The Lost World, Michael Crichton

Knopf, 1995, 393 pages, C$32.95 hc, ISBN 0-679-41946-2

As I write this, mud is everywhere around the house. The sun is shining, but that’s an unusual occurrence: It’s been raining intermittently for the last two weeks, and more rain is predicted for the next few days.

Nevertheless, summer is coming, or so they say.

And one of the greatest things about summer is… no, not girls in miniskirts… although that’s no trifle either… summer movies! Where we unplug our brains and open our eyes and ears wide. I don’t go to movies for plot any more: The name of the fun is Special Effects.

Discounting 1992’s TERMINATOR II: JUDGEMENT DAY, the first big-budget plot-less summer SFX extravaganza probably was 1993’s JURASSIC PARK. Adapted by Steven Spielberg from a popular novel by Michael Crichton, it was a smash hit. Even before the summer was over, there were talks about a sequel.

Here it is: The Lost World. Not content with recycling the title of Arthur Conan Doyle’s superior dino-novel, Crichton also recycles most of Jurassic Park.

Scientists-as-heroes? Check. Two smart kids in peril? Check. Ian Malcom attacked by dinoes? Check. Finale with computer systems? Check. Evil corporations? Check. Bad guys eaten by dinoes? Check. Paleontologist explaining every detail of dino behaviour? Check.

The plot? A few years after the events in Jurassic Park, there are rumours that new animal species are appearing in Costa Rica. Reckless paleontologist Richard Levine mounts an expedition, reluctantly backed by Ian Malcom. Eventually, everyone’s running around on InGen’s other island.

It’s astonishing how Crichton manages to produces most of the same novel than Jurassic Park. Even if sequels are more or less expected to trod the same grounds as the first volume, The Lost World takes this to an astonishing degree.

But it’s an imperfect copy. Reading The Lost World is sometimes a frustrating experience, perhaps because of JURASSIC PARK. The movie showed us dinosaurs, oohing and aahing us instead of telling us a complex story. Here, it’s just dull. Many pages pass before anything happen, and when it does, it’s déjà-vu.

It’s one of the worst Crichton novels. But still, it’s good stuff for fans: The style is typically featureless, direct and descriptive. Crichton also puts in the narrative all sorts of more-or-less popular scientific theories. (The delivery is sometimes ridiculous, as when a character babbles on while boosted on morphine) The technology used is mouth-watering and the action (when it finally starts) is fast-paced.

This novel is for fans of the first volume only. It’s neither exceptional or especially interesting but should satisfy a casual interest.

I just hope the movie (out in a few days) differs sensibly from the novel, much as the original movie was a leaner, faster version of the written work. From what I’ve heard (T-Rex stomping on a bus, etc…), I have hopes. It might even be better than the novel…

[January 1998: THE LOST WORLD was indeed “better” than the novel -thanks to the inclusion of an exciting third act- but was still a rotten movie with plenty of supposedly smart characters doing incredibly stupid things. My feelings about the movie are best described elsewhere, see my Movie Reviews]

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