Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Lost World

The Lost World
© 1995 Michael Crichton
431 pages

"'Ooh, aah'. That's always how it starts. Then later there's the running and the screaming." - Dr. Ian Malcolm, The Lost World

In the 1980s, a biocompany called InGen discovered a way to isolate dinosaur DNA and patented a cloning process intended to bring the dead back to life. Majestic and fearsome beasts who once ruled the Earth were resurrected in laboratories, intended to be the featured attractions of a resort park intended to amuse their successors -- humanity. The park's first visitors -- including paleontologists, a lawyer, and a chaos theorist named Ian Malcolm -- witness the catastrophic failure of the park's systems within hours of spotting their first dinosaur. The park died amidst intrigues from a rival biocompany (BioSyn) and nature's fury -- though Malcolm would insist that so complex a system was doomed from its beginnings.  The Costa Rican military and InGen are eager to destroy all evidence of the failed project, but they're not as thorough as they ought to have been -- for now, five years later, corpses from another epoch are washing up on the beaches of Pacific islands.

The Lost World follows the same basic pattern as Jurassic Park:  evidence of dinosaurs appears to people who have no idea the park existed, the evidence trickles down to our primary characters, they visit the island and have a "WHOA! Dinosaurs!" moment, and then a deadly pandemonium ensues: the lead characters run around the island losing equipment, sanity, and friends while Dr. Malcolm lectures. In The Lost World, Malcolm applies chaos theory to the efforts by paleontologists to explain the extinction of the dinosaurs. The familiar pattern does not distract from the book: dinosaurs are a powerfully interesting subject, and as the characters talk about various species in an attempt to reason out the best way to escape, the reader is treated to mini-lectures compiling modern dinosaur research from scientists like Jack Horner. In the last novel, Crichton seemingly honored Horner with a proxy character: in this, he acknowledges Horner directly. Crichton does drama well: his text is replete with foreboding descriptions and cliffhanging segments.

The Lost World is terrific fun -- lots of tension, and the dinosaur mini-lectures are certainty informative. Malcolm tends toward the anti-scientific at some points, but I suppose that's in-character for an eccentric iconoclast.

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