Review: Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park #1) by Michael Crichton

Review: Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park #1) by Michael CrichtonJurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Series: Jurassic Park #1
Published by Random House LLC on 2012-05-14
Pages: 416
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From the author of Timeline, Sphere, and Congo, this is the classic thriller of science run amok that took the world by storm.   #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER   “Wonderful . . . powerful.”—The Washington Post Book World   An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now humankind’s most thrilling fantasies have come true. Creatures extinct for eons roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery, and all the world can visit them—for a price.   Until something goes wrong. . . .   In Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton taps all his mesmerizing talent and scientific brilliance to create his most electrifying technothriller.   “Frighteningly real . . . compelling . . . It’ll keep you riveted.”—The Detroit News   “Crichton’s dinosaurs are genuinely frightening.”—Chicago Sun-Times   “Full of suspense.”—The New York Times Book Review

I think I’m a little young to have read Crichton during his peak. I can imagine the kind of frenzy a new book of his created. I read The Andromeda Strain when I was in middle school and found the ideas fascinating. But that’s as far as I’ve ever gotten with Crichton. I didn’t read another of his books until 2013 when I read his posthumously published book, Pirate Latitudes. Even though I’ve only read two (now three) of his books, I find him an extremely reliable writer. You can always expect a science/history lesson and a fun and engaging story. Jurassic Park is no different.

I grew up watching the movie so I never had a driving desire to read the book until recently. My husband kept telling me, “It’s so different. I think you’ll like it.” He was right on both fronts. It is very different from the film. Characters who only get a little screen time get plenty of page time. Gennaro is the most notable example. In the film he’s around for roughly half of the movie and is portrayed as a cowardly weasel. The book makes him much more complicated. He dives into the fray even though he’s terrified.

Wu is another great example. I think the movie gives him less than a minute of screen time yet he’s a major secondary character. His ultimate purpose is to explain the complicated scientific material to the visitors but we do glean some insight into the kind of ego one has to have when manipulating life. It makes me wonder if all geneticists have a bit of a God complex. He’s definitely not a character you’ll get attached to so View Spoiler » it’s not a total surprise. Crichton makes it pretty clear that Wu’s only function is to explain science. At first this was a point of contention for me but then I realized that if Crichton just did an information dump in the narration it probably would have turned readers off. If it comes from a character, we’re more likely to listen.

The  most shocking character in Jurassic Park is John Hammond, who is not the kindly grandfather figure that you’d expect from watching the movie. He’s delusional, ruthless, and has a complete disregard for human life. He only brings Tim and Lex to the park because he thinks having them around will keep Gennaro from destroying it. He’s the real weasel. Ugh. I had a bit of contempt for him as I was reading.

All the other main characters (Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, Tim and Lex, Dennis Nedry) are just as you’d imagine them from the film. Grant and Satller struggle with the power of the park. I really enjoyed watching them confirm their research. Even in the midst of chaos and death, they found a way to notice details and really get excited about seeing dinosaur behavior. T-Rex swims like a crocodile. Raptors are migratory like birds. Grant, especially, radiates awe and shows how passionate he is for the creatures.

There’s a very clear message in Jurassic Park: respect nature. Those who do live to leave the island. Those who don’t? Well, let’s just say that Crichton gives them their just deserts. Ian Malcolm is right. Life finds a way. The entire book really makes you think about the God complex. Science has done some truly amazing things for the world. But I have to wonder if genetic manipulation like cloning is really necessary. Just because we can doesn’t necessarily mean that we should.

My Favorite Excerpt from Jurassic Park

Hammond seemed to revive, and began bustling around, straightening up. “Well,” he said, “at least disaster is averted.”

“What disaster is that?” Malcolm said, sighing.

“Well,” Hammond said, “they didn’t get free and overrun the world.”

Malcolm sat up on one elbow. “You were worried about that?”

“Surely that’s what was at stake,” Hammond said. “These animals, lacking predators, might get out and destroy the planet.”

“You egomaniacal idiot,” Malcolm said in fury. “Do you have any idea what you are talking about? You think you can destroy the planet? My, what intoxicating power you must have.” Malcolm sank back on the bed. “You can’t destroy this planet. You can’t even come close.”

“Most people believe,” Hammond said stiffly, “that the planet is in jeopardy.”

“Well, it’s not,” Malcolm said.

“All the experts agree that our planet is in trouble.”

Malcolm sighed. “Let me tell you about our planet,” he said. “Our planet is four and a half billion years old. There has been life on this planet for nearly that long. Three point eight billion years. The first bacteria. And, later, the first multicellular animals, then the first complex creatures, in the sea, on the land. Then the great sweeping ages of animals — the amphibians, the dinosaurs, the mammals, each lasting millions upon millions of years. Great dynasties of creatures arising, flourishing, dying away. All this happening against a background of continuous and violent upheaval, mountain ranges thrust up and eroded away, cometary impacts, volcanic eruptions, oceans rising and falling, whole continents moving … Endless, constant and violent change … Even today, the great geographical feature on the planet comes from two great continents colliding, buckling to make the Himalayan mountain range over millions of years. The planet has survived everything, in its time. It will certainly survive us.”

Hammond looked irritated. “So what is your point? That modern pollutants will be incorporated, too?

“No,” Malcolm said. “My point is that life on earth can take care of itself. In the thinking of a human being, a hundred years is a long time. A hundred years ago, we didn’t have cars and airplanes and computers and vaccines … It was a whole different world. But to the earth, a hundred years is nothing. A million years is nothing. This planet lives and breathes on a much vaster scale. We can’t imagine its slow and powerful rhythms, and we haven’t got the humility to try. We have been residents here for the blink of an eye. If we are gone tomorrow, the earth will not miss us.”

The book leaves us with a cliffhanger ending. A real cliffhanger. Jurassic Park is a riveting cautionary tale about the power and limits of science. Nature fights back because, in the end, we’re just a blip on the earth’s radar.

four-stars

© 2014 – 2016, Jessica Workman Holland. All rights reserved.

  • I have heard sooo many good things about Crichton’s writing. I love the movie Jurassic Park so I am sure I would love the book. I feel that just being a reader I need to get some Crichton under my belt.

    • JessicaWorkman

      The book was so good. It fulfilled my sci-fi nerd needs.

  • Michelle

    I didn’t have a desire to read this either until a friend told me how different it was and I think I actually like the book more in some areas. It’s definitely a good read on its own.

    • JessicaWorkman

      I absolutely agree with you. I loved the science in the book.

  • Bookworm Brandee

    Great review, Jessica! My son read Jurassic Park last summer and we had some great discussions on man’s superiority complex (or God complex) and all the problems it causes. I’m glad your hubby got you to read it! 😉

  • Greg Hill

    I too for the longest time didn’t really feel like I needed to read the book, since I had seen the movie so much. We have the Barnes & Noble classic edition though and I decided to give it a try- it was pretty riveting from the start so now I’m juggling that and my other current reads. 🙂 I’m glad I’m finally reading it though. Great review!