Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (1990) – Fiction
I was first introduced to Jurassic Park the movie in the late 1990s. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie came out in 1993 when I was only a year old. My dad, who has always loved the movie, videotaped it when it started to air on TV. I watched this tape over and over again, until we ended up buying it on DVD, where I continued to re-watch it. I always smile when I think of that tape. During the airing of the movie, Kansas was experiencing severe thunderstorms, so occasionally the move would cut to the local weatherman. Other times the picture started distorting from static. But I would still re-watch it, knowing the exact moment the picture would cut out.
My favorite part of the movie is when Dr. Alan Grant sees the dinosaurs for the first time with his own eyes. He watches them moving in herds, different dinosaurs living side by side. The crescendo of the John Williams score starts to play, and Dr. Grant is in awe of seeing a creature, for up until now, he only could deduct what it looked and moved like from its bones.
I first read Jurassic Park the novel a couple of years ago and decided to read it again for the blog since it ranks in my top ten favorite novels. The reason the movie is so epic is that the source material is so rich. Michael Crichton was an amazing writer who excelled at writing fast-paced novels (He sadly passed away in 2008). He intertwines thriller and science fiction dramas seamlessly. He inputs scientific jargon and his theoretical ideas but they never seem too overwhelming. Crichton was a graduate from Harvard Medical School and injects his love for biology and science into all of his novels. Even if you have no experience with the molecular structure of DNA or cannot pronounce “Procompsognathus”, its an engaging read. He also was a skilled screenplay writer, co-writing the Jurassic Park movie screenplay and creating the “ER” television show.
Jurassic Park the novel is different than the movie. While it is hard to not picture the movie characters and their mannerisms while reading the book, there are noticeable differences in their personalities. The book also has more time to delve deep into the science of dinosaurs and ruminate longer on the questions about the role of man and its supposed power over the natural world.
“Broadly speaking, the ability of the park to control the spread of life-forms. Because the history of evolution is that life escapes all barriers. Life breaks free. Life expands to new territories. Painfully, perhaps even dangerously. But life finds a way.”
Like all Crichton novels it reads quickly – it spans roughly around a 48-hour time period. It begins with mysterious deaths – a Costa Rican doctor who knows that the construction worker that just perished on the table did not die from a work-related accident, but clearly has the injury indications of being mauled by an animal. Costa Rican children and the elderly being bitten at night, from an unknown animal with an unfamiliar bite indentation.
We soon find ourselves on the island – learning about the new creations from Dr. Hammond and his dream of building a one of a kind theme park. The book delves into the corporate espionage of bio-tech firms with the introduction of Dennis Nedry. Donald Gennaro plays the company lawyer, worried about the potential liability of bringing back prehistoric beasts. Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler, a paleontologist and a botanist, battle their desire to satiate their scientific curiosity and their fear of the potential consequences. The mathematician Dr. Ian Malcom, one of the best characters in literary fiction (perfectly played by Jeff Goldblum in the movie), knows from the beginning that the park was going to fail and bring chaos. Tim and Lex, Dr. Hammond’s grandchildren, symbolize the feelings that many of us have always had about dinosaurs – wonder, awe, only dreaming that we could see one in real life.
The reader knows from the first chapter that the park has failed. Dinosaurs have escaped off the island. Dr. Malcom’s statement that life will find a way has happened. Throughout the book, Crichton exposes each character’s weaknesses. While Gennaro was worried about liability, he always wanted to make himself and the investors money and instead becomes blindsided of the dangers of the park by greed. Dr. Hammond is drunk off his own power – continuously reveling in his God-like action of bringing creatures that had their time back to the present. Dr. Wu, the engineer who created the park’s dinosaur DNA, refuses until the very end to realize that he may have made a mistake in the code.
Jurassic Park remains relevant 30 years after its publication because it still poses pertinent questions for the world we live in today. With all the great advances technology has brought us, man remains the most dangerous thing to itself.
“My point is that life on earth can take care of itself. In the thinking of a human being, a hundred years is a long time. A hundred years ago, we didn’t have cars and airplanes and computers and vaccines….It was a whole different world. But to the earth, a hundred years is nothing. A million years is nothing. This planet lives and breaths on a much vaster scale. We can’t imagine its slow and powerful rhythms, and we haven’t got the humility to try. We have been residents here for the blink of an eye. If we are gone tomorrow, the planet will not miss us.”
Lover of the written word.