The Pequod Review:
Michael Crichton is in many ways a terrible writer, and his blockbuster novel Jurassic Park features some of his most simplistic characters and cliched prose. But the book also has his best narrative (by far), one that weaves a cautionary message about genetic engineering with a sublime action adventure plot.
The story is something of a modern retelling of Frankenstein, as a biotechnology conglomerate (Hammond Industries) seeks to create a Caribbean island theme park populated by dinosaurs cloned from fossils. At the start of the novel, ominous signs begin to appear — a construction worker returns to the mainland with a strange (and ultimately fatal) injury, odd lizards wash up on the Costa Rican beaches, and there are rumors that Hammond has recruited paleontologists to assist in an unknown project. Of course, things get a lot worse from there, and the dinosaurs eventually threaten to break free of their human captors.
Throughout the story, Crichton implicitly questions not just the practice of cloning but the entire approach of modern science (“Scientists are actually preoccupied with accomplishment. So they are focused on whether they can do something. They never stop to ask if they should do something.”) It’s a savvy message from Crichton, one that adds depth to the narrative, but also one with broad appeal to readers on both the conservative right and the anti-technology left.
In a similar way, I think there is more intelligence to Crichton’s stale prose than is initially apparent. Many readers will cringe at paragraphs like this one:
Excited by this development, he hurried back up the stairs to the door. With his flashlight, he scanned the flat, featureless surface of the door, and the interior walls. As he ran his hands over the door, it slowly dawned on him that he was locked inside, and unable to open it, unless the kids had the presence of mind to open it for him. He could hear them, faintly, on the other side of the door.
But a crucial feature of such writing is that it can be read and comprehended very quickly, and therefore it proves to be a better delivery system for Crichton’s thrilling story than objectively better prose. The plot of Jurassic Park is a freight train, and Crichton will allow nothing to get in the way of it.
All in all, Jurassic Park is just a massively entertaining novel, a compulsive page-turner if there ever was one.