The Lost World by Michael Crichton, 1995

It has been six years since the secret disaster at Jurassic Park.  The dinosaurs are destroyed.  The park is indefinitely closed.  But there are rumors… something has survived.

Of course it did.  As Dr. Ian Malcolm reminded us, “Life finds a way.”  And if you want a sequel to a megahit novel-turned-movie, it’s a foregone conclusion, for both the dinosaurs and for the popular character who supposedly died in the first book.  It’s ok, he was only mostly dead, and chaos theory gives way to complex theory.  Such is the power of Jeff Goldblum’s popularity.

Unlike the original Jurassic Park, you can tell this book is a money grab.  And who could blame Crichton for that after Spielberg bought the first one before it was even finished?  Here’s the thing.  Spielberg’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park was the response to a letter from a young fan who asked him for one simple thing: more dinosaurs.  Get to the point, get there faster, stay there longer.  Done, done, and done.  Say what you will, it’s still a fun movie for what it is.  The novel is a completely different thing, for a completely different audience, so it’s not about the comparison between the two.  But — and I hope this doesn’t put too fine a point on it — the build up is pedantic.  In the search for the mysterious Site B, we’re given repeated references to “the five deaths” (the names of the other islands), which are spelled out for us at every turn, and a partial computer file that says “ISLA S—-” as the location of Site B.  Rather than take a third of the effing book for these super smart people to miss the effing obvious, maybe someone would note that only one island — Isla Sorna — started with the letter s.  It’s a 15 hour audiobook, and it took them over 4 hours to get that far.  But they narrow it down because it’s the only one with volcanic activity, so I guess they got there in the end.  And did I mention this is so they could go rescue a colleague that none of them actually likes because he’s a spoiled, rich prick?  Aside from that, everything is about the wonderful jargon of evolving technologies in play, which I grant were very big deals in the early to mid ’90s.  Some of this might have been new and exciting to readers at the time who love that kind of minutiae (and most science fiction readers do), but Crichton… know your audience.  People who read this aren’t in it for the technological stuff.  They want the same thing that young fan did: more dinosaurs.  And to be fair, we get them as we did in the first, but by the time we do, I’d already lost interest.

That’s not enough?  Before that point, the rich prick in question went off half-cocked to the island before any of his special-ordered equipment was ready, securing and sending back a small tissue sample of a dino before it was flamethrowered, and before another dinosaur attacked him for being stupid not much later.  Not much in the sample, but enough for a DNA analysis to confirm it wasn’t a known animal… and it just happened to have a little radio tag marked SITE B, which is what led to the above “what’s SITE B” mystery.  Malcolm passes it off for testing, knowing exactly what it is and where it’s from, but tells his specialist “keep it confidential.”  She tells the entire laboratory staff, apparently, wanting answers.  Because they had all heard the rumors of these strange animals appearing all over the place and wanted to know if it was from the Costa Rica area.  Worst kept secret ever.  Gee, Dr. Malcolm.  What’s the mystery?  No mystery, dear reader.  Crichton just needed to pad the book so it would sell at the appropriate price point and look good on the shelf next to Jurassic Park.  So you see, by the time I got through all the obligatory lab talk, I was bored to tears before getting to the “where’s SITE B” map mystery and all of the BS about the specialized modifications to the field gear that nobody got to test out first.

These characters are too stupid to live, and they deserve to be eaten by dinosaurs.  That is not the best recipe for a book.  You know why Jurassic Park worked?  We cared about the characters, and it was actually intelligent.  This book feels like it’s talking down to me, as if trying to convince me that it’s smarter than it really is.

Good news… I can stop any time, and I did.  Better news… I can get a refund on my credit.  I called in, and the customer service rep asked me if there was a technical glitch, or if I didn’t like the narrator, or whatever.  So I told him what I just told you here in this review.  “Oh yeah, I remember that book,” he says to me.  “Those characters are too stupid to live.”

And lest I forget… obligatory easter egg name-dropping for those who’ve read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World.  You know, because it’s better to be clever than actually tell a good story.

DNF.  Life’s too short, and it will find a way without an ending to this story.  Better books await.  Story goes, I only spoiled the first third of the book for you, so if you still want to finish it, I hope it goes better for you.

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