As will be with this and future entries involving reviews: depending on my level of interest, I will go into great detail. Thus, S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.
Fun fact. Until last year, I had never read Jurassic Park.
Yeah, you heard me.
The simple truth was, growing up, I never was able to gain access to it. But with the advent of the internet, life has become disturbingly convenient. So disturbingly so, that one will often forget important things. Like reading Jurassic Park.
I was born in 1987. Which means that, when the movie Jurassic Park came out, I wasn’t quite six years old. My first distinct memories in this life might say a lot about my interests–the intro of 101 Dalmatians, the intro of Nightmare Before Christmas, and the entirety of Jurassic Park. I saw the latter two films with my pseudo-father, Carl. I remember him telling me I could hide in his jacket if I was scared. I remember clinging to his arm. I remember being in awe.
I knew there was a book. I knew how to read quite a few dinosaur names and recognize their pictures. The simple truth was, no one I knew had the book, and I couldn’t find it. When I first picked up an ereader, I grabbed it. But I’m a bit of a hoarder–it can sometimes take me years to catch up. Last year, I read it. Last week, I read it again. I can safely say I experienced the same reactions, the same thoughts, the same intense enjoyment both times.
I know it’s a flawed story, for the simple reason that what we know to be “true” about dinosaurs is a liquid truth–it changes frequently. But it is essentially built into the story that flaws are expected. The actual point of the thing is the flaws, the danger of those flaws. The book lays out how the commercialization of science is, in essence, out of control. There are no controls. Jurassic Park itself is a result of that.
From the movie, I fell in love with Alan Grant. I found Henry Wu’s job intriguing. From the book, the original account (as a book and movie fan, I tend to view such things as different cannons, only loosely influencing each other), I continued to love Alan Grant. One point of growth for him in the movie–his feelings towards children, is unnecessary to the book. He already likes kids. And this in itself makes more sense to me. As Crichton points out, many children can say the complicated dinosaur names, recognize their images. Their natural curiosity can often grow to become someone like Alan Grant himself. Both versions of his character protects the children of the story from the hellish world they’ve been brought to.
In the book, we’re actually given a better understanding of the park’s functions. So much so that we even see a bit of coding written down every now and again. We’re shown why the park is “functioning”. We’re shown (typically by Ian Malcolm’s insistence or prodding), how the measures are inherently flawed. Usually quite simply. The most striking, simplest example to me is how the search program that tracks the amount of dinosaurs in the park was programmed to find the precise amount of dinosaurs that should be in the park. By searching for more than the expected amount, one suddenly is confronted with the startling knowledge that several species have greatly increased their numbers. One thing that does throw me is how the breeding Velociraptors had actually appeared outside their containment area to begin with–I wanted to see an explanation, expected one, but by the end of the book we’re only left understanding how they (the free-roaming ones) had gotten through the actual perimeter fencing. The initial group of raptors only escapes while the main grid is left offline.
One example of the difference in cannons is the mastermind behind Jurassic Park: John Hammond. In the movie, we’re presented with a kind, genuine old man with a dream he intends to make reality, sparing no expense. I liked him as a child, but I suspected he wasn’t being very smart. That lack of rational thought revealed itself tenfold in his novelized-counterpart. He is a man with a vision, a plan. And he’ll be damned if he can’t carry it out. It’s frightening, but it’s a very real sort of thought pattern. These people exist. They scare me, because I like to pretend I’m capable of protecting myself, saving myself. Being in control. Which Ian Malcolm continuously points out is a troublesome part of human habit. That we laughingly think we can have control. The two versions of John Hammond are equally believable, equally possible, stemming from the same goal. And I have to admit, I have never felt quite as satisfied with a character’s outcome as I did John Hammond’s. Just in case the reader had forgotten what sort of person he was, Crichton reminds you through Hammond’s last thoughts. His deluded, disturbing thoughts. His misguided thoughts of control, his contradictory belief that nothing was his fault. Good people are dying for his vision. Bad people are dying for his vision. It’s only fair that he, too, die for his vision.
As far as slight changes between cannons? I was happy Muldoon survived. I was happy for the extreme expansion of Henry Wu’s character. He was someone I was intrigued by when I saw the movie, but he leaves as quickly as he is introduced. His concern for his role in the madness was interesting. He was no longer a scientist simply doing something because he could–he was considering the fact that he wasn’t in control, wasn’t being listened to–he was thinking about the consequences of his actions. In a way, Henry Wu was simply another machine to John Hammond (and don’t get me started on his opinions/manipulation of his grandchildren). Henry Wu was a redeeming character, for his faults. His unfortunate end at least a desperate attempt–not to survive himself, but to help a fellow human. Why did this shine to me? Because I don’t know that I am capable of such a thing myself. I enjoy characters that are better humans than myself. If I am continuously reminded of what I think humanity should be like, perhaps one day I’ll try to exhibit such qualities myself. But that’s a terrible topic for another time.
In the end, visiting the original incarnation of Jurassic Park was a gorgeous thing. It delved into science, the disturbing side-effects of rampant technological advances, humanity, survival, and, let’s not forget–dinosaurs. I love me some dinosaurs. In a way, the end of the book makes more sense to me than the actual movie… though, it’s possible to reason both. In a way, Isla Nublar’s fate is tied to John Hammond’s own. I rather like that.