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Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

December 31, 2012

Since we all know that Jurassic Park is one of the best movies ever, sometimes it’s good to take a step back and re-appraise the source material. I will try to stick to the book, not just make a laundry list of comparisons between the two.

Jurassic Park is about – and really, shame on you if you don’t know this, go watch the movie right now – an entrepreneur, John Hammond, who finds a way to clone dinosaur DNA, which involves some really ridiculous sounding science about bugs that just sucked on dinos being trapped in amber, and their blood being harvested to clone dinosaurs. Hammond runs away with this idea, growing docile herbivores but also T-rexes and raptors without really considering the ways it could spin out of control; he’s just so excited to bring dinosaurs back to life.

Most of the story takes place on the island, as a mathematician (Ian Malcolm), a paleontologist (Alan Grant), a paleobotanist (Elli Satler), and Hammond’s grandchildren get a chance to evaluate the island before it opens. Naturally, chaos ensues, lots of secondary characters get chomped, slashed, and blinded with poisonous goo, and Hammond watches his dream die before his eyes – oh, and the dinosaurs are breeding and totally not contained on the island.

The bare bones of the story is really strong – you say ‘dinosaurs’, and I’m already running to see it – and the book has a high number of action scenes (so much so that the 2nd and 3rd movies would borrow setpieces from the book that didn’t make it in), most of which are fairly successful. However, there are a lot of deus ex machina escapes. First, Grant and the kids make it by a sleeping T-rex in a tense scene involving getting a raft onto a river, only to have it wake up at the last second, chase them, be about to chow down, and then another dinosaur comes by to save our heroes. Then, one of the kids is almost eaten by the T-rex before he succumbs to a tranquilizer shot by the gameskeeper (who thought he had missed).  Malcolm is chomped on by a T-rex, but she is then distracted so he can live on to fill the pages with Chaos theory.

Oh, the chaos theory. This pops up in the movie, but just enough to make a little sense and give Malcolm something fairly intelligent sounding to say before we see more dinosaurs. But in the back, it goes on for pages, then comes back in the next section for a few pages, and while it’s not so much that it ends up taking away from the overall plot, it is enough that 1. the utter pop psychology bullshit of it all becomes apparent, and 2. it appears that Crichton is actually trying to make this the point of his novel, rather than dinosaurs chasing people and being awesome. I’ll take my ridiculous premises without the moralizing crap, please.

Still, a solid novel, and we are all forever indebted to it for the movie that it spawned.

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