Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book Review: Jurassic Park, by Michael Chrichton

Title:  Jurassic Park
Author:  Michael Crichton
Genre:  Science Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5 velociraptors

Science can do some pretty crazy things.  When a man attempts to bring dinosaurs back from extinction, he risks the lives of everyone in the world. Jurassic Park is a modern classic of science fiction, mostly because of the success of the movie.  But what about the book that spawned that titanic beast of 90's pop culture?

Jurassic Park is a story about two paleontologists that are roped into taking a tour of a yet-to-be opened zoo that features dinosaurs as its main attraction.  Everything goes awry, however, when a greedy computer programmer sabotages the computer system in an attempt to get rich.  With the security fences down, the animals run loose and, well, I don't need to tell you much more than that.

Similar to The Princess Bride, I grew up watching Jurassic Park.  Over.  And over.  And over again.  After reading other works by Crichton, I decided to read the book.  I was nervous that it wouldn't live up to my expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised.

The book is different from the movie in a thousand little ways, most of which are so minor that I don't even remember them a few weeks after finishing the novel.  Some of the ones that stand out are...
  • There is no romantic tension between Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler.  In the movie, there was always something unspoken about the two scientists' relationship.  In the book, this tension is nowhere to be seen.  Ellie is also about 20 years younger than Alan in the book.  I have to admit, I missed this in the book.
  • The book includes many scenes that were not in the movie.  These include Grant and the kids hiding behind a waterfall from the T-Rex and getting lost in a Pterodactyl cage.  I imagine the reason for the scenes being left out of the movie has to do with the technological limitations in 1993.  What is interesting is that analogs of both of these scenes wound up in subsequent sequels to the movie.
Apart from these differences, one notices that the novel goes much further into the science behind the park than the movie does.  Crichton goes to great lengths to try to make his tale believable.  Sure the science isn't really accurate, but hey!  We're talking about dinosaurs here.  The fact that the author tries is good enough for me, and I find it very interesting.  The flip side of this coin happens when Crichton goes to great lengths to describe computers.  Now keep in mind, Jurassic Park was written in 1990.  Back then, computers were a BIG DEAL.  Crichton takes time describing the appearance of computer consoles and the intricacies of DOS-like menus.  Exciting, right?  Maybe in 1990, but not nowadays.  But in some ways, that just adds to the charm of the novel.

A great part of the book is the development of the characters.  And although I had the image Sam Neill stuck in my head whenever I read chapters about Alan Grant, I was able to appreciate the character in a completely new and better way.  Many of the characters have very complicated back stories and emotions.  That alone is a good enough reason to pick up this book.

I had a great time reading Jurassic Park. it was half blast from the past and half brand new experience.

4 out of 5 velociraptors!

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