Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park is a title you can drop in almost any conversation and odds are you’ll get a response. It’s usually because people have seen the movie rather than read the book, but you’ll get a response. Having seen the movie (and fallen in love with it) long before I read the book, I found that I enjoyed the movie a great deal more. The majority of the characters in the book felt like pieces of cardboard, cut out to fill specific roles. The story was painfully predictable (I feel that, even if I hadn’t seen the movie, the course of the story would have remained plain for me to see). And Crichton’s strong points as a writer, mainly the incredible amounts of research he puts into a story before writing it, did little other than detract from the story and make it’s age very apparent. Ultimately, I would not recommend reading the book.
I’m a big fan of the book’s cover. The imagery is clean, minimalistic and powerful. I know that I’m going to be reading a book about dinosaurs the instant I look at the T-Rex skeleton that dominates the cover. Based upon the cover alone, disregarding the fact that I’d seen the movie long ago, I certainly would have looked into the book further.
- Ian Malcolm. Ian is the only character in the book that I found to be interesting and unique. He is intelligent, abrasive, and has no fear about sharing his opinion on a subject and explaining why he’s right. I frequently found Ian’s dialogues thought provoking and felt like they were the highlight of the book.2
- Dinosaurs. Everyone loves dinosaurs.
- One of Crichton’s greatest strengths, the painstaking amount of research that he puts into his work, did little other than degrade the quality of the book for me. At one point he begins talking about dinosaur DNA, and literally assaults the reader with a page or two of DNA coding. That is to say that you read nothing but strings of As, Ts, Cs and Gs for a page or so. At another point he begins talking about computer coding, and he inserts literal computer code into the novel. Both of these inclusions did very little for me other than break my already weak immersion into his story.2
- The characters, outside of Ian Malcolm, were all boring and one dimensional. I frequently felt like Crichton had concocted the entire story without characters before hand, and then came back and quickly penned in people to fill out the roles that needed filling. I never cared for any of the characters (again, Malcolm excluded), and never felt scared or nervous for them while they faced down dinosaurs.
- From the beginning of the book, it was terribly obvious that something would go wrong, and given the nature of what is done on the island it was pretty clear what it would be. Dinosaurs would get out, havok would be wrought, people would die, peril would be had by those still living, and escapes would be made–end of story.
- I feel like this point belongs in ‘The Bad’ but it’s more of a nit picky, personal gripe, so I’ve included it here. Crichton spends the whole book showing you how science savvy he is. He bases his dinosaurs on the (then) re-emerging belief that they were more bird-like, rather than lizard-like (and regularly points this out to you.) He shows you actual DNA code, actual computer coding, and talks about frog DNA. However, he tosses all his science out the window during one scene with Grant and the raptors. Grant grabs syringes full of ultra-deadly toxins. Some of the worst stuff known to man. The toxins glow. The eggs he injects the toxin into glow. This struck me as ridiculous, as far as I know most toxins don’t glow under specific lighting conditions, and if they did, I seriously doubt they would continue to do so once injected into a thick egg.
- Again super nit picky of me, but if you’re going to base your book on science and fact, I’m going to care that you stick to it. The majority of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, are not from the Jurassic period, they are from the Cretaceous period. The Compys, Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus, and Dilophosaurus were the only ones from the Jurassic period. (Although the writer in me is forced to admit that “Jurassic Park” sounds a great deal better than “Cretaceous Park”).
By extracting dinosaur DNA from ancient insects trapped in amber, then rebuilding the code, John Hammond has “recreated” the dinosaur. He has filled Isla Nublar with these dinosaurs; however, his investors are worried that the park isn’t safe. John flies in several paleontologists experts, a mathematician, a lawyer, and his grandchildren, John hopes to assuage any fears that the island is dangerous. Unfortunately one of his employees, Dennis Nedry, has a great deal to gain by betraying John. In his efforts to steal several cryogenically preserved dinosaur embryos, Nedry turns off all of the parks security systems. As one would expect, this results in dinosaurs, both friendly and unfriendly, escaping. Over the next day and a half, everyone on Isla Nublar will become more acquainted with Jurassic life than any human before them.