Jurassic Park (1990)
Author: Michael Crichton
Like many of you out there, I never knew that one of my favorite films growing up was based on a book! Imagine my excitement when I realized that Jurassic Park was first a novel by one of the most impactful and exciting sci-fi authors of recent memory. In fact, over a dozen of Crichton’s novels have been adapted to film. He was also an active screenwriter, working on the original Westworld film that the HBO series was derived from. That being said, I was excited to dive into my first Crichton novel and it certainly did not disappoint.
Jurassic Park hands us a small cast of characters who stay static throughout the novel, but in many ways that does not detract from them. We meet these characters and learn just enough about them that we care about what happens to them, but Crichton does not spend 400 pages building up characters to have them ripped in half by dinosaurs. I believe that the decision to keep these characters flat was perfect because it aided to the excellent pacing of the book. I cannot overstate how great the pacing was in this book; I never wanted to put the book down, but I also did not feel exhausted by the end of it either. That is exactly the feeling I want from a sci-fi thriller novel. The balance between action and information is masterful, and Crichton’s prose is approachable without being dumbed down. I certainly felt like Crichton did his research for this book and it showed by his ability to explain complicated scientific ideas in a way that was not confusing or overwhelming. He makes the science portion of the fiction believable, which adds to the suspense that the reader feels because they feel like it could actually happen.
Despite their lack of depth, I enjoyed most of the characters in the novel. Grant and Sattler feel intelligent and clever enough to make their contributions believable and not heavy-handed. Hammond was self-absorbed and refuses any responsibility for anything going wrong. Muldoon is cold and calculated, just the kind of guy you want running security for a park full of dinosaurs. Ian Malcom is quippy and pessimistic, the perfect counter to Hammond. The characters stay pretty rigid in their roles, but they are varied enough to provide overall depth that makes the story into something more than a streak of brutal deaths. Brutal does not do justice to some of the scenes in this novel, the overall tone is very dark and intense. The death scenes and moments where characters are being hunted are graphic and suspenseful. I loved the dark and dirty feel that these scenes carried.
Jurassic Park in novel form outclasses the film, but is ultimately overshadowed because of the medium. If you want to find a deeper, darker, more brutal and realistic view than the film offers, give the book a read. It truly is captivating and one of my favorite reads this year.
Author: Alex Greenwood