You all know of Jurassic Park the movie. But what of Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel? The cautionary tale about genetic engineering was a smash hit.
The book is a great deal different to the film, although both maintain the same overall themes. Welcome, then, to Jurassic Park… the novel.
Jurassic Park the Novel
Michael Crichton (1942-2008) first penned this idea as a screenplay in 1983, before adapting it later in the decade into a full novel of 448 pages.
It’s also quite similar to his film Westworld (1973), which Crichton wrote and directed. That one also has a famous central performance from Yul Brynner.
In Westworld, a theme park full of robots goes into meltdown as the robots start murdering the guests at the park.
Jurassic Park takes that concept and spins it towards a more scientific premise, using the genetically re-created dinosaurs to demonstrate chaos theory in action.
Set in 1989, the plot concerns paleontologists Dr. Alan Grant and graduate Dr. Ellie Sattler. Their dinosaur excavation work is funded by billionaire John Hammond of InGen.
He whisks them away to an all-paid, all-access trip to his new theme park. You know what it’s called.
They’re joined by famous mathematician Ian Malcolm, who’s obsessed with chaos theory.
At the park, they discover InGen has cloned dinosaurs using the DNA hidden in fossilised remains of mosquitoes. The idea being the pesky things feasted on dinosaurs tens of millions of years ago (although they did do this, the DNA is in fact long useless—so cloning dinosaurs this way isn’t possible).
Hammond wants the paleontologist’s fresh perspectives after a series of accidents at the park spooks his investors. And he gives them a tour of the venue.
Predictably, everything goes to crap and the dinosaurs begin running amok. At which point it becomes a battle for survival.
Now, in comparison to the film, there are some differences. The game keeper Muldoon (played by Bob Peck in the movie) survives in the novel.
Hammond (played in lovable fashion by Richard Attenborough in the film) is actually a bit of a bastard in the book. And he’s also killed in its final stages.
Whereas the film was largely about spectacle, Crichton is able to explore chaos theory to a greater extent in the book. Whilst making it accessible for any type of reader—whether you know anything about chaos theory or not (we sure as crap bags don’t).
As with Crichton’s 1980 effort Congo, the threat to our protagonists is very much from the capricious nature of the dinosaurs.
The gorillas in Congo are unpredictable and intelligent. It’s the same in Jurassic Park—as the humans are so vulnerable up against them, it builds a great sense of tension and fear.
Not that we’d class the book as a horror story. Nor did we find it as scary as Congo. But its exploration of science going wrong remains relevant to this day.
Plus, you know, it’s got dinosaurs in it. Roar!
So you can delve into the whole chaos theory side if you like, or just revel in the giant beasts so vividly brought back to life by Crichton.
Jurassic Park Film Adaptation
Many of Crichton’s works were adapted into films, such as with Congo (1995). But the most famous of the lot is, without question, Jurassic Park.
The movie was a landmark experience in many ways and utterly dominated the world in 1993.
As dinosaur crazy kids, the film was timed to perfection. And we raced to the cinema to see it in Preston when we were but nine years of age.
The film actually scared us rigid, especially when the T. Rex breaks out of its enclosure.
But also riveted us mightily, and turned us towards the charming talents of the then 40-year-old Jeff Goldblum. Who stars as Dr. Ian Malcolm.
It’s not Spielberg’s best film by a long shot and, on viewing it now as adults, there are some bizarre plot holes.
But as a giant, visual spectacle it still remains something pretty remarkable.