Jurassic Park… Read it!
Book Review of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. Published by Knopf.
I’m often hesitant to read extremely popular fiction because the writing is not always high quality. I should drop this perception, as I know it is a stereotype. I have read countless popular books in which the writing is excellent and Michael Crichton’s writing in Jurassic Park was truly exceptional. I was hooked by the prologue and never lost interest. The pacing, structure and element of mystery were well executed and the research incorporated into the book was fascinating.
Although many of you are likely familiar with the plot of this 1990 bestseller, I will provide a refresher. John Hammond, a wealthy entrepreneur, gets millions—possibly billions—of dollars from investors to re-create dinosaurs using a semi-fictional biogenetic technology. Hammond turns an isolated island near Costa Rica into a park where dozens of dinosaurs roam their cages surrounded by moats and electrical fences. At the insistence of his investors and lawyers, Hammond invites a small group of people to the island for a “test run” which Hammond believes will demonstrate the safety of the island. The group includes two dinosaur experts (a paleontologist and a paleobotanist), a mathematician, the company’s lawyer, the designer of the computer system on the island and his two, young grandchildren.
To say the least, the trip does not go smoothly.
I am becoming more fond of and more impressed with books that implement a significant amount of research. When done well like Jurassic Park, they entertain as well as teach. Crichton’s research shines very successfully in this novel and a lot of that has to do with the way he reveals it. By populating the novel with very intelligent people (they are all said to be the top of their field), he can tunnel his research through the characters, which creates two big advantages.
- The characters feel true to their identity as highly-regarded experts.
- The narrator doesn’t come off as a snobbish know-it-all.
Air of Mystery
The mysteriousness of the story is what hooked me from the first page. Even though I knew what the story held (because I had previously seen the Steven Spielberg movie), the mystery laid down in such a subtle yet focused manner that it immediately hooked me. The novel opens with scenes on the main land of Costa Rica where what seems to be a new species of lizard is attacking and sometimes killing babies. Another mysterious scene occurs in an emergency room on the coast of Costa Rica. A badly injured man is flown in by helicopter. Although the friend of the man says he was hurt in a construction accident, the doctor believes the man has been “mauled.” Too badly injured, there is nothing the doctor can do to save him. Though she takes photos of the man’s injuries, her camera disappears along with the man’s friend.
Another mysterious trick caught my attention later on in the book. When the group of visitors begins their tour of the island, the computer system and how they keep tabs on the animals is explained to the group. Although it seems very thorough and safe, the mathematician sees a dangerous flaw in the program. When asked what the flaw is, he says he will let it will reveal itself during the tour and leaves the other characters—as well as the reader!—guessing. By this time in the novel, the original mystery of what was on the island has been revealed. Crichton timed it so that as soon as that mystery was solved, this new mystery appears.
Another benefit of not revealing the flaw of the island right away allows the reader to enjoy the tour and imagine the possibilities and excitement of an amusement park filled with dinosaurs.
The plot was well thought out and the pacing was very consistent. I expect more of an up-and-down intensity level from science fiction books but Jurassic Park was very steady. The large number of characters in this novel allowed that to happen. Because the characters were separated for the majority of the novel, each in a different high-intensity situation, the pacing of the novel flowed very naturally, constantly intriguing the reader with danger and changing circumstances.
An excellent book! 5 stars! I recommended it to EVERYONE; those simply looking for a good read or writers interested in learning from the best. Jurassic Park is an intelligent, intriguing read that will hook you from the first page.
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Posted on May 21, 2014, in Book Review and tagged 5 star book review, best seller, book review, dinosaurs, fiction, Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton, must-read, mystery, pacing, plot, research in writing, science fiction, writing. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.