Literature: Jurassic Park

In the future there will be dinosaurs...

...[T]he history of evolution is that life escapes all barriers. Life breaks free. Life expands to new territories. Painfully, perhaps even dangerously. But life finds a way.
Ian Malcolm

The book that started the Jurassic Park franchise. Written by Michael Crichton, it was first published in 1990.

Scientists discover the ability to bring extinct animals back to life via a complex cloning process. To make a profit off this technology, the InGen company decides to build a theme park featuring living dinosaurs.

This in itself would not be such a bad idea, except the organizers rush to get it open, build it on a remote island, and have almost no security personnel, deciding to automate the whole thing with unreliable computers — even refusing to tell the software designer what the system is for.

Naturally, everything that can go wrong does go wrong.

The book is followed by The Lost World.


This book provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: The first act of the book is the mystery of a bout of animal attacks that have been plaguing the Costa Rica countryside later discovered to have been a bunch of Compys that sneaked out of the island. Once the narrative switches to the other characters (Grant, Sattler, Gennaro and Nedry), this story arc (and the Decoy Protagonist looking into it) completely disappear from the book until the epilogue, where Gutierrez arrives to the hotel Grant and the rest of the survivors are staying at to talk to Grant about the possibility that some Velociraptors had managed to escape the island's destruction and vanished into the Costa Rican jungle.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Dennis Nedry's death. Probably not tragic, but you'll probably feel sorry for him considering how horrifically painful it was.
  • Artistic License Biology: It's unlikely that mosquito digestive enzymes would leave any DNA in the blood they ate anywhere close to intact after 65 million years.
  • Artistic License History: Grant muses that if 60 years were compressed into a single day, 80 million years would become 3652 yearsnote , which according to him is older than the pyramids. The pyramids of Giza are more than 4500 years old.
  • Artistic License Military: At the end of the book, the survivors are rescued by the Costa Rican Air Force, who then proceed to drop napalm over the island. The air force of Costa Rica. As in, the only state larger than a micronation to have no military.
    • At the time of publication, Costa Rica had a "Civil Guard" - a gendarmerie - equipped with the helicopters that Crichton described.
  • Artistic License Nuclear Physics: In addition to making the dinosaurs female they also sterilized them with x-rays. When they're found to be breeding Alan states that radiation is very unreliable, actually it's because it takes a lethal dose to permanently sterilize most organisms.
  • Asshole Victim: Hammond. He's much more of a Jerkass in the book than in the movie.
  • Author Filibuster: Malcolm spends half of his scenes in the first book making pages-long speeches about the evils of private science, while he's supposedly dying to boot (and high off his ass on morphine). He does it again in the second book, but less frequently and less annoyingly. The third movie lampshades his tendency to ramble when Eric says he preferred Grant's book to Malcolm's for precisely this reason.
  • Badass:
    • Even before the events on the island occur, Grant breaks his leg when his truck falls a hundred feet into a canyon, yet he walks back to his dig in four days without food or water. Once on the island, he faces down a T. rex multiple times (once with a plastic oar and dart gun) and kills several raptors using a few eggs and some deadly syringes.
    • Muldoon blows apart a couple raptors with a rocket launcher and faces down a charging T. rex.
    • Gennaro gets involved in Muldoon's attempts to restore order to the park. However, it zigzags with him, as some of the time he's too busy ducking responsibility and avoiding dangerous situations. He is also the only person in the book to survive a direct attack by a raptor.
  • Badass Beard: Grant had one in the book.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Gennaro manages to convince the captain of a ship which (accidentally) carries raptors to turn around before he'd reach the mainland by claiming that if he doesn't, he "will be found in violation of Section 509 of the Uniform Maritime Act". When Grant asks what the Uniform Maritime Act is, Gennaro responds: "Who the hell knows?"
  • Bus Crash: Gennaro dies of dysentery between the first and second books.
  • Chekhov's Lecture: In the first novel, the raptors are often referred to as pack hunters, to the point where four of them distract Ellie just so that a fifth could start a sneak attack from the roof.
  • Convenient Cranny: Tim and Lex hide from a Tyrannosaur in a convenient cave behind a waterfall. The Tyrannosaurus then proceeds to pull Tim out with its tongue. Fortunately the tranquilizer it was shot with earlier kicks in just before it pulls the kid into its mouth.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive:
    • Hammond is this to the core. He sees genetic technology as a means to get filthy rich and little else. He is not concerned about using the technology to help the world by fighting disease or feeding starving countries; he instead sees it as a means to create mass entertainment via cloning dinosaurs. The fact of dinosaurs being recreated is Hammond's justification that what he is doing is advancing science when it is really anything but.
    • The entire Biosyn board of directors are these, with Lewis Dodgson being the most openly amoral. He actually headed a project to create an airborne-delivered rabies vaccine that had the unintended side effect of spreading real rabies through the air which is normally impossible. He released the defective vaccine in Chile where there were no laws or controls to stop him and subjected an unwitting populace to the virus without even thoroughly testing it first.
  • Cowardly Lion: Gennaro is the Amoral Attorney who whines a lot about the park and things he doesn't like about it and generally passes the buck on the blame. However, when the main power goes out and the raptors start running amok, Gennaro volunteers to restart the generator himself after Arnold apparently fails. He does this on his own, without being asked, aware that the last man who tried was probably eaten alive, and with no plan of escape after he succeeds. He fails to restore the power, but survives and wins a fistfight with a Velociraptor.
  • Cutting Corners: Even though John Hammond claims to have "spared no expense" when building his park, in truth he's actually done a lot of cost cutting. For instance, he tried to reduce the amount of employees (and thus need to pay them) by having much of the park's functions being run by computers, including animal care, tour guides, and security. Said computer is programmed by a single guy who Hammond also short-changes, leading him to develop a grudge and thus do a sloppy job. Both of these culminate in the main computer failing and thus the whole park falling into disarray.
  • Deadly Road Trip: The vacationers in the beginning of the first book.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Malcolm is the most prominent, although Muldoon and Arnold also rate.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Not once, but twice. We don't meet Grant, Hammond or Sattler for the first third of the book. Initially it seems the protagonist will be Roberta "Bobbie" Carter, a young doctor who recieves an exceedingly unusual case in which a man has been mauled by an unknown creature (later revealed to have been a Velociraptor), despite the fact the company employing him insist it was a construction accident. However, she disappears after Chapter 1, and Martin Guitierrez, a biologist, becomes the point-of-view character., investigating incidents where mysterious reptiles have been attacking young children. However, once the compy remains that kick off the plot are analysed, he is Demoted to Extra and disappears for the majority of the novel, reappearing at the end.
  • Death By Genre Savvy: This is averted with Muldoon, who survives the events of the first novel. Subverted with Malcolm, who looks like he's going to die but then in the sequel he is shown alive.
  • Death from Above: The Cearadactylus, a flock of viciously territorial pterosaurs.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Nedry is treated horribly by Hammond, and ends up deciding to get revenge by stealing dinosaur embryos for Biosyn.
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear: Nedry. More like "Exit, Pursued by a Dilophosaurus".
  • Exposition Party: Doctor Wu's tour in the first book.
  • Failsafe Failure: Rebooting the system automatically switches everything into auxiliary power, but doesn't inform the users about this more than once. Turns out to be a very bad thing as the electrified perimeter fences can't be powered on auxiliary power. Which means that even if the whole park hadn't gone to hell, any power failure would have meant certain doom to both the parkgoers and staff!
  • Gone Horribly Right: Well into the park's collapse, Wu reflects that the dinosaurs' breeding means he's succeeded at recreating these creatures of the past, enough that they can even reproduce themselves.
  • Ignored Expert: Most of the problems that result in the park falling apart ultimately stem from Hammond not listening to the experts he hired.
    • Malcolm was hired to do a mathematical assessment of the viability of the park. When his report says that there's a significant chance that the park will be a disaster, rather than try to reduce the odds or potential impact of the various problems Malcolm predicted (Many of which happened), Hammond ignored the report.
    • Muldoon repeatedly said that he needed more equipment (He wanted multiple heavy weapons, Hammond only gave him one, which was in the Jeep Nedry stole, which prevented Muldoon from using it for several hours) than Hammond would allow him to ensure that he could contain a significant problem with the animals, and that some of them (the raptors) were simply too dangerous to be kept around. Again, Hammond ignores him.
    • Wu suggested that they euthanize many of the current generation of dinosaur and replace them with a new batch that is modified to be less dangerous. Yet again, he is ignored.
    • More of a case of Abused Expert rather than ignored, but Nedry is not provided with enough information about what his project is for to do a good job, and gets massive scope creep forced on him without any increase in budget or schedule. Unsurprisingly, the system is very buggy and Nedry ends up disgruntled enough to accept Dodgson's bribe to steal embryo samples from the park, a plan that involves shutting down all park security long enough for dinosaurs to start breaking out of their pens.
  • Improbable Age: Mostly averted. Doctors Dodgson, Malcolm, and Grant are all on the younger edge for their fields, which is mostly justified by being explicit geniuses (and in Dodgson's case, having been expelled from his grad program for breaking federal law and presumably self-awarding the title). Ellie on the other hand is all of twenty-four and while she functions largely as Grant's assistant, everyone calls her "Dr. Sattler." Unlikely, to say the least.
    • When Tim inquires about Ellie's and Grant's relationship, he states that she's only a graduate student and it would be inappropriate for him to have a romantic relationship with her due to the power imbalance. And she's engaged to a medical doctor from Chicago. However, it's not too unusual for doctoral students to be mistakenly referred to as "Dr." by their students, friends, or acquaintances, since many people just assume that they either already have the title (mostly due to their research and teaching of university-level classes) or will have it very soon. Many university students and those connected to a college just get used to calling all of their teachers "Dr.", whether they officially have the title or not. Ellie appears to be a case of this.
  • Instant Sedation: Averted. Two characters in the book use a Tranquillizer Dart on a T. rex, twice, and nothing happens. They think their darts had missed, but follow it anyway, and it finally blacks out an hour later just in time to save a character. Muldoon, the character who does the tranquilizing, explains that the effects of tranquilizing agents depends partly on weight and partly on the species; a badly tranq'd rhino is just mad, a rhino simply chased in a car might pass out. Steve Irwin made a career under the logic that it is safer for an angry crocodile to be jumped on by sweaty Australian guys during capture than depend on its finicky metabolism to process drugs correct. Muldoon could only guess at the T. rex's reaction, and he certainly wouldn't be allowed to use an experimental massive dose on it in case the valuable animal dropped dead from it.
  • Irony: Hammond and Regis emphasise how much money has been spent, yet the park ultimately fails because of the things they skimped on. Like leaving the park's security in the hands of one IT engineer who was irate about being underpaid, and refusing Muldoon's request to equip the park with more and better weapons.
  • I've Heard of That What Is It?: When Lex notices a blood spot on the floor:
    Lex: How come it isn't real red?
    Tim: You're morbid.
    Lex: What's 'morbid'? I am not.
  • Karma Houdini: Dodgson, until the second book when he returns as the Big Bad and gets eaten by baby T. rexes.
  • Karmic Death: Nedry. Arguably Hammond as well.
  • Kill It with Fire: At the end of the first novel, the Costa Rican Air Force napalms Isla Nublar, killing all of the dinosaurs on the island.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Shortly after we see the first dinosaurs, we get an extensive scene of Wu talking about the science involved in creating the dinosaurs; basically, Crichton showing his work. It's from the point of view of people who interested in it, so they keep asking questions, possibly leading the reader to wonder when they're going to see more dinosaurs. Then we switch to Tim's POV, and everyone else is bored out of their minds by all the science, wondering when they're going to see more dinosaurs.
    Lex was bored. Nedry was yawning. And even Dr. Sattler was losing interest. Tim was tired of looking at these complicated laboratories. He wanted to see the dinosaurs.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: Both novels.
  • The Load: Lex. She doesn't even like dinosaurs, and was sent to the island with Tim merely as a trip to see their grandfather's park.
  • Male Gaze: Several of the male characters take notice of Ellie's legs. Even Tim checks them out right before he recognizes Dr. Grant when they first meet..
  • Meaningful Name: The evil genetics company is named Biosyn.
  • Missing Backblast: Muldoon is able to operate a rocket launcher while wedged in an enclosed space (a length of sewer pipe) and emerge unscathed.
  • Monstrous Cannibalism: The raptors are seen eating their own wounded, as well as raptor eggs and a baby raptor. It's suggested, however, that this was because they were raised in captivity, and that they never did it in the wild.
    • Actually, the eggs are alluded to in POV character's internal monologues. The eggs in question were from a lab, not a raptor nest, so the raptors in question had no way of knowing those were their eggs. [[Spoiler: Grant uses eggs as a delivery system for poison precisely because it is believed veliciraptors ate the the eggs of other, larger dinosaurs.]]
  • Ms. Fanservice: The aforementioned Ms. Sattler is an interesting example in that she provides more fanservice than her film counterpart. Laura Dern, the actress who played her in the film, was mostly dressed conservatively. In the novel, she's frequently decked out in short cut-offs and midriff-bearing tops. Malcolm and Genarro both express their appreciation.
  • Never My Fault: Hammond does this near the end of the book, blaming the park's failure on everybody who came to the island except for himself. Cue Karmic Death.
  • Orphaned Punchline: In the book, we only hear the end of a joke Malcolm tells Dr. Harding. Gennaro walks in just in time to catch the punchline: "I'll tell you frankly, I didn't like it, Bill. I went back to toilet paper!'"
  • Oh, Crap:
    • The first book has its major Oh, Crap moment following Ian's Wham Line: The security system is designed to count each species of dinosaur up to the expected number of said species, and then stops. It can tell instantly if an animal's gone missing. It doesn't say if the animals increase their numbers. They reconfigure it to do so, and Oh, Crap ensues when they realize the dinosaur population is over 50% bigger than expected, especially the raptors, which were OVER 400% more than expected.
    • The book has a whole string of these after the T. rex is sedated. Alarms go off in the Control Room announcing that the Auxiliary power is running out. After the power goes out, they realize that they have been running on auxiliary power ever since they rebooted the system, which means that all the fences including the Raptor cage have been offline for 8 hours.
  • One Dose Fits All: Discussed: Muldoon points out that the same dose of tranquilizer will knock an elephant unconscious but only make a rhinoceros angry, so he has to make an educated guess about proper tranquilizer dose for an adult T. rex.
  • Overly Long Tongue: The Tyrannosaur has one, apparently. She uses it to try to grab the children from behind a waterfall, wrapping it around Tim's head.
  • Override Command: Nedry's thoughts on the concept currently provide the page quote.
  • Ptero Soarer: The Cearadactylus. They're relatively accurate, to the point that their aggressive behavior is actually given a plausible excuse (they're simply incredibly territorial).
  • Reality Ensues: At one point, a Cearadactylus tries to carry Lex into the air with its hindlimbs...only to discover that she's too heavy for it to carry.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Wu points out that it would be safer to get rid of all the small dinosaurs and predators and just breed the big, vegetarian and stupid ones, which are what many people expect to see anyway (this was written before the "Dinosaur Renaissance" popularized precisely by this book and movie). He even points out that with their knowledge in genetics, they can easily alter the dinosaurs to behave a certain way, just in case they don't. Hammond refuses however, declaring that he's giving people the real deal or nothing — to which Wu tries to tell him is a stupid idea: the dinosaurs are already genetically engineered and modified, so are already not "real" dinosaurs, but rather, genetically engineered monsters. The dinosaurs had never and would never act like real dinosaurs did, simply because they had been born in captivity, without adult dinosaurs to raise them — the equivalent of feral children. Instincts without a compatible environment resulted in unpredictable — perhaps even suicidal behavior. A huge pack of raptors settle in a particular area simply because a large number of half-grown dinosaur corpses were dumped there after they died of a prion disease — they're there to eat infectious carrion. Similar problems occur when exotic reptiles are hatched from eggs in zoos.
  • Rewrite: Ian Malcolm died at the end of Jurassic Park. Not 'seemed to' or 'apparently' or 'was hinted to have.' The Lost World simply rewrote things so that he didn't die after all.
  • She's Got Legs: Ellie. See Male Gaze above.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Nedry creates a programming backdoor called "white_rabbit" on behalf of a man named Lewis Dodgson, a portmanteau of Charles Dodgson and his penname, Louis Carroll.
  • Shown Their Work: The book takes an excruciatingly long time explaining the genetic science in-depth, before any of the main characters show up or the first hints of the park are mentioned. It is legitimately fascinating, however. Crichton also spends a fair amount of time on computer science and chaos theory. This is a common storytelling device of Crichton's in every one of his books. Also, while most of the information pertaining to the dinosaurs is very out of date, a lot of it was considered to be very accurate when the book was written, with a couple of deviations for Rule of Cool, such as Dilophosaurus being able to spit venom; this was also likely Rule Of Plot to help illustrate that they simply couldn't know everything about the creatures they were recreating, since there might be no way to tell the creature had a venom sack from its bones. The book in fact provides its own defense against Science Marches On. The scientists at inGen wanted to breed dinosaurs based on what they thought at the time was accurate, so they did. Hence, the Velociraptors are six feet tall and featherless.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Reversed; Ian Malcolm supposedly dies in the first book (There's even a line in the epilogue about not being allowed to bury him) but survives in the movie, and miraculously survives in the unplanned book sequel thanks to Costa Rican surgeons.
  • Super-Persistent Predator:
    • The Tyrannosaur seemed to be stalking Dr. Grant and the kids in particular, even leaving behind a Hadrosaur kill to pursue them down a river. It starts to become pretty obvious Rule of Scary when at one point it's waiting at the bottom of a waterfall with its jaws open, hoping they'll fall inside.
    • The Velociraptors are not only super intelligent, but enjoy hunting for sport. They see hunting people as a fun challenge, and will gnaw through solid steel bars just to get at them.
  • Tech Marches On: In the book they don't realize the dinosaurs are breeding because they set the tracking program to stop counting when it hit the expected numbers just to save processor cycles. A bit short-sighted at the time, but a completely alien concept to a modern reader whose phone has more power than the entire island is said to.
    • The park is explicitly stated to be running on three Cray X-MP supercomputers. At the time, those were the best in the world, but by modern standards they're completely obsolete: compare their clockspeed of 105MHz to the iPhone 5s, which runs at about 1.2GHz. That's right: a modern phone has more processing power than a supercomputer in 1990, by a full order of magnitude.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Ellie and Alan are explicitly not a couple. In the film it's a little bit more ambiguous.
  • Who Wears Short Shorts?: Ellie does. Tim was checking out her legs the first time he saw her.