Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

I feel a little awkward adding a synopsis for a story as well known as Jurassic Park, but, just in case you have been recently cloned in a lab…

Scientists obtain dinosaur DNA from bloodsucking insects that have been trapped in amber for millions of years, and use this to recreate dinosaurs.  Deciding that this scientific breakthrough can be monetised, a theme park is built on a remote jungle island to showcase the dinosaurs.  In order to test the impact of this rather specialised zoo, and to satisfy some concerns around safety, a group of experts is invited to visit the island for a weekend, as well as the owner’s grandchildren.  It doesn’t quite go as planned.

Throughout the novel, attempts are made to explain the science behind the de-extinction of dinosaurs.  I always think that this is a dangerous tactic for novelists – it can feel like you’re being lectured, but in Jurassic Park I think that it works quite well.  These sections are mercifully brief, and I thought that they added an interesting element to the novel.  At the same time, I’m aware that the science presented here isn’t realistic (more on this in my next post…), however much time Crichton spends going into it.  I personally think that that’s OK, but I’m aware that there are individuals out there who like to find at least an element of truth in their reading material, even within works of fiction.

I think that it’s impossible to think about Jurassic Park the novel, without thinking about Jurassic Park the film.  Released in 1993, it is one of the top 20 highest grossing films ever made, according to Wikipedia, at least.  Without wanting to spoil the book, I thought that the film stayed relatively close to the novel, although the latter has much more in it, and even if you’ve seen the film there is more than enough here to keep you interested and engaged.  There are some differences in the characters – Hammond is more ruthless than naive, for example, and Lex is younger in the novel, and exceptionally irritating.  And, one thing that always bothered me in the film is not finding out why the triceratops is sick.  You know the scene, with Dr Sattler up to her elbows in dinosaur droppings…  Now I know!  It’s a stegosaurus in the book, but apart from that the scene is easily recognisable, and, more importantly, the scene is brought to a conclusion.

This is not a great work of literature – the prose is OK, the conversation a little stilted in places, and it may have benefited from some additional editing.  But, it is a highly entertaining, action packed ride, and it falls comfortably into the ‘guilty pleasure’ category for me.

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