Book Review: The Lost World by Michael Crichton

I enjoyed reading “Jurassic Park” so much that I anxiously looked forward to reading the sequel.  As I explained in my review of that book, Crichton is not a stylist; his prose is very rudimentary, but he is capable of telling a gripping story.

Okay, let’s get this over with right from the start:  there’s no mistaking that “The Lost World” is an inferior book to its prequel.  It’s exciting enough, and it has the obligatory man-eating dinosaurs, and it’s set on a far-off island where hapless good-guy and bad-guy scientists and innocent kids flee from one catastrophe to another, but it’s just a pastiche of one disaster after another without much in the way of plot to hold it all together.  Worse, it is broken up in parts with long boring expostulations on evolution and chaos theory which completely bring the action to a screeching, grinding halt.  It’s readable, yes; I made it all the way through.  But then, once I start a book I hardly ever put it down until the end.  That’s why I give great thought to what I want to read before I start.

One problem I had is that, as I did with the first book, consciously or unconsciously, as I read, I compared the book with the film.  The book “Jurassic Park” held up well to the film; it was different, but equally as exciting.  “The Lost World” book, however, besides being nothing like the Spielberg film, is nowhere near as kick-ass and exciting.  For example, at the end of the film a tyrannosaurus rex rampages through San Diego gulping down passers-by as it searches for its baby.  This is completely missing in the book; all the action in the book takes place on the island.  That’s okay, as far as it goes, but somehow Crichton’s prose doesn’t come through as sharply as it did in the prequel.  The part where the trailer is being pushed over the cliff, for example, which in the movie is a spine-tingling Spielbergian thriller moment, is somehow pallid and ho-hum in the book.  In the film the team of bad-guy scientists, with their appropriately sinister agenda, are a fitting foil for the heroes; whereas, in the book the bad-guy team is pathetic – a couple of losers who never pose any sort of serious threat.

All right, you win a few, you lose a few.  That’s the trouble with sequels – they often don’t measure up to the original.  In this case, it’s a shame, as the story has so much potential for us dinosaur lovers.  I’m a sucker for well-told tales of lost worlds and civilizations.  The original Arthur Conan Doyle novel “The Lost World” was a great piece of work; it was intelligent and absorbing and kept me enthralled even though the team didn’t even make it to the plateau in the middle of the Amazon jungle until 100 pages had passed.  The Tarzan series was full of lost cities and peoples which Tarzan would discover in the middle of the jungle, or in the core of the Earth, and inevitably Tarzan would have to fight for his life against its denizens or their enemies.  The genre evokes wonder, mystery, thrills, and adventure.

In closing, I can’t say I would recommend Crichton’s “The Lost World”.  But then again, I don’t regret having read it; it was entertaining enough.  And if you find yourself with a copy of it on a rainy day when you’ve got nothing else to do, you could do worse than give it a read.

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