Jurassic Park is an exciting novel that’s hard to put down, even if you know what’s going to happen. Crichton’s thrilling depiction of dinosaurs, their environment, InGen’s flaws, and the dangers inherent in exploring the park carries the novel forward to its (perhaps predictable) conclusion.
The plot is based on the idea that it is possible, although not advisable, to recreate prehistoric animals with fragments of DNA. There is some truth to Crichton’s depiction of genetic engineering, but nothing close to what InGen does in the novel (and the sequel) has been attempted in real life.
Suspense and Cliffhangers
Jurassic Park opens with a suspenseful, attention-grabbing scene where a mysterious animal attack leads to a full-on investigation into what kind of creature was responsible. Readers are already aware of the basic plot and will wait, with bated breath, to experience the main character’s reactions to the revelation that that’s an entire island of dinosaurs recreated from ancient DNA.
The desire to find out what happens next drives Crichton’s novel forward. Readers, like myself, are far more interested in the overall plot than the fate of a single character, like Dr. Alan Grant or John Hammond’s grandchildren.
The novel ends on a cliffhanger, as many readers may have expected, considering there is a sequel. It turns out, unsurprisingly as well, that dinosaurs have escaped the island and are on mainland Costa Rica. But Isla Nublar is still bombed, and Dr. Alan Grant is surprised to learn that his adventure is not over.
Jurassic Park as a Cautionary Tale
Jurassic Park is commonly interpreted as a cautionary tale, and it’s hard not to see it this way. From the start, it is clear that InGen’s reach exceeded its grasp. Before they’re even aware of it, the dinosaurs are off the island and inflicting injury on beachgoers in mainland Costa Rica.
As doctors Malcolm, Grant, and Sattler arrive on the island, they, too, immediately see its risks. They’re only briefly in awe of Hammond’s creation before the reality of what he, InGen, and Dr. Wu have done sinks in. Dr. Malcom especially is well aware that despite their attempts to control and isolate their creations that there is no way for them to control what they’ve made.
When reading the novel, knowing beforehand that disaster would strike, it’s hard not to see the flaws in InGen’s plan. Of course, I thought, the dinosaurs can’t be contained and of course, sending everyday people into the park is a terrible idea. The entire island’s security system was in the hands of one man who had the ability to disable it on a whim. The danger of this kind of centralization is incredibly clear.
More than anything, Jurassic Park comes across as a warning against arrogance and pride. Hammond had an idea for a huge, money-making, groundbreaking theme park that would capture the attention of the entire world. He was so focused on achieving this goal that he never stopped to think about whether he and Dr. Wu should “play God.”
Characterization in Jurassic Park
As a thriller novel, specifically a technological thriller, Crichton emphasizes the dramatic, outlandish, and compelling elements of the plot. Dinosaurs, attacks, human error, and suspense play primary roles—characterization and dialogue do not. That’s not to say I don’t like Crichton’s dialogue or the characters he included; I do. It’s apparent from the start, though, that plot heavily outweighs the people experiencing it.
Because his characters are somewhat lacking in their complexity and personalities, it is easy to find yourself on the side of the dinosaurs, hoping that they can survive this entire endeavor and be free from human influence. Although they pose a significant threat to anyone around them, I found myself hoping everyone could get off the island safely, not for their own sake, but so that the dinosaurs would be free to live out their lives.
The Influence of Jurassic Park
Much has been said about the influence of the Jurassic Park novels. From films to television shows to the public’s understanding of what individual dinosaurs look like, Crichton’s novel has touched the entire world of dinosaurs.
Crichton is regarded today as an author whose novels are filled with (mostly) accurate scientific information. But, considering the world he was going to recreate, he took some liberties with Jurassic Park, many of which have made their way into the public’s consciousness. For example, the appearance of the velociraptors. These features were certainly made more prominent due to the success of Steven Spielberg’s adaption.
Today, it’s common to find similarly designed dinosaurs in films and television shows unrelated to Crichton’s series. The image of the TV, velociraptors, and more are so ingrained in the public’s mind that it would negatively affect other dinosaur productions to change that image. Dilophosaurus, for example, is memorable and depicted as spitting venom at Dennis Nedry. But, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the dinosaur had this defense mechanism.
Interestingly, before the film, most of the dinosaurs featured were unknown by the public, including velociraptors. Crichton’s novel and the resulting film adaptions are often credited with inspiring a new generation of paleontologists (much like Star Trek is credited with inspiring astronomers and astronauts at NASA).
Jurassic Park: Michael Crichton's Most Influential Novel
Lasting Effect on Readers
Jurassic Park Review
‘Jurassic Park’ by Michael Crichton is commonly cited as the author’s best novel. Without a doubt, it is certainly his most influential. It is set on a remote island where a group of scientists and paleontologists explore a theme park of genetically engineered dinosaurs.
- Incredibly creative plot
- The dinosaurs are exciting
- Suspenseful plot devices
- Dialogue is lackluster
- Characters are hard to care about
- Less-than-satisfying conclusion