Saturday, March 28, 2015

Prey: a Novel by Michael Crichton [CD Edition], Book Review by Sharon Powers. Today, we take a look at Michael Crichton's book, as we ask, "Is one form of listening [CDs, Kindle, Audio] better than another?"

This edition of Prey is the downloadable edition from Audible. [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     We were on the road headed to my daughter's house for my grandson's fun- eral. The radio was- n't working because all around us were hills. Everyone in the car complained that they were bored... apparently no one had thought to bring along a book to read or a CD that we all could have enjoyed. 

     Finally, not able to take any more complaining, I stopped at a roadside super service station. First, I got out of the car and filled it up with gas. Then I went inside to see what I could find to still the complaining.  
This is the box I purchased--except
the cellophane wrapper has been
removed. I paid $14.95
for the book. [2]

     I poured over the CD racks  looking for a few that had enjoyable music (I knew I would need more than one) until, that is, I found the section with books on CD. Then I was almost immediately disappointed since it looked like all the good books were gone. Still, I decided to browse through them quickly to see if anything interesting might be there. 

This is what it looked like as I pulled out the CD binder. [2]
     Eventually, after spending more time than I had planned to--isn't that the funny way it always seems to go?--anyway, I found a Michael Crichton book, Prey: a Novel. I wasn't sure if I should get it because I had never read anything by Michael Crichton. Since I read, a lot, I had heard of him. I remembered that some of his notable books included: 

The CD case is only a little larger than your average CD.
As you can see, multiple discs can be fit into each page
of the CD wallet. [2]
Here is the number 1 CD of the book. The book publishers
have thoughtfully included the size of the swarm of the
nanobots. Of course, the dots are meant to represent the
mysterious nanobots. If you look at the other CDs you might
notice that each disc seems to represent the growing cloud
of nanobots. [2]
The Andromeda Strain, The Terminal Man, Congo, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and, of course, I had heard of his work on Coma, Westworld, and Rising Sun (a movie I had watched with my family). Still, I wasn't sure. It wasn't normally the type of book I would pick for myself..."Wait a minute," I thought, I'm not buying this for me but for everyone in my



car. I just couldn't come back empty-handed. I bought the CD book and we were back on the road. Before I tell you how my passengers and I liked the book, I think we should first take a quick look at the synopsis. 

Are you ready? OK. Here we go....




SYNOPSIS OF MICHAEL CRICHTON'S BOOK, PREY: A NOVEL:
This is a dust storm over Phoenix. [3]
     Michael Crichton sets his novel in a dry Nevada desert--a barren landscape, empty, and lonely. Even as the wind howls through isolated landscapes we cannot escape the foreboding that something else inhabits the dust clouds of desert dirt.  Maybe this dust cloud is more than it seems. You see, a mysterious cloud of nanoparticles (microrobots) also calls the desert home. The really ominous thing about the dust cloud is that it is looking for us...to be its PREY!

This image accompanies the magazine article,
"Will Artificial Organism with Advanced Group
intelligence Evolve?"
[4]
     How can these nanobots have come to be in the desert? And, why are they the predators and we the prey? The mysterious cloud is self-sustaining and self-reproducing, but what is really scary is that the nanobots are very intelligent and learn from every experience. With every passing minute the nanobots learn and grow, and then they evolve into something... more...continually changing and growing bigger, stronger, more intelligent, and deadly. What has caused this horrible disaster for humans? You will be shocked to find out!
_____________________________

     Interestingly, as I was looking for a photo to use in this post, I came across an article from an on-line magazine called The Daily Galaxy. The article, "Will Artificial Organism with Advanced Group Intelligence Evolve? appeared on January 9, 2009, and referred to Michael Crichton's book. Here is what they said:
Remember Michael Crichton's science-fiction novel, "Prey"? Well, researchers at the University of York have investigated large swarms of up to 10,000 miniature robots which can work together to form a single, artificial life form. The multi-robot approach to artificial intelligence is a relatively new one, and has developed from studies of the swarm behavior of social insects such as ants." [4]
[4]
     You can read more of this interesting article by clicking the link (above) to read the entire short article in The Daily Galaxy. They have some interesting theories you might enjoy exploring.

MY FAVORITE QUOTE FROM, PREY:
[5]
     I have to have a little disclaimer, here. Since I listened to a book on CD, I couldn't remember where my quote came from in the book (i.e. what page, or how much time into the book). By necessity, I had to type in the quote on-line, as well as I could remember it, to get it exactly right. These two very short quotes relate to each other, as you shall see:
We think we know what we are doing. We have always thought so."--Michael Crichton, Prey.
They didn't understand what they were doing. I'm afraid that will be on the tombstone of the human race." --Michael Crichton, Prey.
     See what I mean. These two independent statements are about "knowing" and "understanding" what we, as human beings are doing. I love how Michael Crichton can embody both concepts so neatly in one book. Well-done, Michael Crichton!

WHAT I THINK ABOUT THE BOOK:

NANOTECHNOLOGY:
"Future Effects of Nanotech on Health Care." [7]
    Michael Crichton's ability to choose a critical topic on the world front that also appears on the pages of newspapers and maga- zines on which to write seems uncanny. I found a number of articles just by bumping into them. Here's    one,   for example,   from     the CDC on nanotechnology: Nanotechnology - 10 Critical Top Areas that you may wish to take a look at. [6]

     My point, here, is that nanotechnology is on the forefront of importance in being assessed not just as a possibility, but in the "determining [of] the physical and chemical properties...influenc[ing] the potential toxicity of nanoparticles," in evaluating the effects of nanomaterial in organs (long & short-term); and assessing possible hazards. These topics are just a few of the issues scientists, politicians, and the global community are examining as we begin to realistically face the imminent future, just on our doorstep, concerning nanotechnology. With this kind of far seeing eye, maybe we should ask Michael Crichton to step up and advise the world leaders on a few other critical topics in the world, today.

One aspect of nanotechnology. See the article listed under References/
Sources [#8], below, for more information on what's being done
in this area of research and development. [8]
     Therefore, with all this information about the burgeoning growth in nanotechnology, the importance becomes apropos to Crichton's story. This means that utilizing critical topics to make the plot a little more dramatic, per- haps scary for some, can only add to the drama that Crichton uses in his book, Prey. The writer must be abreast the fields that can give him those potential topics and lead, who knows, to a best seller.

FAMILY:
    Another appealing aspect of Michael Crichton's book is his use of the adorable children he has given our lead character, Jack Forman (former manager/lead at MediaTronics [adv. computer algorithms]) and his wife, Julia Foreman, Vice President of the Xymos Co. Together they have three beautiful children: Eric, their son, Nicole (a preteen girl), and Amanda (a baby girl).

Doesn't this loving little family
look so very idyllic? They are:
Jack Forman, Julia Forman,
Eric, Nicole, and Amanda. [9]
     Crichton puts this adorable family into the story, undoubtedly, not only to be appealing, but as an object of fear. Fear, because we almost immediately begin to fear for the children and adults that something is terribly wrong; something, not yet explained at this early point of the story. Crichton is starting to build the tension. He will build the tension layer upon layer until the tension is almost palpable.

     Then we begin suspecting something dark and mysterious is going on with the Julia, the children's mother--the one person who loves her children more than life, itself. We see her acting strangely, and then she disappears into the night with an unidentified man in a car. Jack watches as the two make their escape--he suspects infidelity, now. But, the real truth is far more shocking than any infidelity.

     Crichton just keeps layering the tension with each segment of the story. Now, we have a mystery behind Julia's behavior and her leaving in a car with another man.

GENRE--JUST WHAT IS IT?
[10]
     At first blush, looking at the book cover (and CDs), we see a swarm of something that looks terribly dangerous. As we read, we eventually acknowledge that since science and technology is part of the story, as well as a strange type of non-human "alien" life in the nanobots (alien meaning "strange," not alien from outer space). We think, "Yes." this is SCI-FI[11]

[13]
     I have already told you, above, how Crichton has layered the story with one tension-building situation after another in order to build tension and anxiety in the reader. I'm sure most of you know that a story with tension or conflict between characters expressed in action, tension building and some sort of conflict equals SUSPENSE. In this story, Crichton creates tension among people, and also with the swarm of nanobots (e.g. like Alfred Hitchcock's, The Birds.). But is this enough to categorize it as a suspense novel? I don't think so. You see, in suspense novels the reader knows things the protagonist doesn't know. I think that places Prey, outside the category of suspense. So, no to this category. [12]

[14]
     Now, what about MYSTERY? Well, when we say, "mystery," our minds conjure up a protagonist who tries to solve some kind of problem, goes on a quest, of sorts, ferreting out clues until he is able to ascertain who did the action (like stealing the maltese falcon) and why. In a mystery novel, the reader takes the trip with the protagonist and only learns of the clues when the protagonist does. The reader doesn't have any special insight like other types of novels (Thrillers). The protagonist is seldom in any danger--he is, after, trying to solve a puzzle. After all, puzzles aren't very dangerous...think Hercule Poirot or Agatha Christie. In Prey, Jack Forman IS in danger. . . Hmm. Where does that put us, now? [12]

     Usually, the mystery is told in first person, like our story, today, Prey. The result of utilizing first person also helps the author to get the reader involved in the story, to create empathy for the protagonist, and, in the end, sympathize and care about their hero. Involvement. It creates an investment by the reader in the story. [12]

[16]
     The HORROR genre, as stated by The Horror Writers Association (HWA), firsts looks to Webster's Collegiate Diction- ary for a start. HWA says that the dictionary gives the basic definition of horror as, "a painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay." Further, HWA reasons that "horror fiction" is a fictional work that "elicits those emotions in the reader." And that by accepting the Webster's definition, it means that horror can encompass natural or supernatural, the fantastic or the normal. HWA further states that the essential "requirement is that it elicit an emotional reaction that includes some aspect of fear or dread."



Here, The Slaughter of the Innocents. All boys under two yrs.
old were slaughtered. Rachel would not be comforted.
The Bible. [16]
     Many examples can fill this definition. The examples cited by HWA include not only Salem's Lot (by Stephen King), but also includes such books as The Lovely Bones (by Alice Sebold), and Tim Lahay's, Left Behind Series; surprisingly, The Holy Bible, would also be included because, "where else can you find fallen angels, demonic possessions, and an apocalypse absolutely terrifying in its majesty, all in one volume..."[15] 

     Finally, THRILLERS: Thrillers are pretty easy to spot. Look at the word, thrillers--try "thrill." Yes, these stories are full of action (e.g. car chases), violence, fighting or running away from the bad guy(s)--our hero, or our protagonist is in all kinds of danger.

[17]
     Additionally, the reader watches the bad guy from the beginning, see him do the crime (e.g. murder), and, therefore, knows who the killer is, unlike the protagonist. A sub-genre of this could include technological aspects, like our book, Prey. The fact that our protagonist knows who the killer is and has information about the crime/murder, alone, could put Prey out of the thriller running, since Jack has no information at the beginning of the book about what is going on; instead, Jack has to get information and put the pieces together. [12]

This table includes the results of readers' assessment
of what genre they believe the book, Prey, fits into. [18]
     So what have we decided? Science Fiction seemed to fit. In the suspense genre, we placed it outside of the genre category. The mystery category, also, seemed to be outside the genre, as well as the thriller category. We seem to have a Fictional novel in the sub genre of science fiction.  Also, we seem to have narrowed the other genre's down to...what? none of these, except sci-fi?

     Well, here's the problem. Some genre's have crossovers. What we see, here, is that each of the categories have SOME of the elements belonging to that category. Moreover, we don't want to just say, the genre is a sci-fi/suspense/mystery/thriller. The conceit generally allows for two names only, so it appears we can only have two. To answer this question, we must look to what the publishers and author intended the book to be. Publishers have listed Prey, as being SCI-FI, and of the TECHNO-THRILLER/HORROR genres. There you have it--it looks like most of us were probably wrong in assessing the genre (above, left). [19]

     One thing I really liked about the book is Crichton's easy-going style of writing. It made me feel at ease with the writing, and I enjoyed, very much the way he put words and sentences together.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK FOR ME ABOUT MICHAEL CRICHTON'S BOOK--PREY:
[21]
     I have to acknowledge that the science part of Michael Crichton's book falls far short of reality. The science is patently wrong in some areas of the book. Even though I acknowledge the erroneous parts of the book, really, who cares (Except science oriented persons, of which I am not one.)? As I see it, a work of fiction is "fictional." So what, then, if parts of a book aren't realistic. Addressing this and Michael Crichton's book, the co-founder of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, Chris Phoenix, writes about "evolutionary learning and emergent behavior," among other things. Take a look at this informational article (see below) that sorts out all sorts of issues surrounding Prey. [20]

     I also had a problem with how slow the beginning of the book was. I do understand that Crichton was setting up the reader to understand what a "normal" life looked like, and how he was allowing the doubt and fear to creep in, but it still seemed a bit slow. Later in the book, though, Crichton gave the characters (and our protagonist) a frenetic pace right up to the end of the book. Because of the science errors, you might hate this book; if you enjoy the plot you might love it.

WHICH IS BETTER? CDs, KINDLE, OR AUDIO DOWNLOAD?
[2]
     First, I am not an audiophile, and I have not made a study of sound. What I do know is what I am pleased to hear, and what I am not pleased with. The CD book that I purchased was read by Robert Sean Leonard with an introduction to the book read by Michael Crichton. Mr. Leonard is a professional actor, appearing not only on Broadway in Brighton Beach Memoirs and The Iceman Cometh, but starring in the very popular Kenneth Branagh production of Much Ado About Nothing and Dead Poets Society.I very much enjoyed the professional reading, and must remark that Leonard added a lot to the enjoyment of the story. [2]

[22]
     Second, with a Kindle reader or other brand of e-reader device, often the reading is mechanical sounding, and since it is so, it is not nearly as enjoyable as a recording professionally read. I have so many books, however, that to purchase for an additional cost to the book itself, a professional recording, would be cost prohibitive. With some books, however, when I am exceedingly busy, I may turn on my kindle reader while I am cooking dinner or working quietly in my office. Sometimes, I turn on my reader for ten or fifteen minutes before bed to help relax me, and I get the added bonus of hearing an enjoyable story, too.

     And...when I am getting ready for work, listening to my e-reader helps me relax and not feel stressed as I begin the day--I especially enjoy listening to a book while I am putting on my cosmetics. Then in the evening or on weekends, I can pick up my Kindle and read it just as I do a paper book, turning one page at a time. I read books in many different locations, so I must be flexible and read how and when the type of reading works best for me. For example, sitting in my doctor's office waiting room, I read my Kindle as a book, but when cooking, I listen to it.

[23]
     Third, with the audio downloads, you purchase the book with the professional narration included. With these audio books, you can download to your listening device (I have an iPod and a nano that I download my music and audiobooks to.). The professional readers who read the book can be really wonderful, or they can be really terrible. The talent of every reader varies, but the purchaser of the book has the opportunity to listen to a sample of the book before they purchase it, so the risk is cut down that the reader will end up hating the book because it sounded so terrible. I have an "Audible" account, and was quite pleased when Amazon and Audible became one; now, I can purchase professional reading quite easily for my Kindle without going to the Audible website (Of course, I still go to the Audible website for the cool sales.). I like these type of audiobooks for when I am driving in the car on long stretches of road--it is quite easy to attach the device to my car's radio speakers, and voilá, I'm in business. When I exercise, I wear headphones.

     I think that with every book that you listen to, the quality and enjoyment may well depend exactly who is the reader. I've listened to some books where the reader was quite terrible, and I tended to not enjoy the book so much. The way to fix that predicament is to listen to the sample reading if you are at Amazon or Audible (or some other vendor of audio, CD and e-books).

Which will it be for you? Will it be CD? Will it be
Kindle? or Will it be Audio download? [24]
THE VERDICT: I think part of the process is what you prefer for reading devices. I like flexibility, so I use all three ways of listening to recorded books. If you prefer an e-reader (whatever brand) you should feel free to purchase a book with a professional reader if you desire. That is my biggest piece of advice for all three types of listening devices--sample the book you are going to purchase. The winner, though I pick is the audio book download. It has a great added feature of being able to have a ton of audio books and also of being able to download the book multiple times; whereas, with CDs I have storage issues. While the Kindle as an e-reader is good, the downside there is that in addition to purchasing the book to read, you must in addition purchase the audio version if you are to listen to it without the "mechanical-sounding" narration. Hands down, the downloadable version has the most good attributes and the least negative points.

MY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE BOOK, PREY:
     Since the target audience appears to be adult readers who enjoy sci-fi, techno-thrillers and horror, I will, obviously, recommend the book to those readers. However, young readers and those who are sensitive should give thought to its contents before reading this book.

MY RATING OF THE BOOK, PREY:
[25]
     I loved reading the book, or rather...listening to it on my drive north. My family found the book as intense and gripping as I did and we all give it a thumbs up. So, given the positive and negative points I have given you above, and also on the amount that I enjoyed the book, I rate this book 4.0 stars out of 5.0.

     Thank you for joining me this week as we got to look at a book that has been "out" for a while, but is, nonetheless, an exciting and "thrilling" book. Next week we will be looking at a book that will be released on April 14, 2015, The Horse Healer.  This exciting new book is a NetGalley book that I am proud to have had the privilege of reading, and will be reviewing for you. Thank you for taking time to read and consider my book review of Prey, by Michael Crichton.

Until next time...
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [26]
...many happy pages of reading.

Remember to be kind to one another...

...you never know what kind of pain is in another's heart.

My love to you all.

Sharon.  


_________________________________________________________
REFERENCES/SOURCES
[1] "Prey: a Novel." [Audible Edition][Michael Crichton] amazon.com. Retrieved 03-26-15.
[2] "Prey: a Novel." [CD Edition] [Michael Crichton] amazon.com. Retrieved 03-26-15.
[3] "Dust Storm Over Phoenix." [25 Wednesday, July 2012.] [Wilson Wyatt Jr.] Retrieved 03-26-15.
[4] "Will Artificial Organism with Advanced Group Intelligence Evolve?" [The Daily Galaxy, 01-09-09] dailygalaxy.com. Retrieved 03-26-15.
[5] Image from Microsoft Office Professional 2010. Text box and text added by author of this post.
[6] "Nanotechnology - 10 Critical Top Areas."  [Workplace Safety and Health Topics] cec.gov. Retrieved 03-27-15.
[7] "Future Effects of Nanotech on Health Care." [Ryan Winter, 10-21-09] blog.soliant.com. Retrieved 03-27-15.
[8] "U.S. Develops Robotic Mosquito, Any thoughts on This?" [AnComm, &AnComm] bubblews.com. Retrieved 03-27-15.
[9] "Parents With Three Children (1 boy and 2 girls)." willowcreeklane.com. Retrieved 03-27-15.
[10] "Sci-Fi." bigrat.co.uk. Retrieved 03-28-15.
[11] "Science Fiction." en.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 03-27-15.
[12] "Mystery, Suspense, or Thriller--What's the Difference?" nadinelapierre.com. Retrieved 03-27-15.
[13] "The Suspense." [Yor Ryeter] ittakes10k.wordpress.com. Retrieved 03-27-15.
[14] "Mystery Solved: Sherlock Holmes is in the Public Domain." romanolaw.com. Retrieved 03-27-15.
[15]  "What is Horror?" horror.org. Retrieved 03-28-15.
[16] "FrightFall Read-a-thon." seasonsreading.blogspot.com. Retrieved 03-28-15.
[17] "Polars and Thrillers." juste-pour-lire.com. Retrieved 03-27-15.
[18] "Genres." goodreads.com. Retrieved 03-28-15.
[19] "Product Details." [harpercollinspublishers] harpercollins.com. Retrieved 03-28-15.
[20] "Don't let Crichton's Prey scare you--the science isn't real." [Chris Phoenix, co-founder of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology; January 2003.] nanotech-now.com. Retrieved 03-28-15.
[21] "Twenty of the Worst Science Jokes Ever." edutopia.org. Retrieved 03-28-15.
[22] "Kindle 8.9 HDX and Finti magenta case." smile.amazon.com. Retrieved 03-28-15.
[23] "Apple iPod nano (6th Generation with Touch Screen)." pcmag.com. Retrieved 03-28-15.
[24] "Dominate the GMAT." dominatethegmat.com. Retrieved 03-28-15.
[25] "Final Verdict & Rating." mandyssecrets.com. Retrieved 03-28-15.
[26] "Pictures From My Garden." sparkpeople.com. Retrieved 03-28-15.