I’m a huge fan of the Jurassic Park movie franchise. I missed the first two on the big screen back in their day but saw the third one during its opening week. I also enjoyed seeing the fourth film this summer in theaters. Anytime the movies show on television I can sit down and watch and still enjoy them even if I didn’t catch them from the beginning.
This year marks the 25th anniversary since the release of the first book in 1990. I picked it up on my Kindle last Friday on sale for $1.99 and decided to give it a try. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s 450 pages long and I had read over half of it in 24 hours. That says a lot for me because I’m usually a slow reader who takes a week to read even 100 pages. Yeah, I know the movie inside and out so why read the book? Well, we all know movies never follow the book completely so I wanted to see what the differences were.
Before I get to that, I’d like to discuss Michael Crichton and his writing style. It’s terrible! Crichton is not a good writer at all. But he is a good storyteller, as are most authors like him who pound bestselling titles out that constantly spend time on the national bestseller lists. Ever read James Patterson? Gosh, he’s horrible but he’s a bestselling author because the majority of his readers just want a good suspenseful story. They don’t care about substance all that much. And Patterson can tell a story just like Crichton could.
There’s something to be said for being able to whittle down a story to bare bones and still hold a reader’s attention. You can always tell these kinds of books from others because the author drives the story forward with pages of dialogue between characters and not a lot of action going on. Crichton definitely does that in Jurassic Park, but even his dialogue isn’t very good at times. But with dialogue, Crichton also likes to reveal hidden agendas and step up on his soapbox quite a bit.
There are hefty paragraphs of dialogue throughout the book where characters give each other lectures on science, biology, economics, computers, industry, and genetics. One character, even after getting attacked by a dinosaur, goes on a two and half page rant about the end of the world all while lying in bed doped up on morphine, and while dinosaurs are trying to get into his room!
Next, Crichton doesn’t spend a lot of time describing the dinosaurs. He often calls them by their scientific names or will point out that their saliva is poisonous or that they use a large claw to tear open their victims. But other than that, he pretty much uses the same descriptive words every time assuming that you, the reader, can imagine what a dinosaur looks like. To me, this made them less scary and they aren’t as scary to the people in the book either.
Obviously, Hollywood had it easy because they could show you the dinosaurs and how big they are compared to the people, and the fear of people being chased by dinosaurs drives the suspense on the screen. But Crichton spends pages of this book telling you all about the park’s security and computer system details. There are even images of computer screens and prompts throughout the book, including pages of html-like coding!
As far as the differences go, all of your characters from the book are in the movie. It’s just a matter of how important they are. Genarro the lawyer plays a much bigger role in the book, as does Harding the vet. Harding barely appears in one scene in the movie. There’s a tour guide in the book who has a pretty big role, but he is not in the movie. There’s also the matter of who dies and how which were completely different. You might be surprised by who dies in the book but didn’t die in the movie. At times, while reading I found myself wondering where some of the characters were. It was almost as if Crichton had forgotten about them at times.
There are also some scenes in the book that weren’t used in the first movie, but were used in the second and third movie. I think had I read the book before ever seeing the first movie, I probably would have been surprised a bit more. Hollywood’s dramatic scenes involving dinosaurs attacking were much more elaborate and suspenseful than how they played out in the book.
I own a paperback copy of the second book, The Lost World, but given that it was my least favorite of all four movies, I’m probably not going to read it anytime soon. However, I am curious to possibly read some of Crichton’s other work. I can appreciate the attention he does give to science and such, even if I don’t think he’s a very good writer. Like I said, he’s a good story teller and a good story always gets my attention.