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“Jurassic Park” and “The Lost World” by Michael Crichton

Thursday, September 23, 2010 - Book Reading

I love Michael Crichton‘s writing.  I’ve got several of his books and I happily read anything with his name on it.  Somehow, though, I have never read two of his most famous books.  For that matter, I’ve never fully watched either of the movies that were made from the books.  I’ve seen large part of both of them, but for various reasons I’ve never gotten to see all of them.

When I went to the library recently, they happened to have both of the books and I picked them up, along with several of his other books.  I was excited to finally get a chance to read the books and I’ll probably be watching the movies sometime soon to do a comparison.  I may or may not post a comparison review on the movies because I can already tell you, from what I do remember of the movies, that the books are better and provide much more background and detail than the movies.  As is usually the case, while the movies may be good, the books are better.

Jurassic Park

I knew the basic premise of the book before I started reading it.  I mean really, who’s never heard of Jurassic Park?!  That said, I knew some of what to expect about the book.   I also knew that several characters died based on the movies.

I do find it highly unrealistic that both children managed to survive.  I suppose that it would have been bad form to kill them off considering how people react differently to a child’s pain/death and an adult’s pain/death.  However, it’s a work of fiction and if Crichton doesn’t want to kill off children then that’s his decision.

Reading this book was a lot of fun for me because I spent part of the time comparing it to the movie clips that I remember.  Luckily, I don’t remember too much about the movies and what I do remember isn’t enough to cloud my own imagination’s “eye” when “seeing” the dinosaurs and characters.

This book is what I like to call a thinking book.  You might start out reading it for entertainment, but by the end of the book you’ll realize that you ended up thinking about some pretty heft concepts.  You may not have realized that you were doing it, but you did.  And it’s good for you.  The entire human population could benefit from reading more thinking books.

As I was reading, I naturally came across a few quotes that I really liked for one reason or another; most were from Ian Malcolm, which is probably because he has such a sarcastic and pessimistic wit.  :-)

“… I believe my life has value, and I don’t want to waste it thinking about clothing.  …  I don’t want to think about what I will wear in the morning.   Truly, can you imagine anything more boring than fashion?  Professional sports, perhaps.  Grown men swatting little balls, while the rest of the world pays money to applaud.  But, on the whole, I find fashion even more tedious than sports.”

I’m flipped on that issue.  I find sports more pathetic than fashion, but I don’t care too much about fashion either.  Give me jeans, a t-shirt, and comfy tennis shoes any day! :-p

“… My point is that life on earth can take care of itself.  In the thinking of a human being, a hundred years is a long time.  A hundred years ago, we didn’t have cars and airplanes and computers and vaccines. . . .  It was a whole different world.  But to the earth, a hundred years is nothing.  This planet lives and breathes on a much vaster scale.   We can’t imagine its slow and powerful rhythms, and we haven’t got the humility to try.  We have been residents here for the blink of an eye.   If we are gone tomorrow, the earth will not miss us.  …  Let’s be clear.  The planet is not in jeopardy.   We are in jeopardy.  We haven’t got the power to destroy the planer – or to save it.  But we might have the power to save ourselves.”

I considered two things with this quote: cutting parts of his speech out; including the entire speech and responses of other characters.  In the end, I just kept the main section of his speech intact and removed the interruptions of other characters.  I completely agree with what he’s saying, by the way.  We can’t permanently damage the earth.  We can try, but sooner or later something will happen to wipe humans out and we more than likely won’t be able to do anything to stop it or adapt to it.

The Lost World

From “Jurassic Park”:

They did not even permit the burial of Hammond or Ian Malcolm.

Before reading this sequel, I knew that the character Ian Malcolm lived after the end of the first book because of the few reviews and teasers that I had read.  The reader is never informed of exactly how Malcolm was pronounced dead when he wasn’t in a country that supposedly has great health care, but whatever; it’s all fiction so keeping an awesome character like Malcolm in spite of the lack of realism is okay.

One thing that really bothered me about this book was the change in the way the ‘raptors were presented.  In the previous book, the ‘raptors were very organized, military-like, and even nurturing to their young.  In this sequel, the ‘raptors fight amongst themselves, ignore and possibly eat their young, and basically have no sense of structure.  We’re told that this is because their behavior is not instinctual, but learned.  This makes sense except for one thing: who taught the raptors from the first book?!

Crichton uses two young children in this book in the same basic way he did before.  Somehow, they both survive and manage to contribute significantly to the group.  In fact, Kelly (one of the children) saved them in the end.  It’s still not very realistic, but as I said before, it’s the author’s decision.

The book is great in spite of the unexplained changes in ‘raptor behavior and the children, so if you haven’t read the book yet, get to it!  :-)

I’ve chosen only one quote from this book, out of the many, many quotes that I liked.  I’m only putting one because of how long it is and, as before, it’s from Ian Malcolm.  Enjoy.

“… Although personally, I think cyberspace means the end of our species.  …  Because it means the end of innovation.  …  This idea that the whole world is wired together is mass death.  Every biologist knows that small groups in isolation evolve fastest.  You put a thousand birds on an ocean island and they’ll evolve very fast.  You put ten thousand on a big continent, and their evolution slows down.  Now, for our own species, evolution occurs mostly through our behavior.   We innovate new behavior to adapt.  And everybody on earth knows that innovation only occurs in small groups.  Put three people on a committee and they may get something done.   Ten people, and it gets harder.  Thirty people, and nothing happens.  Thirty million, it becomes impossible.  That’s the effect of mass media – it keeps anything from happening.   Mass media swamps diversity.  It makes every place the same.  Bangkok or Tokyo or London: there’s a McDonald’s on one corner, a Benneton on another, a Gap across the street.   Regional differences vanish.  All differences vanish.  In a mass-media world, there’s less of everything except the top ten books, records, movies, ideas.   People worry about losing species diversity in the rain forest.   But what about intellectual diversity – our most necessary resource?  That’s disappearing faster than trees.  But we haven’t figured that out, so now we’re planning to put five billion people together in cyberspace.  And it’ll freeze the entire species.   Everything will stop dead in its tracks.  Everyone will think the same thing at the same time.   Global uniformity.  …”

I was hard pressed to determine where to start and end the quote of this speech.  I finally decided to stick with the section about cyberspace only because it’s something most people capable of getting to and reading this blog could somewhat understand, I hope.   And I agree with this, to some extent.   We’re already seeing people who can’t think for themselves grab onto an idea put forth by mass media and then push it everywhere online.  Granted, this has happened throughout history in different formats, but thanks to cyberspace, these people can push these ideas world-wide with just a few clicks of a button.

Not that I really have room to talk because I’m putting my ideas, thoughts, and rants up world-wide with just a few button clicks, too.  Typically, though, (excluding quotes which I usually comment on if I use them in a post) I’m pretty sure that my ideas are my own and not someone else’s.  At least, I hope they’re mine!

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