Yesterday I finished Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. I have to admit that I had seen the movie, but I hadn’t really bothered with the book up until now. Over all it was an enjoyable read, though somehow it seems to fall short. Yes, it is apparent that the author did his homework in an effort to lend authenticity to the scientific side of his story, and the fact that some of his depictions of the dinosaurs now seem somewhat dated is certainly not his fault, but rather a reminder of how far paleontology has come in the past couple of decades, spurred in part by the success of the movie that was based on this particular book.
Anyway, getting back to the subject at hand, there were three things that annoyed me (okay, there were more than three, but these are the big ones):
The first one was the way in which Ian Malcom kept pontificating and was invariably right. Simply put, the way in which his predictions were accurate to the minute based on a theory that stated that complex systems could not be accurately predicted didn’t quite fit. Yes, his theory could explain why trouble was inevitable, but not when it would hit and what form it would take… and yet that was basically what he kept doing.
The second one was the T-Rex’s dogged pursuit of Alan and the children through the park. The problem is that this makes no sense whatsoever. Yes, maybe something could have triggered the initial attack, but the fact that he didn’t eat Malcom when he had the chance indicates that he didn’t see humans as a food source, nor did he see them as a real threat, and he was not depicted as a particularly intelligent animal either, so why would he bother? This was particularly jarring in the raft scene. They are in the water (i.e. out of his element), they are not provoking him and he is sleeping after a rather large meal, so why would he chase after them?
The third one was the character of Lex. Yes, seven-year olds can be selfish and annoying, and in that regard the portrayal was very realistic, but honestly I just wanted someone to feed her to the T-Rex and be done with it. In a way I felt like the author decided that the plot called for an old fashioned female character that would invariably do the wrong thing and hold the stronger, male characters back, only he realized that in this day and age that was not going to go over well, so he made her into an obnoxious brat instead.
What I liked about the book was that it was a well-told tale, the pacing of the action was great and the way in which the plot itself was set up was as convincing as it could be given the subject matter. I also felt that there were a number of elements that were better developed in the book than they were in the movie, such as the relationship between money and science, probably because the book was intended for a more mature audience and that gave the author more leeway to explore complex issues. And finally I liked the note on which the book ended.
In other words, my over all impression of the book is that it is good but not great, and it is also a little formulaic at times. It is not exactly a masterpiece, but then again I don’t think that was what the author was aiming for. The book does what it sets out to do and while it is not a book that is likely to change anyone’s worldview, it is enjoyable enough… now on to The Lost World.