Book Review: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park, #1)

I grew up watching and re-watching Jurassic Park, and it alone was motivation for my early fascination with dinosaurs. I remember collecting books and pictures about dinosaurs when I was seven or so. I eventually grew out of my fascination with those prehistoric creatures, but I still have a great fondness for this movie and dinosaurs in general.

But since I loved the movie, I was slightly apprehensive about reading this book, because I had such high expectations from the movie that I was certain the book could not live up to them.

But after reading Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton and thoroughly enjoying it, I decided to finally give this book a chance. And, for the most part, I enjoyed it.

Release: Nov. 1990

Synopsis: In this epic sci-fi novel, John Hammond attempts to bring dinosaurs back to life through advanced DNA cloning, creating an elaborate theme park island filled with dinosaurs. He invites a group to test his park, including dinosaur expert Alan Grant. However, the group quickly realizes bringing prehistorical dinosaurs to the modern day may be a recipe for disaster when the power is turned off and the dinosaurs break out of their paddocks.

Review

I found myself constantly comparing the book to the movie, so if this review is filled with analysis of the movie as well as the book, forgive me. I really can’t help myself.

This book is extremely different than the movie. The former relies of scientific theories and the latter relies on adventure and wonder. For the record, I don’t think either is wrong and I enjoyed both for very different reasons, but I can easily say if you are expecting the same experience as the movie, you may not like this book. It is much more akin to anything by Jules Verne or The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle.

In the movie, there is a short scene where the visiting characters sit in a ride while a screen explains the “science” behind recreating dinosaurs. Now, take that and imagine about the first two hundred pages of the book being that entire scene. Crichton seriously loves his science, and the early scenes are filled with scientific lingo, chaos theory, and cloning explanations. Some readers might be put off by this. In theory, I would too, since I hated science in school. But, for me, Crichton describes these ideas with such tact, weaving it into the plot, that I never felt bored.

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The second half of the book is much more similar to the tone of the movie (more action, dinosaur fights, etc.). While there are more characters in the book (the island is nearly fully staffed in the book, whereas in the movie its a much smaller group of survivors) and several of the scenes were combined in the movie, I thought it mainly followed the same themes and story-lines as the movie. I was surprised how many more characters survived in the book and all the random changes I wasn’t expecting (for example, Ellie in the book is a twenty-something graduate student and Alan Grant merely her teacher, whereas in the movie they were romantically involved, or the fact that Alan Grant got along with the two kids fine in the book, whereas in the movie it was established that he disliked children).

Since this is my review, after all, I have to complain about just a few things.

First, Lex. I hated Lex in the book! She is the granddaughter of Hammond who comes to the island with her brother Tim. In the movie, she is a bit annoying but also adorable. In the book, I seriously wanted to strangle her. The entire width of her character includes reoccurring lines like, “I’m hungry!” and “I’m tired.” She was useless, didn’t listen when the T-Rex was clearly coming towards them, and nearly got her brother and Grant killed on multiple occasions. All the rest of the characters were interesting and while they made mistakes and had their weaknesses, they were understandable. But she was one of the flattest, most aggravating characters I have ever read about. When you are literally hoping a character gets their head bitten off in horrible ways, you know it’s not a good sign.

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Hammond is another character I wasn’t a fan of. In the movie, he is endearing but also an idealist. In the book, he is oblivious and deluded to the point that he brings about his own demise. I didn’t hate him, but I did miss the likable man in the movie.

Also, one of the big things in the book is the issue of velociraptors on a boat. Grant and several others spot the dinosaurs on the shipment boat going back to the mainland, and have fifteen hours to warn the control to stop the ship (at this time the power is already down). So Grant works for much of the second half of the book to get to control in time to warn them. But Ian Malcolm (whose character is rather different in the book and movie) is wounded and brought back to control, and yet he doesn’t warn them about what they saw. Why? Nobody knows. And yes, I know Malcolm is slightly delirious because he’s been hurt, but he’s coherent enough to tell them what happened with the T-Rex attack and go on about his theories.

The last fifty pages are so of the book is when the action kicks off and it feels much more like the movie.

My overall thoughts of this book are positive. It’s not a book every reader will enjoy, and you have to have some interest in science to not be a bit bored, but for me I thoroughly enjoyed it. Small parts bothered me, or certain scenes I thought the movie did better (the opposite was sometimes the case, though), but I really enjoyed reading this novel.

Have you read this book? Or watched the movie? What is your view of it? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

8 thoughts on “Book Review: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

  1. Loved the movie but never read that book. I did read Crichton’s Andromeda Strain, The Terminal Man, Congo, Eaters of the Dead and maybe a couple of others. He’s one of those writers from whom you must expect a whole lot of background exposition.

    James Michener, Tom Clancy and Ken Follet are 3 similar novelists whose books are research heavy and detail laden. A readers enjoyment of the expo would depend, I think, on how much they love their stories subject matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great review. I was lucky to read the book before the movie came out. Chrichton does spend much of the book setting up the “real” possibility of how we can make these creatures reappear. I guess this is due in great part to a novelist need to make his characters and situations real.

    So the book does get bogged down in the science, chaos theory, etc (which a screen play or movie could never do). But his characters are rich in detail and life. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Movie was good as well.

    I think you captured the essence of the movie and novel well, and perfectly described their delicious differences. This review was a pleasure to read.

    Liked by 1 person

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