Book Review: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park by Michael Critchon - Header

It’s amazing where an imagination, once captured, can be taken. How seemingly insignificant moments in our childhood can ultimately cement lifelong passions, interests and loyalties. Dinosaurs may have ruled the earth millions of years ago, but I was 9 years old when Steven Spielberg, John Hammond and InGen brought them back to life. And as a little boy, I fell into its spell. I forced my parents into the cinema three times to see Jurassic Park, I still have my collection of fast food restaurant promotional beakers and I still get nervously excited as the sight of that iconic red and yellow logo.

Bizarrely though, for a movie that gave rise to an obsession with film, orchestral music and promotional mugs I’d never read the book. I’ve actually read The Lost World, Michael Crichton’s follow up, but never the original. But with my new passion for reading, this was something I had to rectify. And with Google offering the book on sale, I truly had no excuse.

McDonal's Beakers - Jurassic Park

Sadly though, I can see why Google were offering the book at a fraction of its usual cost. Their eBook version is littered with spelling mistakes, the book is obviously created through character recognition software, and sadly more often than not the letter h became b and e changed to c. It’s hard to follow a book in which characters “open the door with their bands looking for something to cat”.

Ignoring the spelling mistakes (Google have kindly giving me back my money) I tried to set about reading Jurassic Park with a clear and open mind. I didn’t want to be instantly comparing it to the film, tinting it red by my childhood love, but sadly it was always going to happen, no matter how detailed the description of Ian Malcolm, John Hammond or Alan Grant, I would always picture Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough and Sam Neill. But this wasn’t actually a problem, if anything it almost helped because it meant I could focus solely on the story, the events, the differences between film and novel and already have the picture of the objects, the animals, the park and the people in my head.

Sam Neill, Richard Attenborough & Jeff Goldblum - Jurassic Park

As a book Jurassic Park is very different to the film. Spielberg brought a realism and romanticism to the film. It’s got danger and suspense, life and hope all layered together. The book doesn’t. It’s slow and stuffy and at times, dangerously close to pretentious and preachy. I kept getting the feeling that the book is more interested in making grand statements about the morals and ethics of the human race as a whole than it is in the idea of genetically cloning dinosaurs. They are simply a metaphor used and borrowed to help illustrate Crichton’s hidden, greater, argument.

In fact, I found the book incredibly slow, that at times it’s almost boring. There is a constant paralleling to the story in the film, events you expect to happen do, even if not entirely as portrayed – you can think of the film as two dishes of the same name, cooked with the same ingredients, just in varying portions – and so I knew what to expect, which highlighted just how long and drawn out parts of the book are. And therefore, how unnecessary parts are. One thing the film has over the book is the ability to refine the story into a concise and interesting narrative.

Timmy Food - Jurassic Park

The characters and especially the dinosaurs also constantly seem to change in size, scale and personality throughout the book. Crichton obviously, using the unknown traits and evolutions of the dinosaurs to allow him to mould situations and reactions to fit his agenda. The dinosaurs gain and lose abilities as required, whilst character gain inner strength and fighting spirit that belittles the danger they face, and it all becomes a little far fetched and/or foolishly simplistic at times. There are just too many occasions when the story makes you sit back and sigh a resigned “really?” as the dinosaur that killed without question earlier gets punched on the nose and runs away or Alan Grant decides the quest for information is greater than the basic idea of survival and walks without fear into a habitat that has virtually killed him and that he spent 12 chapters trying to escape from at all costs.

I can honestly say I’m disappointed but not upset by Michael Crichton’s book. I think if I’d read it before I’d seen the film, I’d hold less love for its cinematic sibling, but it hasn’t managed, thankfully, to diminish any of the love I now hold. The book is outlandishly different, and I think that’s what saved it. In the same way Starship Troopers as a novel, is totally different to the film; Michael Crichton created the foundations for Spielberg to mould into a finished product. And for that reason alone, the book will always hold a special place in my life, I just wish I owned a first edition!

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

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