I’m terrible at watching movies. When I was little, I’d watch the same Zoboomafoo episodes on VHS over and over instead of normal childhood movies like The Little Mermaid. The result is that it’s only in the last few years that I’ve finally seen Star Wars, Finding Nemo, and The Princess Bride.
Jurassic Park is another one of those movies that everyone’s seen except for me. One of my good friends is a huge fan of it, and when I was at her house recently, she pressed a battered copy of the novel into my hands, assuring my sister and I that we’d love it. When she asked me if I did a few days ago, I had to be very diplomatic with my answer. But more on that later.
Billionaire John Hammond has created Jurassic Park, a safari theme park featuring genetically engineered dinosaurs, on a Costa Rican island. Before the park opens, Hammond invites scientists and mathematician Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcolm to preview the park along with Hammond’s grandchildren. When a park worker takes out the power in an attempt to steal dinosaur embryos, disaster strikes. The dinosaurs are loose, and everyone on the island must try to escape or survive against incredible odds.
–The book was well-researched, without too much info-dumping. The parts that had to do with science and math seemed complicated enough to be realistic without being heavy-handed.
-The action scenes were well-paced, with a good amount of description.
–I loved the running theme with fractals and chaos theory! Ian Malcolm, a cynical, eccentric mathematician, was the perfect person to deliver speeches about why the park was mathematically doomed to fail.
-DINOSAURS. Need I say more?
-The book was a great critique of modernism and “scientific progress.” It really convinces you that just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.
-Most of the characters were cardboard cutouts. There was no main character, and almost no one was likeable except for Dr. Grant. I know that thrillers are less character-driven and more plot-driven than other books, but it’s hard to get into a book where there is literally no character growth.
-In particular, Crichton did a terrible job with Dr. Ellie Sattler. She’s a paleobotanist and the only cool female character in the entire book. Crichton could have developed her a lot more than he did. Instead, she just stands around, wearing shorts and attracting men, spouting a fact about paleobotany once every ten chapters. Almost every appearance is accompanied with a remark about her legs. Also, the narrator refers to every single adult in the entire book by their last name–except for Dr. Sattler, presumably because she is female. Dr. Sattler seems to be there for no other reason than to have an attractive female character, and she could have been replaced by a sexy lamp.
-Aside from the action scenes, the writing is awful. The prose is clunky and awkward. I got the same embarrassed feeling reading Jurassic Park that I did the first draft of my novella.
-The book takes about 150 pages before the plot starts. I complained to my sister at least three times before getting to that point. Each time, she told me to keep reading, that I was almost on the good part. I wasn’t.
-It takes place in Costa Rica, yet every single main character is white??? Except for one Asian guy??? The only Hispanic people are construction workers on the island, and they’re all superstitious dinosaur food. Would it have killed Crichton to include a smart, brave Hispanic person who is native to the area and helps the scientists? Or maybe *GASP* one of the main characters could have been a POC. Lack of ethnic diversity is never really a reason for me to put down a book–I view it as an added bonus when I come across a good book that also happens to be diverse. But in Jurassic Park, I feel that it’s unrealistic that almost everyone is white.
-When I put the book down, I was relieved.
I was disappointed by Jurassic Park. The concept and themes were great, but the writing didn’t do them justice. Judging from the novel, Jurassic Park would make a great movie–actually, I want to see it now. But Michael Crichton isn’t a very good writer, and no matter how good your editor is, that can’t be fixed.