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Jeff's Review Corner

2010 has not been a good year for me. Early on, I had my great aunt and grandfather pass away within a few months of the other, my semester work through college has been an absolute nightmare, the economy is hell and the only thing I can think to do is ridicule terrible books my teachers make me read. As a result, I’ve begun feeling as though I’m only contributing to the negative atmosphere so, this month, I’ve decided to do something different. Today, I’m going to review my favorite novel.

Today’s Book: Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park

Yes, I know the novel was out before I was born. I also don’t care, not enough people have read the book, settling on the movie. There is nothing wrong with the movie – it is a surprisingly good film – I’m just saying, the book is better. It starts off fairly slowly, though, gradually changing the scene to random parties involved in the John Hammond’s park, traces of compies (small, scavenger dinosaurs) being washed up on a beach, a little girl being bitten by one (if THAT scene in the movie of The Lost World didn’t give you nightmares, you can officially mark yourself as having checked out of the human race) and much more. As an aside, the little girl who was bitten was also some kind of prodigy, as she was able to – more or less – identify nuances about the reptile in question when she’s asked by a doctor to do so. This is something of a theme in Crichton’s books, I’ve noticed. Children are not only geniuses, they are also immortal.

Anyways, after a lengthy introduction, we meet our protagonist – Alan Grant – who is the only archeologist I know of off-hand to be a Harrison Ford-level badass. He works as an archeologist alongside a team funded by John Hammond, including Ellie Sattler (who, for some unexplainable reason, is Grant’s love interest in the film adaptation. I still don’t fully understand that, but I digress.) who is a paleontologist who specializes in prehistoric plants. Hammond arrives and invites them to a “weekend getaway” on Isla Nublar, where he has set up, in his own words, “the greatest theme park of all time”. Along for the trip are some lawyers whose names I can’t be bothered to remember, some bad guys who I can’t be bothered to remember, and Ian Malcolm, a mathematician who fluctuates between brilliant and pretentious with every other breath.

They arrive at the island, generally in awe of what Hammond had done. For those who somehow don’t know what that is, I’ll explain. Hammond’s team, utilizing prehistoric mosquitoes that had been solidified in amber, obtained dinosaur DNA from the blood the mosquitoes had sucked, which had also been preserved within. Filling in the gaps using frog DNA and some technobabble, they were able to clone dinosaurs for the theme park. As safe guards to control breeding and migration, all cloned specimens are female, their reproductive tissues are destroyed using a radiation therapy, and a genetic alteration prevents the proper formation of the protein lysine, which they must be fed by park staff. Dennis Nedry, being paid by a rival company to steal dinosaur embryos, begins shutting down the park systems one by one as a massive storm rolls in over the island.

What happens next is rather spectacular. For those who have not read the book, you’ll need to do so in order to find out what happens then. In spite of a slow start, Jurassic Park is an absolutely solid book with a fantastic sense of style. Every chapter introduces clues to an ever-unwinding puzzle and system within the park. This is illustrated by the chapter intermissions, showing a rather strange doodle that vaguely foreshadows the nature of the park as it relates to Ian Malcolm’s chaos theory.

Is it flawless? Not exactly. One thing throughout the book that continues to pop up as the action gets underway, the smell of vomit (yes, the book discusses this and more than once) is described as a “sweet” smell. Maybe Crichton made it through his entire life having never been sick before, but I have had the misfortune of experiencing that smell and I can safely say it is anything but. Also, Crichton tends to have a habit of using Malcolm as a mouthpiece, having him rant on and on about chaos theory, evolutionary theory and every other theory he ever had an opinion on. This is rather jarring in the middle of a raptor attack and minimizing his role in the film was an excellent idea. Another thing that bothered me was the entire inclusion of the characters of Tim and Alex – Hammond’s grandchildren. They added nothing to the plot, stifled dialog flow by trying to tack in character development where it was largely unwelcomed and Alex’s entire role could be summed up in the words “boat anchor”.

All-in-all, it’s a fantastic read from start to finish and I recommend it to anyone who won’t get high strung over the pseudo-science involved in bringing the island to life. This is my personal recommendation – you won’t be disappointed.

*Editor’s Note*
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"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years."
~Mark Twain, "Old Times on the Mississippi" Atlantic Monthly, 1874
"Henry James once defined life as that predicament which precedes death, and certainly nobody owes you a debt of honor or gratitude for getting him into that predicament. But a child does owe his father a debt, if Dad, having gotten him into this peck of trouble, takes off his coat and buckles down to the job of showing his son how best to crash through it."
~Clarence Budington Kelland

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