First of all: of course it’s a book. You didn’t think Hollywood came up with such an awesome premise on its own, did you? Spielberg helped popularize it, but 23 years ago (IKNOWRIGHT?!) this book was a #1 New York Times bestseller. Late author Michael Crichton is also the brains behind such titles as The Andromeda Stain and television’s ER.
Second of all: the book is every bit as thrilling and terrifying as the movies. Some things annoyed my literary half, but my “entertain me!”-half was fully enthralled the entire time.
By now the basic premise is widely known. But in case you’ve been trapped under a rock (heh, heh), I’ll quickly explain it. Millions-of-years-extinct dinosaurs are cloned and placed in an amusement park/zoo-like atmosphere on a remote island in Costa Rica. Scientists and select visitors come check it out for the first time pre-launch, and all hell (i.e. the dinosaurs) break loose.
It’s a cautionary tale with a blatant message: don’t mess with nature or it will mess with you. In many ways, Jurassic Park is Pygmalion: just because you’ve created (or re-created) something doesn’t mean it will bend to your will. One of the main characters, chaos theorist Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum’s character) presents this message constantly. He’s written as this incredibly smart and outspoken dude, who obviously helped Crichton get his message out there in a very clear manner. Says Malcolm: “Scientists are actually preoccupied with accomplishment. So they are focused on whether they can do something. They never stop to ask if they should do something.”
And more on the abuse of power:
“Scientific power is like inherited wealth: attained without discipline. You read what others have done, and you take the next step…. And because you can stand on the shoulders of giants, you can accomplish something quickly. You don’t even know exactly what you have done, but already you have reported it, patented it, and sold it. And the buyer will have even less discipline than you. The buyer simply purchases the power, like any commodity. The buyer doesn’t even conceive that any discipline might be necessary.”
That’s the crux of the message. It’s as relevant today as it was 20 years ago, as it was when Frankenstein was written, as it was before that. Meaty stuff! And speaking of meat, yes, the book also offers lots of straight-up Dino action. Like the movies, T-rex is scary, but not quite so much as Velociraptor. Most of the book takes place in one night, as different people are stalked by various Dinosauria. Crichton had a real talent for establishing a strong setting, and building tension within it. I couldn’t believe how on-edge I felt simply reading a book. Honestly, I’m surprised my hair didn’t fall out. I was stressed out yet fascinated, and I had to keep reading.
But I must make a confession. This is a “boy book”, and I don’t really like boy books. For me there was too much tech talk, diagrams, computer code and math. Now, I don’t mean to sound like the “math is hard!” Barbie, but I sort of am. Really, do we need half a page of HTML midway through a good discussion? Does anyone read that? Don’t we all just skim over that nonsense? Please, males, tell me if you actually enjoy this stuff! Okay, okay, disclaimer time: I have nothing but mad respect and admiration for how much time had to have gone into researching this book. Michael Crichton was boss.
So what else struck me about Jurassic Park? Mention of the Sony Walkman and awe about touch screens was quite funny. Vast differences between the book and movie were also evident. The first was the kids: Tim is the elder Dino-loving, computer-able brother, while Lex is the baseball-obsessed annoyance of a kid-sister. (Like, seriously, Alexis. There’s a FREAKING RAPTOR in the same room as you, and you won’t STOP TALKING!) I was also surprised about who dies and who doesn’t. All the “bad people” get theirs, but so do a few of the pivotal goodies. I won’t reveal who, but I’ll say I was shocked. Basically it means I have no idea what happens in book two, even though I’ve watched The Lost World. I suppose that just means I’ll have to read that as well. RAWR!