I should start this review by saying: I love dinosaurs. I love dinosaurs so much that I feel this review may be a little biased as a result. It’s not necessarily factual information that I love, which is perhaps how I was so able to enjoy the book (and the subsequent film), but it is the very idea of dinosaurs that has always excited me. As a child, I loved dinosaurs. This love was never encouraged by anyone. It was never discouraged, either, but lack of encouragement resulted in me forgetting over the years how much I had loved dinosaurs, and that for many years I wanted so badly to be a paleontologist like Grant in the movie. I remember watching the movie as a kid, and I was never afraid of it. Rather, I was fascinated by the dinosaurs. I always loved the films, and so when I saw that the book store had stocked this especially for the 25th anniversary, I was happy. I was excited. I was ready to dive right into Jurassic Park. This was my face.
I got so much more from the book than just dinosaurs, though. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the dinosaurs are nice, but the book itself. Wow. I do admit, I am probably biased, but having taken a Humanities course on technological change and how it impact society, I realized quickly that there is an underlying message in the book. I could relate a lot of what I read to the Humanities course, and I thoroughly enjoyed that. The book has it all. It has Luddites, it has technology left behinds, it has references to how as a society we rely heavily on technology (as my professor always said “It is because, as a species, we are puny”), and it has an overall message in regards to technological advance. I guess the message may be up to interpretation. At some points in the book, it seems to paint the technology as entirely negative. Other instances, however, provide a more neutral look. It is neither positive or negative, it just is. When it becomes negative, as Malcolm states plainly closer to the end, is when humans get too confident in their abilities. As the scientists in the book do. They believed they could control something that was, in the end, entirely out of their control. I am sure my professor had a field day with this one if he ever read it, and I’m sure he had a field day with the movie when it came out (safe to assume he watched it, you’d have to live under a rock not to!). Technology just is, and just as we found ways to adapt, Malcolm points out in the end that the Earth does. Whether you agree with the overall message or not (I did at some times, did not at others), it still makes the book even more interesting than being “just dinosaurs”.
Apparent underlying message aside, I really did enjoy the book. The science is wrong at times, and the information about paleontology and dinosaurs is a bit outdated (as Grant points out, it is a growing field – that changes every time new information is discovered). Crichton describes all his dinosaurs in detail, but despite his descriptions I could not help but picture the velicoraptors more like this
Of course, though, at the time the book was written there was likely still debate about whether they would have had feathers or not. I think even when I was in school I learned that they were probably more reptilian (which is surprising since the book addresses this, describing them as more of a combination of reptilian and avian, but public education does lag behind sometimes). He, also, uses the wrong names, but I think this is intentional as he seems to address this (referring to certain dinosaurs as the “correct” names) and seems mostly to be doing this for the reader.
There are things that bothered me about the paleontology (the way the digging was described, as well as the handling of the fossils, seemed wrong), but I will leave that up to someone with more knowledge there to explain. I tend to gravitate more toward the social sciences these days than the physical ones.
So, moving on with the review, I really did enjoy this book. The only reason I cannot give it more than three stars has a lot to do with the character development. Simply put, many of them felt like the same character. I could see growth as the book progressed in some, particularly Malcolm (I hated him less by the end than I did in the beginning), but for the most part they all felt like they were stagnant. The writing style doesn’t help much, either. I know many writers follow the rule of never using anything between dialogue other than “said” and “asked”, but in practice this doesn’t always work. Sometimes we need the descriptors. I feel in a thriller/horror science-fiction novel they are important. These people are fighting for their lives. They are trying to defend themselves against dinosaurs. Nothing would have been wrong with saying “he screamed” or “she said anxiously” or “he said between crying”. Those would have made the characters seem less flat. As was written, I had trouble – at times – believing they realized they were in true danger.
The exception to this rule were the kids. Tim and Lex seemed to realize how much danger they were in. A lot of people criticize this by saying they behaved stupidly, but they’re kids and they were in danger. Their behavior, at times, made sense to me. There were some instances where this was ruined. Times where the kids seemed either too calm, or too complacent, but when the actual danger was occurring, they were terrified, and I could tell they were. It made me wonder what happened after they left the park. As a psych nerd, I began to realize the real horror would be the scars they’d suffer mentally during their development because they were, you know, almost eaten by a t-rex.
The plot was involving, from beginning to end pretty much. Even though I knew what was going to happen (as I said, you’d had to have lived under a rock not to), I could not stop reading. There was little action, but when there was action it was pretty well written. There is a lot of technical talk, but it’s not too hard to get through it. I admit that I skimmed some of it, as some of it felt pointlessly pedantic and unnecessary. Though what is common sense now, may not have been then, so I tried to keep that in mind while reading. The world created in the book is intriguing, though. The whole idea of an island full of dinosaurs is – to someone who loves dinosaurs, at least – very awesome. Despite the fact that his characters seem to lack any real development (barring a few), I really did enjoy this book. It has its flaws – the characters, the science (at times), the fact that many of the characters seemed unaffected by the park going wrong (I do think that was kind of the point, though), etc – but for all it’s flaws, I loved it. I have to be honest, though, I didn’t read it for the characters. I didn’t read it for the plot. I read it for this
and I got that, so I was not disappointed.