By Chin Tee
By now we have all seen the movie and its sequels. Much like the gigantic prehistoric lizards that populate this narrative, Crichton’s cautionary tale of science and capitalism run amok loom large in the public consciousness and refuses to die. But does the book still hold up after all this time? Sadly, in this reviewer’s opinion, it does not. Time has not been kind to Crichton’s workmanlike prose, his thinly drawn characters and his by-the-numbers plotting.
But out of all the missteps that this book makes, perhaps the greatest was taking my daughter and leaving me alive.
I was immediately struck, upon picking up the book again, that despite my familiarity with the film franchise, the book was filled with much extraneous detail that my brain had consigned to oblivion, an indicator of just how forgettable many of the characters and sub-plots from the book were. However, I will not forget, nor will I forgive, should one hair on my daughter’s head be harmed.
Crichton seems to have an obsession with theme parks, having also written the screenplay for Westworld, another cautionary tale of science run amok set in another futuristic theme park. Perhaps he’s attracted to the innocence of theme parks, how they represent a place where people let their guard down and give in to the illusion of safety. A place where nothing bad can happen. But this is precisely the sort of complacency that prevented me from realizing the danger that my daughter was in. Only now do I realize that this mildly diverting narrative of dinosaurs resurrected through mosquitos and DNA was designed to make me take my eye off the ball. A mistake that I will never make again.
At times it’s hard to gauge the stance which Crichton wants the reader to take with regards to science, and it’s clear that novel owes a huge debt to that classic of rogue science, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”. But Shelley’s book did not fetishize nor revel in the possibilities and wonders of science in the way Crichton clearly does. Indeed the heroes and the constant voices of reason tend to be the scientists. Dr Ian Malcolm perhaps comes closest to embodying this ambivalence to progress, being a chaos mathematician who comes across like a rock star and who effectively announces the moral quandary at the heart of the story in almost every line of dialogue he’s given. Namely that man must not play God. And if my daughter is not returned safely within the next 24 hours, God will not save you from my wrath. My vengeance will be swift and it will be brutal. And it certainly won’t unfold over the course of 448 pages of intermittent excitement.
In short, “Jurassic Park”, you messed with the wrong family. I am coming for you. There is no place on earth that you can hide. You made it personal. And now I am your judge, jury and executioner. Prepare for blood.