Thursday, July 12, 2018

Book Review: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Heart pounding action
Cons: Slow start; lectures
The Bottom Line:
Dinos on attack
Slowed down by set up, lectures
Still enjoyable

Knowing What Is Coming Hurts, but Book Holds Up Remarkably Well

Way back when I first started listening to audio books, I grab whatever my library had available, which is how I wound up listening to a truly horribly abridgment of Jurassic Park.  But that was over 20 years ago, and I decided it was time to listen to the unabridged version.

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, this techno thriller from 1990 tells the story of a new amusement park that was being built on an island off the cost of Costa Rica.  It is a special park because the owner has cloned dinosaurs and the main attraction.  And the owner of the park has thought of every possible way to make sure the animals are kept away from the guests to the guests are kept safe.

Or have they?  When the owner, John Hammond, invites Drs. Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcolm, to visit the park and determine whether it is safe or not, they begin to find that everything is not as it appears.  And that’s before the unthinkable happens.  Will anyone be safe?

With five successful movies now coming out over the last 25 years, it’s hard to pretend we don’t know what is coming.  Yet that is exactly what you need to do when you read the book.  But even so, the book starts very slowly.  Yes, I would agree that time is needed to explain the science behind the science fiction here and to start to show how unsafe everything is.  Yet the first half of the book just drags while we sit and get these lectures.  Some scenes on the mainland early on do help build the intrigue.

And then the mayhem starts, and it becomes a heart pounding race through the park.  I was fortunate to listen to much of this in one day as I was driving to visit family because it is incredibly hard to stop once the danger starts.  Fans of the movies will recognize some scenes from this book that were included in the second and third movie since there just wasn’t time for all the death and mayhem presented here in one film.

Which is why fans of the movies will still enjoy the book.  Yes, names are the same, but personalities and relationships are different, including the ages of the kids.  You’ll recognize some scenes from the movie, but there are plenty of scenes and plot points that got cut for time.  This was a 15 hour audio book after all.  That also includes a climax that is much better than the movie’s climax, and characters who have different fates in the two versions of the story.

The characters are just barely deep enough to make us care about them and the outcome, but they could be deeper.  The dinos are the real star of the book, just as they are the movies.  It doesn’t help that the background of the characters is established via clunky flashbacks in the first half, when we are waiting for things to get going.  Still, I did like most of the characters, although the seven-year-old girl got on my last nerve by the end.  Probably realistic for the age, but she was so obnoxious.

The book went further than I would have liked in the gruesome department.  And yes, I know exactly what this book is, so this is a personal complaint.  Just keep it in mind before you pick the book up yourself.

There are some interesting themes and ideas presented with the book.  Even though I completely disagree with the evolutionary basis behind them, I still found stuff to chew on.  Unfortunately, these are presented more as lectures, although the lectures are backed up by what we are seeing as the story unfolds.

As I already mentioned, I got an unabridged audio version this time, narrated by Scott Brick.  I believe this is a relatively new production.  Whether it is or not, Scott did a great job of bringing the story to life.

Overall, I enjoyed revisiting the book that started a franchise.  Despite the flaws, Jurassic Park is just as entertaining now as it was when it was first released almost 30 years ago.

1 comment:

  1. I just left a long detailed comment here and it never went thru. I forgot about this, but that is why I stopped making comments on your site here-I spend 10 minutes typing and it is gone!