I loved this book. I mean, it’s Jurassic Park…that means dinosaurs! And Dr. Ian Malcolm! And more dinosaurs! And chaos theory! And I mean…come on…it’s Jurassic Park! To be honest I don’t know what took me so long to read it. The movie’s a classic. I’ve been a fan of Michael Crichton ever since reading The Andromeda Strain. I think I was afraid of being disappointed, thankfully, Crichton delivers.
John Hammond is a business man who comes up with a billion dollar idea. Using dinosaur DNA extracted from blood-sucking insects encased in amber, he resurrects dinosaurs from extinction using the best scientists from across the United States. His intention is to create hugely profitable chain of dinosaur theme parks across the globe. The book begins a year before Jurassic Park is set to open, Hammond has gathered together his team to inspect the park and offer their seal of approval. Chief paleontologist, Dr. Alan Grant, and paleobotanist, Dr. Ellie Sattler, have been kept in the dark about Hammond’s intentions for their research. Dr. Ian Malcolm, an expert in chaos theory, has warned Hammond that his plans will fail due to the amount of unpredictable variables. Dennis Nedry is Hammond’s computer programmer, in charge of the mechanical workings of the entire park. Donald Gennaro Hammond’s grandchildren, Lex and Tim, have been invited to the park as it’s first visitors. Hammond’s team is rounded out with an assortment of scientists, engineers, and wildlife specialists. This inspection begins to fall into chaos when Nedry betrays Hammond, stealing dinosaur embryos to give to one of Hammond’s competitors. To complete this heist, Nedry shuts down the park’s safety systems, however, he gets lost on his way to the drop-off point. With no one available to restart the safety systems, the park soon falls into chaos.
My one problem with the book is that the characters lack depth. Dr. Grant is master dino-expert, Ellie is plant-expert, Dr. Ian Malcolm:
…is the chief mathematician/cynical bastard/chaos theory-tician, and John Hammond is the megalomaniac who believes he can play God (not to mention the obese computer-whiz, Nedry, and sleezy, money-lawyer-man, Donald Gennaro). There are some touching moments, but we really never get inside the character’s heads. That being said, well-rounded characters are really not important for the enjoyment of Jurassic Park, the reader knows what they are, who they are, and really just they’re a vehicle for fun. Jurassic Park is a fun book, if you’re worried that you didn’t care about the characters enough, then you’re reading it wrong.
If you’re like me and you’re reading the book after having seen the movie, it reads like a director’s cut. A very good director’s cut. You get more adventure-sequences, more exposition on the dangers of playing God, and more velociraptors. The book is also darker than the movie, as the park descends into chaos, Crichton gives the reader hope that the park could work, and then he crushes these hopes in the jaws of a Tyrannosaurus rex. While the movie is able to capture the essence of Crichton’s ideas, it was never able to explore them in any depth, the book delivers. Crichton also has the ability to take something that could be dull, like computer programming, going so far as putting actual sequences of programming into his book, and manages to explain it while keeping the story moving. This is what elevates Jurassic Park above the average Summer read (or Winter, as the case may be).
Jurassic Park is an easy-read, but it also forces the reader to think about the implications of genetic experimentation and it plays with the idea of doing what one should rather than what one can. Crichton is an expert at making a complex idea palatable for a broad audience through the medium of pop fiction. This is what elevates Jurassic Park over the average beach-read. It’s not exactly a classic, and if your only experience with Jurassic Park is the movie, you’ll be just fine. However, if you do decide to pick up the book, you will not be disappointed.