Book Review – Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park”

One of my all-time favorite novels is Michael Crichton’s dinosaur-themed adventure story, Jurassic Park.

I first read the book in college.  Since then, I’ll usually read the story again once every couple of years.  It’s just that good of a story.

Michael Crichton --- Jurassic Park

The story begins with mysterious animal attacks in the jungles of Costa Rica.  It seems that a small, lizard-like creature has been blamed for attacking a few people.  Something that almost seems like it should be . . . extinct.

Meanwhile, billionaire John Hammond, founder and CEO of International Genetic Technologies (InGen), is bringing in experts to take a tour of his new biological preserve / theme park established on Isla Nublar, an island about 100 miles off the coast of Costa Rica.  He needs these people to evaluate his park and give their approval before it opens to the general public.

After all, his park is like nothing the world has ever experienced.  InGen has cloned and brought back living dinosaurs.  Those experts and top minds are Dr. Alan Grant, a paleontologist, Ellie Sattler, a paleobotanist, Dr. Ian Malcom, a mathematician, and Donald Gennaro, a lawyer.  And just to make things interesting, also included are John Hammond’s grandkids, Lex and Tim.

Upon arrival at Jurassic Park, the gang is shown a tour of the facility.  Some of the stops include laboratories where the dinosaurs’ DNA is examined, where the eggs are fertilized, and of course, a hatchery where the young dinosaurs are born.

What makes Crichton’s novel so interesting is that he’s using what seem to be sound scientific concepts to bring the dinosaurs back to life.  The dinosaur DNA is extracted from mosquitoes fossilized in amber millions of years ago.  The gaps in the DNA’s code is complete with frog DNA.  And in the end, the DNA is inserted into an egg which ultimately becomes a living dinosaur.  Tinkering with the DNA’s code allows the InGen scientists to control the sex of the dinosaur, essentially making them all female.  The thought is that if they’re all female, then there would not be any unauthorized breeding outside of the compound.

Of course, that’s all a theory.  As Ian Malcom points out to the scientists and other guests, trying to control Mother Nature isn’t nearly as simple as it sounds.  Dr. Malcom correctly predicts that John Hammond’s “perfect” system has flaws and it will, in fact, fail.

The second half of Jurassic Park is a roller coaster of an adventure as, predicted by Dr. Malcom, the dinosaurs break free of their enclosures.  People are killed.  Dennis Nedry, chief programmer, sabotages the system to allow him time to steal frozen dinosaur embryos and deliver them to a competitor.  Nedry’s actions add further chaos into the park as the power systems fail.

For those of you familiar with Steven Spielberg’s hit film of the same name, be prepared for a completely different adventure in Michael Crichton’s thrilling novel.  The basic concept is still the same, but the novel goes into significantly greater detail (as most books do).  From the raptors trying to escape to the mainland to Dr. Grant’s (and Lex and Tim) thrilling jungle river raft ride to certain characters getting killed by dinosaurs, the differences between the book and movie start adding up fast.

I cannot recommend this highly enough, especially if you’re a fan of dinosaurs or techno-thrillers.

It’s easy to see that Crichton has done his homework to present a sound argument towards the possibility of cloning dinosaurs.  It’s been noted that scientists have disproved Crichton’s methods, but to the rest of us, it still sounds logical.  This is a smart and thrilling adventure novel.  Throw in the tropical setting and there you go.  This is escapism at its best.

Go out and get a copy of Michael Crichton’s bestselling novel, Jurassic Park.  It’s well worth it!

five stars

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