"I may not know how to fly but I know how to read and that's almost the same thing."-- Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz

"...while finding true love was one of the most splendid things that could happen to you in life, finding a friend was equally splendid." -- Felix J Palma, The Map of the Sky

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

"...you cannot make an animal and not expect it to act alive. To be unpredictable. To escape. But they don't see that."

Before I say anything about the book, I need to say Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park: The Lost World, are probably two of my all time favorite movies so I can’t really help but compare the books to the movies. I’ve probably watched those a thousand times. The movie were perfection and set the bar high; I never read the book because I was afraid it would suck and then how would I view the movie? Alternatively, what if the book was better and then the movie suddenly sucked? The third movie was a total disappointment. It would be a long time before I figured out the third movie had no book to support it, and I would then attribute the bad plot to the fact that the story had been nothing more than box office fan fiction. Now with advertisements for a fourth Jurassic Park, and a second fan fiction, I found myself once again intrigued and captivated by test-tube dinosaurs… And hoping the 4th is a better fiction than the 3rd considering it too is inspired by its predecessors and not actually based on a pre-written plot-line. So I worked up the courage and opened the book.

A short summary probably isn’t necessary with the story’s fame, but just in case, here goes. Eccentric billionaire John Hammond is the founder of a biotechnology company, InGen. He’s working on a top-secret project: A state of the art genetics lab with a resort on a privately owned island off Costa Rica where the main attractions are genetically engineered dinosaurs. But after locals begin complaining of strange animal attacks, Hammond’s investors want the project investigated for safety reasons. Enter paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant, paleobotanist Ellie Sattler, mathematician Ian Malcolm, and lawyer Donald Gennaro; it’s their job to assess the park’s value and safety measures. Also meet John Hammond’s grandkids, Alexis and Tim who’re just here for the tour. Unfortunately, they’re all arriving in time to witness what happens when a disgruntled employee takes revenge on a dinosaur zoo. Chaos ensues.

I’ve never been more relieved by a book’s excellence! Of course, the book was very different from the movie in some ways. John Hammond isn’t a jolly Santa-like Dino-nut who wants to bring adventure to the world’s children; oh no, he’s just an overambitious money-grubbing douche-bag who won’t listen to reason. And Alan Grant? He loves kids. (That was actually harder to get used to!) And if you’ve seen the movies and know that the velociraptors are supposed to be the villains of the story; they are but the T-Rex is almost as bad. Maybe he can’t see you moving, but he’s going to track you like a bloodhound.

I actually didn’t mind the differences. It was like having two people look out the same window and having them each describe their first impression. Nobody ever views the world exactly the same way as the person next to them, even when they’re looking at the same thing. So going from the movie to the book was like experiencing the story through someone else’s eyes. It was just as beautiful as before, just different. I loved ‘seeing’ the paddocks teaming with strange animals for the very first time; hearing about the sounds they could have produced, feeling character reactions. The banter between long-winded Ian Malcolm and the employees were fascinating even as Grant stood by, being both a main character and oddly quiet observer.

My only complaint with the plot had to do with Arnold finding the products of Dennis’s sabotage. Something about “the security system is down.” Basically, security is security; it’s not an either or kind of thing. How can a company so genius it can use DNA to raise the dead forget to think about two separate security systems? Or rather why would human security and animal security be tied so disastrously together? It seems you would have to worry about locking down the humans at a resort in the event of an animal escape. It would also seem in the event of a natural disaster you’d want those fences on a different system, on a back up generator, to protect guests… Or am I forgetting the year this story was written; maybe with tech at our fingertips I’m forgetting how limited it once was. And I’m not saying the fictional-theoretical security system couldn’t still have been sabotaged, I’m just saying regardless of human interference, one system to control both inhabitants of the island seems rather short sighted…

The book was a fun adventure with just enough science talk to make the story plausible. The movie version may have changed some things around, it still managed to keep the integrity of the book. Although, the two endings were very different… So different it made me think about The Lost World and of course now I’m reading that.

This is my first five star rating of 2015. I’m pretty excited about it.

Rating 5/5

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