In Michael Crichton's novel, Prey, the main characters are the
narrator, Jack, and his wife, Julia. They are parents of three lively
children, successfully combining the joys of parenthood with the
pursuit of brilliant careers in the high-tech world of Silicon Valley.
Julia works for a company called Xymos that is developing nanorobots,
tiny machines that can move around and function independently but are
programmed to work together like a swarm of bees. Jack works for a
company called MediaTronics that makes software to coordinate the
actions of large groups of autonomous agents. His programs give
intelligence and flexibility to her machines. The nanorobots run off
of solar energy, so are only active during the day.
Things start to go wrong when Jack loses his job after uncovering the
illegal plans inside the company. He is left to take care of the kids,
while Julia is working longer and longer hours at her laboratory and
losing interest in the family. She is engaged in a secret struggle to
develop her nanorobots into a stealthy photoreconnaissance system that
can be sold to the United States Army. To increase the power and
performance of the system, she incorporates living bacteria into the
nanorobots so that they can reproduce and evolve rapidly. She
reprograms them with Jack's newest autonomous-agent software so that
they can learn from experience.
Even with these improvements the nanorobots fail to meet the Army's
specifications, and Xymos loses its government funding. After that,
Julia desperately tries to convert the photoreconnaissance system into
a medical diagnostic system that ...
... middle of paper ...
...sformation. Jack and his young female friend discover that a
bacteriophage will kill the nanorobots. They drink the bacteriophage
as a vaccine, confront Julia and her colleagues, and after almost
being infected themselves, douse them with a spray of bacteriophage.
Julia and her infected colleagues are no longer able to survive
without the symbiotic nanorobots that have taken over their minds.
Under the spray of bacteriophage they collapse and die. After Julia's
demise, Jack and his girlfriend finish the job of destroying the
nanorobots inside and outside the laboratory with fire and high
explosives. In the final scene, Jack is back with his kids, wondering
whether the nanorobots are gone for good, or whether the Xymos
Corporation may still be developing other nanorobot projects that will
turn into even more nightmares.
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