At over 400 pages, I was happy to relive the old feeling of staying up until 3am reading science fiction. Last week I returned from a trip to California, so my internal clock was offline and the fast pace of the novel kept me occupied into the nights. My schedule is still suffering, but I have a deeper understanding of the Spielberg flick Jurassic Park (1993) on which the Michael Crichton novel is based. Crichton, with years of experience as a screenwriter, earned co-writing credits on the screenplay. In 1973 he wrote and directed the Yul Brynner-headlined Westworld about a futuristic Old West-themed amusement park, now living on in an HBO iteration.
It’s both impossible and priggish to review the novel without mentioning the movie. The novel stands on its own and doesn’t waste a sentence. Every paragraph pushes action and Dr. Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum in the film) is its internal moralizer. There is no moral compass for the characters to follow as the march of progress and wild science kills its human characters. The dinosaurs kill for sport and the scavengers eat for sustenance. But, despite the lack of a compass, the swaggering, self-important chaos mathematician Dr. Malcolm provides the humbling series of chastisements that influence the reader.
In the book, Dr. Sattler, Dr. Grant’s 24-year-old graduate student, is initially mistaken to be male. Its exclusion from the movie is made up later: On film, Ellie Sattler joins Robert Muldoon the warden to investigate the missing Mr. Arnold, while Hammond implies that he ought to be the one on this mission. Ellie’s remark on “sexism in survival situations” is not strictly a modern, snarky note; rather it parallels the spontaneous sex change undertaken by the dinosaurs. Without adequate male presence, some female dinos turn into males to perform their duties. Ellie, the would-be mother set to marry a doctor in Chicago after the ordeal, must act as a male in order to survive.
Jurassic Park is one of my favorite films despite its flaws. Every movie has flaws. You’re more likely to hear the criticism of why there was a child on site at the Montana dig all the while accepting the fact that dinosaurs are real and on an island off of Costa Rica.
The book provides fantastic information on the math and science referenced in the book without sounding like a reference manual. If this were still the 90s I would have to read it along with a few open Britannicas and a growing list of animals to look up at the library. Since the theme of the chaos predicted by Dr. Malcolm follows the ever-expanding Dragon Curve, where there are too many variables to predict any outcome except chaos, the multiple online encyclopedia tabs seems in line with the experience other readers must have enjoyed. There is no satisfactory final analysis, as part of the chaos that accompanied Jurassic Park admits that, writ large and no matter our opinion on the magnitude of human screw-ups, nature will dominate and survive.