Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton, is a cautionary tale of science gone too far. As everyone knows, it’s about scientifically reproducing dinosaurs, and how that’s the worst idea ever. Why is it so horrible? As mathmatician Ian Malcolm says, you can’t reproduce a wild animal and expect it to do what you want it to do. In other words, if you make dinosaurs, expect them to act like dinosaurs; i.e. unpredictable.
The plot of Jurassic Park starts good and ends with velociraptors eating everyone. In the beginning, something mysterious is eating kids. It’s a monster! It’s a lizard! It’s a…dinosaur? (This took a few chapters and I was wondering when they would get to that.) Wow, I couldn’t have guessed that. A book with a big dinosaur on the cover turns out to be about dinosaurs? This craziness gets to a archaeologist who investigates it and then gets invited to Jurassic Park. This is where they’ve been making dinos. They’re convinced that none have gotten out, but they have. More people are invited to the party and they take a completely safe tour. Then disaster strikes. And then velociraptors start eating everyone. Most of the action sequences in this book seem handmade to be a movie. And it is a little heavy on the “Run! They’re gonna eat us! (chomp chomp)” parts, but it’s worth it for the sciencelicious “What would happen if I did this?” parts. There’s also a nice web of info that we’ve got to untangle. You get lots of “Oh…so that’s it!” moments because of that.
The characters in Jurassic Park, like in The Da Vinci Code are pretty darn stereotypical. You’ve got your Villains, your Heroes, and your Brainy Science Types. But it’s really not about the characters. The plot makes up for them.
The science conundrum in Jurassic Park is not good for the people who read it and then thought they would whip up a nice batch of dinosaurs from the mosquitos in amber, because you actually cannot make any. I’ll quote from a nice article called Are Movies Science?: Dinosaurs, Movies, and Reality. “We must find intact DNA of the species in question. Amber is one of the better preservatives of DNA, so dinosaur DNA in amber would be good. Problem: DNA degrades over time, even in amber. After several million years, many lethal losses of pieces of the DNA would occur. These gaps in the DNA strand cannot be repaired; their information is lost forever. We cannot improvise the genetic code of an organism.” That’s just one thing in a long list of problems, which means we are not getting a pet triceratops. But fortunately, the book is not about how great it would be if we made dinos. It’s about how horrible it would be, which means even if we could, it would probably end in disaster. Everyone seems to overlook that, or at least say Michael just said that so he could have a T. Rex for himself.
Jurassic Park is a good book on the edge of greatness, but not quite there because of the velociraptors eating everyone. It’s still a pretty good book, though, so you should read it and remember that when the next big things are personal dinosaurs, don’t buy them.