Jurassic Park (Magill Book Reviews)
It all seemed so simple and innocuous in the beginning. Utilize the latest biogenetic technology to extract the DNA from fossil remains and replicate creatures long extinct. Then build a containment facility on an isolated island, add a hotel, and open the most original theme park in the world. Moreover, since dinosaurs are a “hot item” in terms of interest among those who might demand to visit such a location, why not clone dinosaurs? This is the premise of Michael Crichton’s latest attempt to induce nightmares among his vast reading public.
Needless to say, matters go seriously awry. The cloning process is successful in producing several species of dinosaurs, but they unexpectedly begin to reproduce. Moreover, human greed creates a situation in which the creatures from the past escape confinement and attack their creators. In fact, the world itself is placed in peril.
As in the case of his first work, THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, Crichton here combines state-of-the-art know-how with freewheeling speculation. In JURASSIC PARK, however, in contrast to THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, he also presents an exhaustive and persuasive indictment of modern science for its lack of an ethical foundation. Crichton does not compose simply to amaze and terrify his readers, but also to alert them to the possibilities inherent in scientific research and technological advancement. JURASSIC PARK demonstrates he is still capable of achieving his objective.
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The Plot (Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature)
John Hammond, owner of a biotechnology firm called InGen, Inc., plans to open a theme park featuring living dinosaurs on Isla Nublar, off the west coast of Costa Rica. Dr. Henry Wu, a brilliant young geneticist who works for Hammond, has cloned the dinosaurs from ancient DNA. Hammonds investors are concerned about the safety of the park, so Hammond brings several consultants to the island. These include Dr. Alan Grant, a paleontologist; Dr. Ellie Sattler, a paleobotanist; Donald Gennaro, legal counsel for InGen; and Dr. Ian Malcolm, a mathematician who specializes in chaos theory. Hammond’s two grandchildren, Lex and Tim, are there as well, as is Dennis Nedry, a computer programmer who is debugging the computer system.
Malcolm predicts that the park will fail because chaos theory says that it is impossible to control any complex system. The park staff argue that they are on an island with elaborate fortifications and electric fences. A computer system controls security and tracks the number of dinosaurs and their locations. Wu explains that the dinosaurs can never reproduce because they are all females. Furthermore, they have been engineered with a lysine dependency; without supplemental lysine in their food, they will die.
The guests are sent on a tour of the island in electric cars guided by a cable in the road. When the group stops to examine a sick stegosaurus, Grant discovers an egg fragment, evidence that the dinosaurs are breeding. Wu...
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Jurassic Park is a scientific thriller. This genre usually presents characters making their way through an extremely dangerous, often mysterious, environment to the relative safety of the everyday world, sometimes solving a problem along the way, other times accomplishing no more than their own survival. Crichton's early novel. The Andromeda Strain (1969), is a good example of the genre, where scientists must survive contact with the strange world of the ultra-clean biological laboratory, risking exposure to an unknown plague virus in order to study it and learn how to prevent its spread. For the author, a thorough grounding in modern science is necessary to make such a thriller both interesting and convincing. As an anthropologist and medical doctor, Crichton has parlayed his knowledge and skills as a researcher into a long career as a best-selling author of scientific thrillers.
Part of Crichton's success is due to an effective mix of reality, fantasy, and paranoia. The target audience of this type of novel are college-educated, males more often than females, who are very much grounded in the workaday world. A plot that takes them too far from the world they know will not engage this audience; they do not have the tolerance of the science-fiction fan for adventures set in the far future or at great distance from the planet they know, or where society itself has been radically transformed. The thriller is firmly set in the familiar...
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Ideas for Group Discussions
Crichton's penchant for picking up on and writing about the hot topics of the day shows an unusual sensitivity, not only on what is worrying the average person but also what will intrigue and delight him. To do so the author has developed his own personal blend of the didactic and the entertaining, reflecting his background in the social and biological sciences, as well as his interest in the history and philosophical underpinnings of the civilization that produced them. One of Crichton's longtime concerns is the ability of human beings to comprehend the changes in society as they occur, rather than lagging behind, mired in an obsolete mind-cast. This concern shows up early in his career, particularly in The Great Train Robbery, in which the Victorians of London were shown to be quite out of touch with the changes that the industrial revolution was forcing on their civilization, making the robbery possible.
Jurassic Park lends itself very well to group discussion that focus on many possible topics, from the impact of environmentalism to the problems of a changing American work place.
Women can discuss how they relate to unconventional feminine characters like Dr. Sattler, and, since so many people have either seen or can still rent the film at video stores everywhere, whether it was a good idea for Lex to become the computer expert in the movie when it was her brother who played that role in the book. Men can react to the...
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The potential for the misuse of science by industry is the obvious concern in this futuristic environmentalist novel. What may happen when second-tier minds get a hold of techniques pioneered by first-rate ones but with applications that their originators never intended is the stuff of nightmares and certainly Jurassic Park fulfills the requirements.
A luxury resort is being built on a remote island off the coast of Costa Rica, with a unique feature that should make its American builders and faceless Japanese investors a fabulous profit, a menagerie of genuine living dinosaurs, each species in its own section of tropical forest for as "natural" a setting as possible, even though such parks require a great deal of expertise as well as manpower to keep the appearance of unspoiled nature. With the rebirth of the dinosaurs its designers have also brought back, not only a few large but rather stupid exotic animals as might be believed, but also parts of an ecosystem that humans know even less about than they do about contemporary ones now being earnestly studied from the plains of the Serengenti to the Amazon rain forests by wildlife experts.
On the eve of its opening to the public, a team of experts is brought in to tour the park and give their endorsement. But Nature itself has yet to have been consulted. A combination of violent tropical weather conditions and human perfidy expose the park's weaknesses, and its human contingent to the unleashed...
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Crichton himself has stated that his work has been heavily influenced by the nineteenth-century novel Frankenstein (1818). Mary Shelley's novel owes much to the traditions of gothic horror fiction but also serves as a bridge to more modern genres of literature where scientists and similar methodical thinkers, like detectives, are the main characters. Thus it is not surprising that Crichton's work also reminds one of the stories of Arthur Conan Doyle, particularly the Sherlock Holmes series and the adventure novel The Lost World (1912), in which a scientific expedition discovers a remote enclave of living dinosaurs.
It would be a mistake, however, to call Crichton a science-fiction writer. This genre comes from different roots and its essential philosophy is much less conservative. In Crichton's thrillers the scientific discoveries of the main characters never affect permanent change: they either self-destruct, as in Jurassic Park, or they are buried beyond hope of recovery, as in Congo (1980), and Sphere (1987). In science-fiction change and the resulting adaptation of society are accepted as inevitable and even desirable more often than not. Not withstanding that part of Crichton's technique, as well as that of other writers of thrillers, is to write as though his story really happened but news of it has been suppressed, the author has turned away from opportunities to let his imagination really soar, as a...
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Crichton successfully repeated the theme-park-gone-mad motif of his movie "Westworld" in Jurassic Park, and in a rare move has written a sequel called The Lost World (1995) in homage to A. Conan Doyle's original novel of the same name and prehistoric motif. In it are mostly new characters and situations related to InGen's debacle on the shores of Costa Rica, and one senses that Crichton may have written it in part to answer critics who contended that the science in the first novel left much to be desired. But The Lost World, although thematically simpler than Jurassic Park, nevertheless stands up rather well as entertainment on its own merits. Its characters are appealing, the action is non-stop, and best of all there is a feasible answer to the question that teases dinosaur aficionados everywhere: why did these fascinating creatures die out?
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In 1993 Crichton and David Koepp adapted Jurassic Park into a screenplay for Universal Studios, directed by Steven Spielberg. Veteran actor and director Richard Attenborough was chosen for the role of an unsinister John Hammond, Sam Neill as the tough-minded Alan Grant, Laura Dern as the courageous Ellie Sattler, and Jeff Goldblum as the oddball mathematician Ian Malcolm. Samuel L. Jackson portrayed engineer John Arnold and character actor Wayne Knight played Dennis Nedry. Bob Peck played Muldoon but the characters of Ed Regis and Donald Gennaro were merged into a single role with some traits of both for actor Martin Ferrero. The ages of Hammond's grandchildren were reversed, with child actress Ariana Richards playing a computer-literate Lex and young Joseph Mazzello as her dinosaur-obsessed little brother Tim.
Fifty-six million dollars was budgeted by Universal to produce the film: the indoor scenes were shot in the studio in California and outdoor scenes on location in Hawaii. The academy-award-winning special effects were created by a team of technical experts who had to invent new animation techniques as they went along, since nothing quite as ambitious had ever been tried before. The symphonic musical score, composed by John Williams, beautifully expresses the primal grandeur of the largest animals ever to walk the Earth. Cinematography and film editing were performed by Dean Cundey and Michael Kuhn.
The movie by necessity...
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