Book Review – Prey

13 01 2016

Prey (Michael Crichton - 2002)

Title: Prey

Author: Michael Crichton

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 0007796420

I remember back in the early 2000’s first hearing about Nanobots. It was the very early 2000’s and Robot Wars and its spin-off Techno Games were at their height, and I even collected the magazine Real Robots. There was no better time to be a fan of robots, and I was one, it was great. Well; my dad was looking through the newspaper and showed me the article on Nanobots, and the only thing I really knew about them was how small they were. Sometime later, about a couple of years I think, I remember watching and seeing something on Have I Got News For You about Nanobots and how such a thing would be a threat to society as Nanobots could reshape an Atom into anything theoretically, but at the moment only really Grey Goo…or something like that. Since then Nanobots are something which has come up every now and then, but surprisingly not in a very big way, or from what I have seen. Yes, they have had appearances in Video Games, TV, Movies and Books; but have somewhat never really stood out among the pack, and whose appearance since the mid-noughties sort of disappeared. I just find it odd that in the technology driven world of today, the subject of Nanobots doesn’t come up all that often. Put the subject of Nanobots in the right hands however, and you can easily end up with something very realistic, very terrifying and very believable.

Originally released in 2002 by Harper Collins; Prey is a Techno-thriller written by bestselling author Michael Crichton, whose previous works include The Andromeda Strain, Sphere, Jurassic Park, Airframe and Next. Much like many of Crichton’s works, Prey is a very science driven book that deals with the themes and ideas of it subject matter, backed up with tons of research and planning to not only produce a stunning piece of fiction, but also create the suggestion that such things are possible and are happening right now.

Unlike previous works of Crichton that I have read, Prey is told in the first person, whereas books like Jurassic Park and Micro are both third person. Prey follows the seven-day story of computer scientist Jack. He has been made redundant and is now working as a full-time father, looking after his children at home. His wife meanwhile is the Vice President of Xymos; a company based somewhere out in the Nevada Desert. Jack is beginning to find his wife rather hard to live with as she is starting to have a go at him for spending more time with their kids than she is. Meanwhile his family have started talking about strange men coming around the house. While all this is going on, out in the desert at the plant where his wife works, Jack is called in to help out when a swarm of Nanoparticles gets loose and every attempt to recover and destroy them has failed. As things begin to ramp up, Jack begins to learn the horrifying truths about both the Swarm and those around him, and soon is fighting for both his, and possibly humanities survival.

Prey deals with the subject of Nanobots, but not in the grey goo form. No, this story deals with the idea of using the latest technological discoveries to create new technologies and devices to better help mankind, and then what happens when such technology breaks loose from its programming and sets about becoming the new alpha predators. Prey is very different to the past experience I have had with Crichton. Just like Prey; Jurassic Park and Micro were very much about advancements in science and technology and what people will go to, to maintain control when they begin to lose it. Both of those books were focussed on a biological form of science, whereas Prey focusses more on the technological side than the biological side of scientific advancement. There is a lot more talk in this book about computer science than any form of biological standing. While it is certainly different in that aspect, much like Park still though, it goes into how easy it is to lose that control, but don’t think of that as some kind of Crichton Cliché, because the book does more than that. It starts out from the sane and believable world of a pressuring family life, to the in-depth loss of control in a hectic situation, to the near insane ending that just jumps off leaps and bounds until there is practically no-where else to go.

Prey is a big book, and follows the story of just one person, remaining entirely in first person all the way through. For a protagonist, Jack is a really connectable person. He starts off the book shopping for table placemats, and just grows from there. Much like his other books, the narrative is split into about three or four sections, each one highlighting a certain point. These get quicker as it goes along, but to begin with it’s just the story of a man who has lost his job and is trying to look after his family the best way he possibly can. As the early story develops, the issues between him and his wife grow, and you are brought into something of a domestic conspiracy as the book’s first bit builds to a crescendo that brings our hero into the real situation. This sets-up our hero and gives him something to live for and worry about while he’s away. Soon after though, he gets involved with the runaway swarm. Why is he brought into it? Because, ironically he has something to do with their creation in the first place. As a computer scientist; he worked on a program which becomes the main basis for the nanoparticle swarm. To begin with he tries to understand it best he can, but with issues all around him from several people it leads to him going from a consultant to a man of reasoning and action, but is then restricted on all sides, not just from the abilities of the Swarm, but the people he is working with. Eventually it leads him into the discovery of several horrible truths that lead to the action packed conclusion; along with some trademark Crichton clearing up of the facts, just to cover all the ground bases.

Prey is a really terrific read. I managed to obtain a copy of this in a book bundle from The Works for £5 (which included Next and Micro, although I already had Micro). It came at an interesting point for me as I was struggling with my current reads at the time, plus the obtaining of Prey got me all excited as to wanting to read another Michael Crichton book. I started with this one out of the two I hadn’t read in the bundle because this one had an essay at the front, and reading the point of view of Crichton in such a well written form as to the themes and ideas of the technology that inspired the book, is a great way to begin reading a book. Prey has been something of a breath of fresh air to me, as it is something very different to most other books I read all last year. Out of all the books (about 4 at the time) that I was reading, Prey was the book I most looked forward to reading a bit more of. It is a hard thing to describe, but the enjoyment I received from reading this book was unlike anything I have read in quite a while. Prey has a lot of personal issues and a background that is very easy to understand. It puts you in the situation that Jack is going through with impeccable description. It puts you in scenes from personal issues, to heightened moments of action. It also takes you on a journey of discovery and unleashes moments of mystery that make you want to keep turning the page to find out what happens next.

My feelings aside, Prey is a wonderful read. It has all the hallmarks of a Michael Crichton science fiction novel, while also delivering a constant punch of twists and turns as the book builds to its epic conclusion. While the book and its technology could be seen as a bit dated now, I don’t think that is necessarily the case. It makes the ideas of Nanobots a very serious and terrifying prospect, and one that should not be taken lightly to this day. It is very much a story of today, a world covered in people with electronic gadgets from iPod‘s and iPhone’s to Kindle‘s and even technology in devices that weren’t computerized before (like coffee machines). While it is not necessarily a story about the rise of neither machines nor computers, it is still a story about a serious threat; one that could easily lead from something found in our world today, and make humanity – not technology – obsolete.

GENEPOOL





REUS

13 08 2014

REUS Logo

Have you played Godus yet? I haven’t. Why? Because it’s still in early access and I don’t quite fancy playing a buggy game until it is supposedly finished to a point that it isn’t so buggy. It’s also why I have not played Folk Tale, MAIA, Prison Architect and War for the Overworld. All these are games I am eagerly anticipating to play, just not yet. But why am I talking about said games if the title suggests a 2D game with Giant Monsters in it. Well it sort of looks like games like Godus and Populous.

REUS World

REUS is a game about a world, a world that currently nothing exists, except for a group of Elemental Giants who each have the power over a certain type of land and abilities. One makes mountains and can create deserts and mines to mine (obviously) minerals. One can create oceans and sea life while another can create grass lands and fruit. Then finally there is a swamp giant who can create swamps and technology and sciences. What is basically a God Game where the giants are such entities and can create life and resources for the humans down below and provided the humans stay loyal to them, and not get to greedy, the giants and humans will stay in happiness together and some humans may join the giants unlocking new abilities for them. Although, the player has no direct control of the humans (a lot like Evil Genius) and if the humans get too greedy, they may declare war on each other, or even on the giants themselves which are not invincible. But if a race of man gets too powerful you can just destroy them, provided that you still have a giant that can?

REUS End

REUS is nicely designed and has a nice cartoony look about it and is also very colourful which is always a bonus. So even if the humans decide to go to war with each other, or sometimes you, at least it’s not all gloomy and horrible. The games mechanics are in the ability to give the peaceful/war like humans the things they need in order to survive/kill. So each giant while having maybe some similar abilities, each one does something different, and on top of that different types of region and the people that live on them require different kinds of resources. Grasslands initially require food, desert initially requires wealth and swamp initially requires Technology/Science. What do they require these resources for? Projects. As soon as a town is settled they begin building something which usually starts off quite basic and if accomplished thanks to the help of your giants, they grow in prestige (I think, it’s been a while since I last played it) and then may decide to upgrade that building into something better. By that point though, they require more resources and of different types. It is through this that they can get greedy and if you give them too much, equally so. But in order to achieve even these potential accomplishments the game introduces a system of multipliers. These are basically points in the resource system where combining certain things together will cause more abundance in those resources, and seemingly the strongest way of doing this is through the buildings themselves as they cause larger multipliers than the actions of the giants.

Reus Water Giant

The game while fun, colourful and perhaps playing in a more arcade style game than the standard RTS is also quite difficult as you need to inspire and provide for the humans, but also need to control them in some respects. But the game is very addictive and on your part you want to see the projects completed and do things to see them completed, but the multipliers aren’t as easy to complete as you think they are and can get quite frustrating as you try to use them to provide, but there is a real sense of accomplishment though when the projects are completed. And it is through such things that make me think of Godus as in that the humans create their own villages and building, and the same goes for this. And even when the humans decide to go to war, it is interesting to watch them do so. The world is beautifully animated, from the giants, to the humans, to even the plants and animals that live in the world and it is great to see so much diversity in the game, particularly from the animals themselves to the projects and if you are able to accomplish bigger ones, they lead onto even bigger ones. And if you are a game who likes accomplishments, there is an in-game accomplishment/trophy like system where in the lifespan of a single game you are able to accomplish a group of tasks you chose at the beginning of the game, that sense of accomplishment returns.

Reus Mountain Giant

REUS is an extraordinarily fun game. Addictive with a lot of replay value in a beautifully crafted, animated, colourful and even sounding world with lots to do and achieve while also trying to survive and do all of that within a predetermined amount of time with lots to unlock too, it is seriously good fun. Give it a try, I highly recommend this game (it’s both available on Steam and GOG.com, I have the GOG.com version).

GENEPOOL





TV Ad Meltdown 12 – Seat Ibiza Madness

24 03 2014

TAM

Good Advert for a Good looking car.

GENEPOOL





Waldo’s People

6 03 2013

The Waldo Moment

Last week I finally got round to watching Black Mirror, a TV show written by someone whose work I am a fan of and a man who is an inspiration to me; Charlie Brooker. Black Mirror is a show that airs on Channel 4 and I have been wanting to watch since it started but I have not really had the time to get round to it. So for the final episode of the series, I made sure that I would watch it, so I recorded it. The following Wednesday I watched the episode entitled The Waldo Moment and I was terrified.

Charlie Brooker

Explaining the idea of the show to The Guardian, Brooker noted– “If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side-effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The “black mirror” of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone”.   That is what Black Mirror in essence is about; it is about the addiction we all have to our technology, our gadgets. The trailer for the series shows and represents this in a way that is horrifying. In terms of how the series is structured Brooker also noted – “each episode has a different cast, a different setting, even a different reality. But they’re all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy”. When the series’ first began in 2011 and I heard about this structure I thought it sounded a lot like The Outer Limits, where each episode is un-connected and different.

Black Mirror

Returning to the Waldo Moment, When I watched the trailer for the episode I was expecting some kind of deep underground government type thriller but what I got instead was the collapse of someone behind a mask. Waldo is a cartoon character-digital puppet who has a section on a late night program where he interviews politicians under the guise of a children’s TV show character. The man who is the puppeteer of the character is a failed comedian by the name of Jamie (brilliantly played by Daniel Rigby). The character is extremely popular with the audience and he soon gets his own show, despite Jamie being depressed and generally down with life as a whole. The Waldo Moment the title of the show suggests is a moment at a Q&A session with candidates at a local election when the Conservative Candidate verbally attacks both Jamie and Waldo. Jamie (as Waldo) returns fire and verbally attacks all the candidates. The incident gets put on YouTube and becomes a Smash Hit.

TWM

For me the Episode of Black Mirror was simply terrifying. Why you might ask, well; the topic of the episode had this sense of terrifying realism to it which made it incredibly believable yet scary as if it could actually happen. Waldo and the Waldo moment shows how much young people in particular can be persuaded by a character. The character appeals to them particularly in the politics sense because he is saying what they are all thinking, and so he connects with them on a psychological level. Waldo is also a gimmick, a fad, something that given a few years (or more likely weeks to months) will be forgotten. It is something that the young people can talk about, and spread through chat, emails, Facebook as well as through their phones. Something that is popular now that is their thing, their subject, the scene if you will and will remain that way until it runs out of steam, in which case something else will be sought out while the other thing will be forgotten quickly and only remembered by a few and brought up in conversation at dinner parties. But how does this topic connect with the Black Mirror; the Black Mirror is YouTube. YouTube did not start until 2005 and so when I was at High School the only way of watching Videos was the TV. During my time at High School several of the Students used to refer to songs that were in Adverts, and it used to drive me Mad, but they kept doing it and doing it and did not really stop until either the Advert stopped showing all together or a new one came out. I remember them all, Belly’s Gonna Get Ya, Birdseye Potato Advert, Mazda Zoom Zoom Zoom, What Sits On Your Wotsits and others. When YouTube did start the online world changed and within about 2 years it was worth $2,000,000,000. In recent years the term viral has become an established name for specific pieces of content. Viral meaning it spreads, like a virus. Possibly the most well-known of these in recent times being Gangnam Style.

TWM2

The Waldo Moment is a YouTube video which has gone viral, but the show reveals a terrifying as well as potential side of this form of media. The idea that people in Viral Videos could potentially rule the world (seeing as technology has technically already done that).  This idea is shown even more so at the end of the episode, (I won’t ruin it for you). The episode is about more than just a Cartoon Character or an Idea though. The episode shows strong emotional levels within the main character of Jamie. He starts off depressed and continually goes downhill until he reaches a destination, which results in one half of him flying off into space and the other going downhill.

Christina Chong, Daniel Rigby and Jason Flemyng

Altogether the episode is one of the most thought-provoking pieces as well as one of the scariest pieces of television I have seen in years. I look forward to watching more of Black Mirror, but I am also terrified to do so, why? It is so realistic to the world now that while the incidents in the episode may not be real now or may not become real at all in the future, but it is still a strong possibility.

GENEPOOL (You can watch this episode on 4OD)








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