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Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Lost World by Michael Crichton

"Too much change is as destructive as too little. Only at the edge of chaos can complex systems flourish."

Ian Malcolm, presumed dead at the end of Jurassic Park, is alive and giving a lecture on Chaos Theory and Extinction when overzealous paleontologist Richard Levine shows up. Levine is tired of studying bones; he’s heard rumors about strange animals in Costa Rica and about Ian Malcolm’s extended stay there. He wants to put together an expedition to locate a “Lost World” where animals survived extinction and are still living in seclusion. Malcolm says no such place exists, but he’ll be happy to help if it’s ever found. As Levine begins to track down the last known rumored site of his Lost World he realizes he’s being monitored and all his careful planning means nothing if he isn’t the first one there. Lewis Dodgson is back and he wants what he paid for: dinosaur eggs. Levine rushes unprepared into the Lost World, forcing Malcolm to organize a rescue party…

This was certainly an interesting sequel, although I think it lacked the focus of the first novel. I loved that not one, but two children managed to stowaway on the trailer and, unlike the movie, neither one of them were related to Malcolm. Because in a world where genetically engineered dinosaurs roam free, who needs the added drama of teenagers fighting with absentee dads? I liked that it was, to some degree, Richard Levine’s fault that the kids got dragged into this. Levine’s blind ambition, disregard for human life, and pomposity makes him a hard guy to like; so it's easier to place blame on an unlikable character than the guy everyone liked from Jurassic Park. But in turn, Ian Malcolm was a little less likeable this time around. His character has had a complete overhaul. Instead of being the know-it-all pessimist who just knows this is a bad idea and wants to spend all his time explaining why… He’s curious. He thinks that somehow studying dinosaurs outside cages will be less dangerous than when they were in them. This is a man who thought dinosaurs were a bad idea before they tried to eat him. Clearly the blood loss from his previous stay in Costa Rica has damaged his brain.

Crichton’s characters reunite on the island of Isla Sorna, surprised to find that evidence of human intervention is all around them. This is Site B: InGen’s top secret manufacturing plant. The scientists, unable to stop disease from spreading, released their wards to grow in the wild; offering Levine and Malcolm the unique chance to study dino-behavior. I found most of the explanations as to why dinosaurs behaved a certain way fun, but found it laughable that it never once occurs to anyone throughout the course of the book to sit still, shut up, stay together until the helicopters returned…Although I suppose if they behaved themselves the plot would be about a bunch of people sitting in a tree. The only thing I didn’t like about dinosaur behavior and its explanation: velociraptors as bad parents. The reason given for this is that they were raised in a lab and never learned mothering behavior…But the same could be said for any of the dinosaurs and the other species managed just fine. So that explanation fell short. I suspect it was easier to vilify raptors when they were turning on each other and instead of trying to give an explanation for that behavior, MC should have just left it alone. But I loved the idea of chameleon carnitaurs and feathered T-rex babies. The descriptions of scenery and wildlife were beautifully done and it made up for the parts that made no sense.

This book was dramatically different from its movie. The first half of the storyline is spent searching for Levine who is searching for dinosaurs. Sarah Harding is late to the party, not early. Dodgson does not arrive with a mini-army so you kind of know his chances of success aren’t going to be high. The T-Rex’s never get off the island. In the end, the book and the movie only ever share two scenes: 1. the kidnap of a baby T-Rex and 2. the raptors hunting human prey through long grass. Needless to say, if you're a fan of this book you don't need to see the movie...If you're a fan of this movie you're in for a surprise.

While I enjoyed this book enough to give it a four star rating, I’m not ashamed to admit I prefer the flashy thrills of the movie version. Bogging the story down with all that science and speculation gave me way too much time to think about all the plot-holes even as the suspense pulled me forward through the pages…

Ratings: 4/5

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