"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Yuletide Excursion to 'Jurassic Park'

Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park, #1)Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This year, I needed a good read for the Christmas holiday—something entertaining, accessible, and not requiring much effort; something I could read with lots of distractions occurring around me. Jurassic Park proved to be a great book to digest while simultaneously participating in a bustling extended-family Christmas.

As a bonus to Jurassic Park’s considerable entertainment value—what’s not entertaining about a big island where dinosaurs stalk an ensemble of stock characters you either love or love to hate?—it also proves a thoughtful read. Indeed, thanks to preaching author Michael Crichton does at the outset, and copious preaching he does later through the prophetic mathematician Ian Malcolm, this book is vigorously thoughtful. It strikes a cautionary note on the risks inherent in scientific research and development. And in convincing fashion, Crichton shows how the underbelly of science is all the more troublesome thanks to capitalism and profit seeking. Plus there is no end to the big scary dinosaurs chasing people around.

If the owners of Jurassic Park were as effective at wrangling dinosaurs as Crichton is at overseeing character and theme development, this would be one boring novel. I was especially impressed with Crichton’s ability to call back motifs established earlier in the story. For example, he explores the notion that the young, human or other, have keener senses than adults. The effect is that children are catalytic elements in culture. They get things moving, they incite trends, and their behavior provides mandates for adults otherwise preoccupied with maintaining the status quo. Crichton employs this notion early on with the human children, and later comes back to it in a surprisingly touching way with the dinosaurs.

I said Crichton uses stock characters, which is not to say his characters are static. Of particular note, it is interesting to watch the degeneration of park mastermind John Hammond, specifically in his obsessive attitude toward children. A similar metamorphosis of attitude occurs as the dinosaurs become increasingly threatening. The humans begin to see the animals as ugly. Initial wonder degrades into bitterness and hatred. Crichton provides engrossing nuance like this without slowing down the story. Only in Ian Malcolm’s increasingly charismatic speechifying about chaos theory does Crichton’s storytelling begin to feel heavy-handed.

It has been many years since I visited the techno-thriller genre. Jurassic Park was a fantastic journey back into the realms of science gone awry and technology gone bad. As I said at the outset, it was a great read during the always frenzied holidays. Much of my reading was done with nieces and nephews scurrying past or during sporadic breaks from family activities. Crichton’s well-woven yarn was easy to jump in and out of without becoming superficial. Highly recommended!

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