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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Crichton's Blockbuster Techno Thriller All About the Action

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

I'm sure I don't need to tell anyone what goes on in Michael Crichton's 1990 blockbuster novel, Jurassic Park.  Even if you've never read the books, even if you've never watched the movies, you probably know the basic plot.  But, just in case you've been living on a remote, uninhabited island in say, Costa Rica, I'll give you a quick rundown:
John Hammond, the filthy rich owner of a premier biotechnology company called InGen, has a grand dream—to bring dinosaurs back to life for the viewing pleasure of the public.  For a handsome price, tourists will be able to visit a lush island where the animals roam free in all their ancient glory. Thanks to the cloning methods discovered by Hammond's scientists, his impossible goal is coming to life.  Jurassic Park is almost up-and-running.  Before officially opening the park, however, Hammond brings in a team of experts to experience what has—up until now—been a (mostly) secret project.  Hammond's visitors—Alan Grant, a professor of paleontology; Ellie Sattler, a paleontologist; and Ian Malcolm, a mathematician, specializing in chaos theory—are as amazed by the living dinosaurs as Hammond expected them to be.  He didn't anticipate the trio's skepticism, however.  No matter.  Hammond's grandchildren have also arrived.  Having the youngsters on the island will make his point very nicely—Jurassic Park is as safe as any other amusement park.
 If that were true, there wouldn't be much of a story, of course.  So, naturally, things start to go wrong.  An InGen employee tries to smuggle dinosaur embryos off the island, dinosaurs escape their pens, the animals—supposedly incapable of reproducing—do exactly that, etc.  As everything goes haywire, it's up to Hammond's terrified visitors to save themselves and the children.  Can the horrifying chaos be contained on the island?  Will anyone make it out of Costa Rica alive?  What will happen to John Hammond's glorious—and deadly—Jurassic Park?
So, I realized right off the bat that it's not Crichton's writing that made Jurassic Park such a huge, bestselling novel.  Not by a long shot, as his prose is mostly of the tell-not-show variety.  The characters have a little more personality, but, on the whole, they're a greedy, selfish lot.  Crichton doesn't bother spending a lot of time on their character or relationship development.  He's all about the action.  Lots of page time is devoted to the science/technology behind Jurassic Park, often at the expense of moving the plot forward.  The slow, steady build up gets a bit dull since the real action doesn't start until almost halfway through the book.  Still, once it gets going, it really gets going with the run-for-your-life sequences and suspense.  Naturally, blood and gore soon follow.  I rarely read techno thrillers like Jurassic Park, so it's probably not surprising that I wasn't totally blown over by the novel.  The premise, of course, is unique; the science/tech before it's time; and the action engrossing.  That's what I expect from this kind of book (what I call "guy fiction"), but I couldn't help wanting more dynamic prose, better character development, and a tighter plot structure.  Despite these complaints, though, I enjoyed the read.  Like all who step inside Jurassic Park, I got Crichton's message loud and clear: don't mess with nature or it will soon be messing with you!

 (Readalikes:  I haven't read The Lost World by Michael Crichton, but I assume it's similar)  


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Jurassic Park from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.
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