The Lost World by Michael Crichton
Fans of this dinosaur franchise may feel that there is no point in reading a book when they have already watched the movie. That would be a mistake. The book has only a superficial resemblance to the movie, or should that be the other way around as the book came out first.
In the first novel, Jurassic Park, John Hammond the owner of InGen and proprietor of the actual Jurassic Park dies. In the movie he doesn’t. Therefore, although he plays a small part in the movie sequel, he is understandably absent from the book. There are many other plot points which change the story completely and Rebel Voice is not going to go through them all. Needless to say, that even though the movie was fairly good, the book is excellent entertainment.
Ian Malcolm is approached by a young heir,Richard Levine, to a billion dollar fortune who wishes to pursue some leads he has found regarding possible dinosaurs in Latin America. Levine is a persistent scientist determined to find out the truth about InGen, a company now bankrupt who have sparked many rumours about their research. Of course, Ian Malcolm knows the full story, but is contracted not to speak of it. He plays dumb. But Levine is not for giving up.
Malcolm’s former girlfriend, Sarah Harding, a field biologist based in Africa, is also asked to become involved in Levine’s well-funded project. She declines but, like Malcolm, is in constant contact with Levine who has pressed ahead in organising an expedition to an island just off the coast of Costa Rica where the remains of dinosaurs keep turning up only to be immediately destroyed by the authorities.
In a second thread, a corrupt and immoral cabal of scientists are desperate to acquire the technology of InGen and all that it might mean for their pockets. They too, like Levine, are searching for answers but without the moral restraints of the younger rich kid. Ed James is the weaker link in the trio, with Dr Dodgson and Dr Baselton both ruthlessly ambitious types who will let nothing stand in their way. They pick up the clues of where Levine is heading with his expedition and the preparations he is making, and set out to preempt him.
Levine has spent a small fortune kitting out some specialist vehicles for the journey to Isla Sorna off the Costa Rican coast. It’s there he believes that they will find all that they are looking for. Malcolm is curious about this as he has no knowledge of any other island of dinosaurs, and so keeps in touch with Levine to check his progress. The impetuous Levine, however, has decided to rush ahead with only a backpack and a guide to check the island for himself prior to a full landing. It’s a big mistake.
When Levine is reported missing in the US, Malcolm contacts Doc Thorne, the man responsible for tricking out the expeditionary vehicles. Together with Thorne’s assistant, Eddie Carr, they move the scheduled expedition forward in a frantic effort to locate Levine who they discover to be missing on Isla Sorna. Sarah Harding is contacted in Africa to see if she will meet them, and off they set. Unfortunately, they have two additional and undetected passengers. Kelly, thirteen and Arby, eleven, are students of Richard Levine. They became worried when their teacher didn’t show for his classes and immediately notified Doc Thorne with whom they have a good relationship. It’s this that begins the panic search for Levine. Both children stowaway in the hope of adventure. They get what they wanted with a little extra thrown in for good measure.
The island is stunning. It’s an extinct volcanic crater full of jungle and rivers and a one large grassy valley. It also has many dinosaurs. Some of them are herbivores. Some of them are not. People are on the menu. The story then becomes what you would expect. There is much running around trying to avoid being eaten or sat on. The dastardly trio of James, Dodgson and Baselton arrive intent on taking eggs back with them for profit. We the have the spectacle of dinosaurs fretting over which human morsel they will chew on first. It’s great.
This novel is attractive in that it creates a fictional world that is plausible if you allow for the genetic resurrection of dinosaurs. The story-line is completely different from that on the screen. OK, there are little bits and pieces here and there which might spark a memory of the movie. But, by and large, it’s totally new or at least new enough to avoid disappointment. The dinos are mostly the same except for the Carnotaurus, a chameleon-type creature that cause great fear at night. The T-Rex is still there and as hungry as ever, as are the Velociraptors. But it’s the general pace and adventure of the story that is the real thrill in this.
The reader is left wondering who will escape from the island and how. There are a few weak plot points. There does seem to be a lot of equipment left behind by InGen for one thing, and no explanation is given as to exactly how many T-Rex are on the island, or why there appears to be only one adult pair and their young. Yet overall the book is strong and exciting and the characters are consistent.
It can get a little one-dimensional in that the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad. Only Levine seems to blur the lines and he’s obsessed. It should be pointed out that the true hero, other than the children, in this novel is Sarah Harding. It’s progressive to see how a female is portrayed as the tough guy and saviour of the group, whilst remaining feminine. Doc Thorne is pretty OK too, but it’s Harding who risks all to save the group (excepting the dastardly trio). Harding’s final encounter with Dr Dodgson is worth reading and has that edge that delights Rebel Voice. Too many authors today get all squelchy about retribution. Crichton, in this book, does not. More power to him.
Sult scale rating: 7 out of 10. This is a very enjoyable read and is made all the more so by recent developments in the world of genetics. If life does sometimes imitate art, then today there are geneticists trying to resurrect the dinosaurs – cue jokes about politicians. The Lost World is a change from the film of the same name. Is it better? No. But neither is it any worse. It’s just different and worth the read. After all, you really should know what to do when being chased by a raptor (Trump could appear on your street at any time).