Jurassic Park; a review

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Originally published: 1990, Alfred A. Knopf
This edition: 2015, Arrow books

I wish I could insert audio of the film’s theme for this review to autoplay as soon as the webpage loads. Alas, I can’t, so please enjoy the inserted video below while you read through my thoughts on this novel.

Let’s get this out of the way first; spoiler alert for both the book and film.

Film versus the book

It is common lore that ‘the book is always better than the film’ and, in this case, I actually do not know. I grew up watching the original trilogy, and I love them (I also won’t lie, ITV ran and then re-ran the entire 5 film saga whilst I was reading this novel). Even compared to the astounding talent of special effects/graphics in Chris Pratt’s renditions, the original trilogy still has exceptional SFX.

I think the key difference between the film and novel narrative is the romance between Grant and Sattler. It’s clear why they were romantically involved in the film – this gives an extra layer to the relationship, appeals to wider audiences (for example, women now have a connection to the leads of the film, men now have a character to direct their male gaze toward), and is just kind of wholesome. This isn’t a thing in the novels, which again, is fine. HOWEVER, it is greatly implied that the reason Grant & Ellie split between the end of JPI and the start of JPIII is because Grant doesn’t like kids. It’s evident at the beginning of the film that Ellie wants to have kids, and then throughout the whole exposition of the film Grant shows his dislike and contempt for children by continuously brushing off Hammond’s grandchildren Tim and Lex. This is an absolute direct contrast to the novel, in which Crichton explicitly states ‘Grant liked kids — it was impossible not to like any group so openly enthusiastic about dinosaurs’, and throughout Grant is constantly showing compassion and sense of care towards Tim and Lex. This is perhaps my main vice with the film, now that I have read the novel. There was no need for them to break up off-screen.

My second vice is this frankly visually amazing scene Crichton creates, which could have been incredible to see on the big screen. Part way through the novel, perhaps in the final quarter, Grant, Tim, and Lex are being tracked by the adult tyrannosaurus rex. They are eventually cornered in a faux-cave-turned-generator-room that is behind a waterfall. Smelling them, the T-rex shoves his nose through the waterfall to grab at them. And continues to do so, successfully grabbing Tim at one point with her tongue, until the tranquiliser she was earlier shot with finally kicks in. This, I feel, would have been an incredible on-screen addition, and would have also showed to the audience that the more than just the velociraptors were quite intellectual. In fact, there is recent speculation that T-rex’s hunted in packs after a 2014 dig site unearthed grouped remains which has renewed interest in the debate in 2021. I don’t know whether it was Crichton’s flawless prose that makes this scene stick out, or whether it is akin to something I have seen elsewhere; but this scene is so easy to visualise in my head.

The one thing the film definitely got right was not killing off Malcolm. Good call, Spielberg, good call. It did seem off, the manner in which his death was facilitated during the novel, but let’s be honest, no one really knows what their reaction will be when a T-rex charges at you.

The review

My rating: 5/5

I’ll state this now: this book was incredible. Am I biased by my love for the film adaptations? Yeah, probably. Crichton uses third-person limited POV narrative that switches character focus with each section, allowing for a refined focus on each character at different stages of the novel. These switches also help progress the storyline, giving us the extra information on what is happening to each splintered group of characters.

Crichton creates valuable and authentic characters, where no interaction seemed out of place. One character I hated, however, was Ed Regis – purely because we share the same profession and some of his sentiments rang true which was… unfortunate.

I think the most alluring side-plot of the novel was Malcolm’s deterioration and then ultimate death. From the offset, he was confident the park would be a failure, citing mathematics and chaos theory as his reason. After he was caught in the jaws of the T-rex, and then brought back to the lodge to try and recover, he still continued to offer speculation and nuances that helped shape the plot functions and continue the conversation around greed and wealth breeding disastrous results.

I definitely recommend giving this book a read. I hope the sequel lives up to the first.

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