Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Jurassic Park is pretty much a perfect movie. I love it. I was sort of aware that it was based on the book, but hadn’t really given it any thought before stumbling across it in a charity shop, and decided to give it a whirl. Now I’m going to say something that you won’t hear me saying often; I preferred the film.
For those poor souls who aren’t familiar with the plot, Jurassic Park takes place on Isla Nubar, an island near Costa Rica where the eccentric billionaire John Hammond has built a resort with a unique attraction; genetically engineered dinosaurs. Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler, palaeontologists, are flown out to Isla Nubar to give their expert opinions on the dinosaurs, but it’s not long before an act of industrial espionage cuts power on the island, freeing the dinosaurs from their enclosures and plunging the island into chaos.
I wish I could review this without talking about the film, but I just can’t. The story of Jurassic Park is great, but you all knew that already right? It has a wider scope than the film, jumping between characters with greater regularity, as well as more lengthy considerations for the science and context. Crichton uses the character of Ian Malcolm, renegade mathematician and Jeff Goldblum, essentially as a mouthpiece for his opinions on the importance of ethics in science. That’s not a criticism, its interesting stuff, giving the novel slightly greater depth than the film.
The prose is punchy, readable and exciting. Obviously I knew what was going to happen, but I was still tense and immersed in the story, which is a testament to Crichton’s writing. He does tend to ramble slightly, and some of his digressions can be a bit much, but more often than not they’re actually pretty interesting.
Where the book is eclipsed by the film is in its characterisation, particularly in its marginalising of female characters. Lex, Hammond’s niece who travels with Grant and her brother Tim, is quite possibly one of the most pathetic, irritating and lazily written characters that I’ve ever encountered. I hated her, particularly compared to her competent and likeable brother. Now, in the film, this dynamic just wasn’t the case; you rooted for both of them. Similarly, Ellie Sattler’s role is pretty minor, and was significantly bumped up in the film. I did like some stuff; Hammond is much less sympathetic in the book, almost fitting into a villain category, which I actually preferred to Richard Attenborough’s rather more likeable interpretation.
This is a really tough review to write, and I sort of hate it. I wish I could just review it on its merits as a book, but the film was just too essential a part of my childhood. I will say though, if you are a fan of the film (and if you’re not, get out), give the book a try, at least for the interesting shift in perspective it gives.