the street
away from the others.
Excerpted from Micro by Michael Crichton Copyright © 2011 by Michael Crichton. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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