Adapted to the big screen in 1993, Michael Crichton’s thriller Jurassic Park is every bit as absorbing as Steven Spielberg’s classic. Exploring the consequences of the advancements in genetic science, as well, of course, at the dinosaur-filled park itself, the novel expertly mixes brains with scares making for engrossing reading.
The premise is simple enough; John Hammond, an obsessed old man who refuses to ever accept the consequences of his actions, builds a dinsosaur theme park on the small island of Isla Nuba. Enlisting the help of renowned scientists and the money of rich financial backers, he soon populates the park with genetically engineered dinosaurs and is dismayed by the pessimistic attention it’s getting. Forced to show his park to a group of professionals, he visibly revels in the profitability of the park. Paleontologists Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, mathematician Ian Malcolm and park warden Muldoon all begin to fear for the safety of the park as things go from bad to worse.
Primarily concerning itself with the possible escape of several of the dinosaurs, Jurassic Park makes a point of highlighting the sheer blind-sightedness of Hammond and his scientists. Remaining adamant that the park’s security systems are failsafe, their assertions are soon put to the test when a power cut threatens the entire island. The Tyranosaurus Rex’s escape provides a brilliant adrenaline boost to the already gripping narrative, plunging Grant and Hammond’s grandchildren into the depths of a prehistoric landscape. Grant himself is a refreshing protagonist as, although he may usually get out of tight scrapes, he suffers from his own doubts. Crichton’s landscape is amazingly more savage, the dinosaur’s beauty more majestic, more ferocious, than Spielberg’s adaptation.
For fans of said film, the differences between it and the novel are, in places, quite dramatic, making for an captivating page-turner that provides thrills and spills (often in the form of intestines spilling forth from unlucky Jurassic Park tourists and workers). Jurassic Parks two and three borrow heavily from the source material of the original novel, with the pterodactyl aviary and waterfall scenes making an appearance. The dinosaurs are much smarter in the novel and are a tantalising nemesis for the island’s survivors. The possibility of the beasts escaping the island is skirted over in the first film, but here the idea forms much of the book’s plot.
Although published in 1991, the book’s themes and scientific concerns are still as poignant today. Ian Malcolm’s exploration of chaos theory offers interesting and intelligent respite from the blood lust of the dinosaurs. Philosophy and mathematics entwine as he plumbs the the depths of the logic behind the park (of which, we discover, there is little, and they are all doomed). Suggesting that ‘life would survive [human] folly’, he turns the call for greener behaviour on its head.
Crichton’s novel provides non-stop entertainment and, despite the appearance of computer jargon, the book is quite simply breathtaking, a thrill ride from start to finish.