Date finished: May 27th 2016
I’m finding myself struggling with books as of late. Thomas Pynchon’s postmodern classic, Gravity’s Rainbow, may well be the death of me. For some reason I thought reading Huxley essays would be a good idea despite the fact my brain was starting to die. I waded through those and decided I needed a real break from high-concept, metaphysical madness.
So I perused the To Be Read pile and looked for the most engaging, gripping book I could find.
And here I am now reading Michael Crichton’s The Lost World, sequel to one of my favourite books/movies ever: Jurassic Park. It’s safe to say I made the right choice. You can’t really go wrong with Crichton.
The film adaptation of The Lost World differs from the book to a greater degree than the original film did, but the general premise is there. Jurassic Park was destroyed after the events of the first book, but evidence has been found to suggest there was a second island supporting dinosaur life. Ian Malcolm and a group of scientists venture to the island for research purposes, but little do they know InGen’s rivals, BioSyn, have been following them and want to get to the island to follow their own nefarious plans…
In the original book, Crichton enthusiastically delved into chaos theory, genetics, and the general implications of bringing dinosaurs back to life with palpable glee (before, y’know, having it all go wrong and lots of people being murdered indirectly by man’s hubris). In The Lost World, Crichton focuses more on the scientific benefits of dinosaurs existing: how the ecosystem operates, theories of dinosaur behaviour, extinction theory, and the exploitation of cloned species, all with a boundless enthusiasm. It’s a fine demonstration of Crichton’s dedication to writing and research; considering it’s age, The Lost World is brimming full of hi-tech gadgets, cutting edge theory, and twenty-first century attitudes. Crichton can be described without hyperbole as being a long way ahead of his time.
And it’s just so much fun to read. Crichton makes science fun. Yes, there are dinosaurs hunting people and that’s gripping as hell, but you also enjoy listening to the scientists trade info on complexity theory and behavioural observations. It’s difficult not to get sucked into the characters’ debates. A lot of writer’s can write a great thriller, but only Crichton can pepper a gripping action story with palaeontological theory and get away with it.
If you’re familiar with the film adaptation, the book is a different read. The film borrowed some elements but veered off in a different direction and also put a Hollywood gloss on things. The book is far more grounded, and seems to retain a lot of the charm the original novel has as a result.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. Crichton does seem to a bit lazier – often a revelation (of which there are plenty) will be stalled by a dinosaur attack – but on the whole he remains as inventive, intelligent and gripping as he did in the first book. If The Lost World has a failing it’s that it’s not as good as Jurassic Park, but not through any fault of its own, it’s more that JP is just an unattainable goal; you can’t beat the original. Nevertheless The Lost World can at times be as unputdownable, thought-provoking and fun as its predecessor.