I can just see how this came about: Michael Crichton sitting around one night, watching a documentary about all the insect life in a rain forest and some of the amazing ways bugs find to eat other bugs. And he’s thinking, Hmmmm. What if I introduced really small humans into this world?
At least Fantastic Voyage had a bit more premise.
So the thought is that an evil corporation needs to shrink work teams down to explore all the amazing lifeforms, drugs and properties of Hawaiian rain forests (which is like saying that someone develops commercial air transportation just to corner the market in food courts in airports). I mean, after all, you can shrink people down. How amazing is that? The whole pharmaceutical angle would just be a sub branch to the wonders such miniaturization could produce.
So seven grad students start to find out how evil this corporation is, and to hush them up, they are shrank to XXXSL size and dumped into the green hell of a rain forest. Yes, it’s Crichton, and it’s what I’d expect until one of them dies. Then another. I mean, in Jurassic Park it was just a bunch of people running away from monsters, all sorts of narrow escapes. This time, many (most) of the escapes fail. I’ll always give a tip of the pen to any author who is gutsy enough to massacre his cast, and Crichton does that. What a bloodbath!
A technical problem exists in scale. In one scene, a shrunk grad student finds himself face to face with a giant snake, just inches from his nose. Our inches? His inches? This problem continues to shift back and forth; a centipede issues “gallons” of venom. Yet a tiny man with a gas-jet gun fires at the long range of four meters. And back and forth we go, using distances from our scale except when we forget and use it on the micro scale. He should have gone with neo-distances, and made better distinctions, but this is a moot (pun intended) point.
Overall, it was a breezy enjoyable read, pure Crichton in the karmatic deaths suffered by the evil characters, but different in that the white team suffers its own nasty fates. Regardless of what you might think of him on his stance on global warming, he does know how to put out an interesting yarn. This would be his final book before his death in 2008, and it’s worth a read.