Jurassic Park is a 1990 science fiction novel written by Michael Crichton, divided into seven sections (iterations). A cautionary tale about genetic engineering, it presents the collapse of an amusement park showcasing genetically recreated dinosaurs to illustrate the mathematical concept of chaos theory and its real world implications. A sequel titled The Lost World, also written by Crichton, was published in 1995. In 1997, both novels were re-published as a single book titled Michael Crichton's Jurassic World, unrelated to the film of the same name.
In 1993, Steven Spielberg adapted the book into the blockbuster film Jurassic Park. The book's sequel, The Lost World, was also adapted by Spielberg into a film in 1997. A third film directed by Joe Johnston and released in 2001 drew several elements, themes and scenes from both books that were ultimately not utilized in either of the previous films, such as the aviary and boat scenes. A fourth entry directed by Colin Trevorrow was released on June 12, 2015.
The novel began as Crichton conceived a screenplay about a graduate student who recreates a dinosaur in 1983. Eventually, given his reasoning that genetic research is expensive and "there is no pressing need to create a dinosaur", Crichton concluded that it would emerge from a "desire to entertain", leading to a wildlife park of extinct animals. Originally it was told from the point of view of a child, but Crichton changed it as everyone who read the draft felt it would be better if told by an adult.
The narrative begins in August 1989 by slowly tying together a series of incidents involving strange animal attacks in Costa Rica and on fictional Isla Nublar, the main setting for the story. One of the species, a strange, small, lizard-like creature with three toes (thought at the time to be a new species of basilisk lizard), is eventually identified as a Procompsognathus. Paleontologist Alan Grant and his paleobotanist graduate student, Ellie Sattler, are abruptly whisked away by billionaire John Hammond — founder and chief executive officer of International Genetic Technologies, or InGen — for a weekend visit to a "biological preserve" he has established on a remote island off the coast of Costa Rica.
Upon arrival, the preserve is revealed to be Jurassic Park, a theme park showcasing cloned dinosaurs. The animals have been recreated using damaged dinosaur DNA found in blood inside of gnats and ticks fossilized and preserved in amber. Gaps in the genetic code have been filled in with reptilian, avian, or amphibian DNA. To control the population, all specimens on the island are lysine-deficient females. Hammond proudly touts InGen's advances in genetic engineering and shows his guests through the island's vast array of automated systems.
Recent events in the park have spooked Hammond's investors. To placate them, Hammond intends that Grant and Sattler act as fresh consultants. They stand in counterbalance to a famous mathematician and chaos theorist, Ian Malcolm, and a lawyer representing the investors, Donald Gennaro. Both are pessimistic about the park's prospects. Malcolm, having been consulted before the park's creation, is especially emphatic in his prediction that the park will collapse, as it is an unsustainable simple structure bluntly forced upon a complex system.
Countering Malcolm's dire predictions with youthful energy, Hammond groups the consultants with his grandchildren, Tim and Alexis "Lex" Murphy. While touring the park with the children, Grant finds a Velociraptor eggshell, which seems to prove Malcolm's earlier assertion that the dinosaurs have somehow been breeding against the geneticists' design. Malcolm suggests a flaw in their method of analyzing dinosaur populations, in that motion detectors were set to search only for the expected number of creatures in the park and not for any higher number. The park's controllers are reluctant to admit that the park has long been operating beyond their constraints. Malcolm also points out the height distribution of the Procompsognathus forms a Gaussian distribution, the curve of a breeding population, rather than the distinctive pattern that a population reared in batches ought to display.
In the midst of this, the corrupt chief programmer of Jurassic Park's controlling software, Dennis Nedry, attempts corporate espionage for Lewis Dodgson, a geneticist and agent of InGen's archrival, Biosyn. By activating a backdoor he wrote into the park's computer system, Nedry manages to shut down its security systems and steal frozen embryos, two for each of the park's fifteen species. He then attempts to smuggle them out to a contact waiting at an auxiliary dock deep in the park. However, during a sudden tropical storm, he exits his stolen vehicle to get his bearings and is killed by a Dilophosaurus. Without Nedry to reactivate the park's security, the electrified fences remain off and dinosaurs escape. The adult Tyrannosaurus rex attacks the guests on tour, while the juvenile rex attacks public relations manager Ed Regis, killing him. In the aftermath, Grant and the children become lost in the park.
Malcolm is gravely injured during the incident, but is soon found by Gennaro and park game warden Robert Muldoon and spends the remainder of the novel slowly dying as, between lucid lectures and morphine-induced rants, he tries to help those in the main compound understand their predicament and survive.
The park's upper management — engineer and park supervisor John Arnold, biotechnologist Henry Wu, Muldoon, and Hammond — struggle to return power to the park, while the veterinarian, Dr. Gerald Harding, takes care of the injured Malcolm. For a time they manage to get the park largely back in order, restoring the computer system by shutting down and restarting the power and resetting the system. Unfortunately, a series of errors on their part soon plunge the park into greater chaos. When trying to restore the park to working order, they fail to notice that the system has been running on auxiliary power since the restart; this power soon runs out, shutting the park down a second time. Furthermore, since the auxiliary generators did not produce enough electricity to power the fences, the fences were not reactivated when the system was reset, meaning all the fences — including the holding pen containing the park's Velociraptors, quarantined due to their high intelligence and aggression — had been offline the whole time. Escaping their enclosure, the raptors kill Wu and Arnold and injure Muldoon, Gennaro, and Harding. Meanwhile, Grant and the children slowly make their way back to the Visitor Center by rafting down the jungle river, carrying news that several young raptors, bred and raised in the island's wilds, were on board the Anne B, the island's supply ship, when it departed for the mainland.
While Ellie distracts the raptors, Grant manages to reactivate the park's main power. After escaping from several raptors, Grant, Gennaro, Tim, and Lex are able to make it to the control room, where Tim is able to contact the Anne B and tell them to return to the island. The survivors are then able to organize themselves and eventually save their own lives. Word soon reaches them that the crew of the Anne B has discovered and killed the raptor stowaways.
Gennaro tries to order the island destroyed as a dangerous asset, but Grant rejects his authority, claiming that even though they cannot control the island, they have a responsibility to understand just what happened and how many dinosaurs have already escaped to the mainland. Grant, Ellie, Muldoon, and Gennaro (the latter against his will) set out into the park to find the wild raptor nests and compare hatched eggs with the island's revised population tally. Cautious in this pursuit, they emerge unharmed. Meanwhile, Hammond, taking a walk around the park and contemplating building a new park improving on his previous mistakes, hears a T. rex roar and falls down a hill, where he is eaten by a pack of Procompsognathus. With regard to the dinosaurs' breeding, it eventually transpires that using frog DNA to fill gaps in the dinosaurs' genetic code enabled a measure of dichogamy, in which some of the female animals somehow changed into males in response to the all-female environment.
In the conclusion, before boarding helicopters, the group warns the fictitious Costa Rican Air Force that the dinosaurs had been killing people. The Air Force declare the island hazardous and bombard it with napalm, destroying it and the dinosaurs. It is stated that Malcolm dies. Survivors of the incident are indefinitely detained by the United States and Costa Rican governments at a hotel. Weeks later, Grant is visited by Dr. Martin Guitierrez, an American doctor who lives in Costa Rica and has found a Procompsognathus carcass. Guitierrez informs Grant that an unknown pack of animals has been migrating through the Costa Rican jungle, eating lysine-rich crops and chickens. He also informs Grant that none of them, with the possible exception of Tim and Lex, are going to leave any time soon.
Prehistoric animals featured in the novel
- Apatosaurus (some versions of the novel replace this dinosaur with Camarasaurus)
- Dryosaurus (although referred to either as "hypsilophodonts" or "hypsilophodontids," the genus was identified in the chapter "The Park")
- Microceratops (some versions of the novel replace this dinosaur with Callovosaurus)
- "Coelurosaurus" (remains presumed to be a "Coelurosaurus" were awaiting DNA extraction)
- Meganeura (referred to only as giant dragonflies)
The book became a bestseller and Michael Crichton's signature novel. It also received largely favorable reviews by critics. In a review for The New York Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt described it as "a superior specimen of the [Frankenstein] myth" and "easily the best of Mr. Crichton's novels to date." Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Gene Lyons held that the book was "hard to beat for sheer intellectual entertainment" largely because it was "[f]illed with diverting, up-to-date information in easily digestible form." Both Lyons' Entertainment Weekly piece and Andrew Ferguson's review in the Los Angeles Times, however, criticized Crichton's characterization as heavy-handed and his characters as cliched. Ferguson further complained about Ian Malcolm's "dime-store philosophizing" and predicted that the movie adaptation of the book would be "undoubtedly trashy." He conceded that the book's "only real virtue" was "its genuinely interesting discussions of dinosaurs, DNA research, paleontology and chaos theory."
- The Cursed Earth, a Judge Dredd story line by Pat Mills in 2000 AD from 1978 that introduces the idea of a dinosaur theme park, with dinosaurs cloned from DNA
- Carnosaur, a 1984 novel with similar themes
- The Lost World, a sequel novel by Michael Crichton
- Westworld, Crichton's earlier 1973 film that is also about a malfunctioning theme park
- DeSalle, Rob & Lindley, David (1997). The Science of Jurassic Park and The Lost World. Or How to Build a Dinosaur. New York: BasicBooks. ISBN 0-465-07379-4.
- Isla Nublar novel map
- Official website
- Jurassic Park at the Internet Movie Database
- Jurassic Park at the official Michael Crichton website
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