Here's another book whose story everyone knows because of the movie. That was a kickass movie, wasn't it? I remember I was ten years old when I first saw it, and it was the most amazingly cool thing I had ever seen in my life. We made my dad take us to watch it about 5 times in the theater. It turned my brothers (and just about everyone else we knew) into completely dinosaur freaks. I wanted to be the Laura Dern character when she grew up--I even went through a phase when I wore nothing but shorts, long sleeved work shirts and boots. It took me a long time to figure out that studying dinosaurs is one of the most boring jobs you can have these days. Unless they're actually running around trying to eat you it's all just digging around and trying to piece them together. Bo-ring! But damn, that movie was cool.
And it all started with this book. The best thing I can say about it is that well, at least it inspired an awesome movie. But only because Spielberg changed the hell out of it. Thank God, too, because if we had to listen to dialogue straight out of Michael Crichton at his most ridiculous, we would've had one painfully stupid movie.
The story is basically the same. A group of scientists lead by millionire John Hammond has found a way to clone dinosaurs, bringing them back to life and putting them in a theme park on some remote island in Costa Rica. Before opening the park to the public, he invites a group of scientists and his two grandchildren to take a tour of the park. Hilarity and mayhem ensues when the park's security is sabotaged and the animals (including everyone's favorites, the velociraptors and two T-Rexes) get loose and start munching on the tourists. It's a great story, violent, bloody and exciting. The big problem with the book is that the story is drowned under mountains of horrible exposition, awful dialogue and stupid (and I mean stupid), annoying characters.
Unlike the movie, where Hammond is a likable old man and Jeff Goldblum rocked the Malcolm character to great hilarity, the book makes everyone a pompous idiot. Hammond is terrible and you spend the entire length of the story wishing he'd get eaten already. Malcolm pontificates for pages and pages. Grant spends hours spewing a bunch of techno-babble that just serves to make Crichton look like he's adding a bunch of filler to make the book thicker. It's awful, but you really shouldn't worry about skipping most of that crap. You'll miss nothing.
And it's just not as fun reading about dinosaurs eating people when you can't see them. I can't imagine reading this without having watched the movie. We know dinosaur bones, but to actually imagine them running around and eating people is impossible without some reference, and Crichton isn't a good enough writer to give you a complete idea of what's supposed to be happening. Roars are terrible, animals are massive, and that's about it. He writes some good actions sequences, but the actual animal attacks are all over the place. Some just don't mean anything.
But it's undeniable that he has a great imagination and a cool story. All the bad guys get their comeuppance at the end (nom nom nom) and the good guys live. And it inspired a great movie. But a great book it isn't. Maybe a fun airplane read, but kinda worthless without what Spielberg did with it. I guess that's what I get for reading it so many years later.