Recently I reorganised my bookshelf (it took five hours wtf) and set aside some stuff I knew I wouldn’t be reading to be donated. These are mostly books I got from events, like How to Plan A Wedding, Tropical Spa Scrubs, etc. But when it came down to really giving away my fiction/non-fiction collection, I found myself reluctant. There are still many that I bought years ago but haven’t read, as well as old titles that I’d like to read again. I ended up picking up The Lost World by Michael Crichton after seeing it at the bottom of a box. It’s still as good as ever.
To those who have never heard of Crichton, he was a genius at medical/science fiction. His best known work is perhaps Jurassic Park, which was turned into a critically acclaimed movie. This second novel, a sequel of sorts, was apparently written after fans and Steven Spielberg pressured Crichton into it, and it remains his only sequel (the rest of his novels are all stand alone). It kind of shows that his heart was not really in it, as it lacks the freshness and originality of the first novel, but it’s still a good read nonetheless, and an action-packed walk down memory lane for fans.
Six years after the disaster at Jurassic Park, rumours emerge of strange animal corpses washing up on the shores of Costa Rica. This attracts the attention of OCD rich boy narcissist and palaeontologist, Richard Levine. He convinces chaos theorist and mathematician Ian Malcolm, who survived the events of the last novel, to search for a ‘lost world’ of dinosaurs. They eventually learn of Site B on Isla Sorna, where the now-bankrupt InGen produced and raised dinos for their Jurassic Theme Park on Isla Nublar, where the events of the original novel took place.
Afraid that the Costa Rica government would destroy the dinosaurs, Levine hastily goes on an expedition to the island with a local guide, but goes missing. Malcolm goes to save him with a ‘rescue team’, consisting of retired engineer and university professor Jack Thorne and his assistant Eddie Carr, as well as two stowaway children Arby and Kelly, who were working as Levine’s research assistants for a school project. They also call animal behaviourist Sarah Harding, Malcolm’s former lover, but she was unable to catch the flight.
Hot on their heels is ruthless geneticist Lewis Dodgson and his group, from a rival corporation called Biosyn. Dodgson plans to steal eggs from Isla Sorna, but they bump into Harding while attempting to leave for the island. Initially friendly, Dodgson pushes her off the boat as they approach the island during a storm, but she survives.
Meanwhile, Malcolm and co have located Levine and they make observations on dino behaviour from a high hide. They also find Harding. They soon learn that Dodgson’s group arrived on the island and watch in horror as the group is attacked after attempting to steal Tyrannosaurus eggs. In the process, Dodgson injures a baby T-Rex. The soft hearted Eddie brings it back to base, where Malcolm and Harding grudgingly try to save its broken leg. Things quickly go downhill from there. T-rex parents are mighty mad and attack the trailer in search of their infant, velociraptors attack the high hide, and the group huddles in the old worker’s facility while awaiting rescue via helicopter.
Is there hope for escape?
The Lost World is a clear rehash of the first novel, down to the two young kids in the group (just like Lex and Tim), Ian Malcolm’s snarky commentary, and the narrative which starts off orderly before everything descends into chaos. In a sense, the storyline is rather predictable.
But that doesn’t mean the book isn’t worth a read! You have to give it to Crichton for his mastery in blending abstract, often complex subjects with real-life, everyday situations – which was what made Jurassic Park so appealing in the first place. The pace is action packed, with just enough to keep readers anticipating what comes next. While it definitely won’t live up to the brilliance of the first, I’d say that if Jurassic Park is a high-end steak at a fine dining resto, then The Lost World is a good ol’ fashioned one from your favourite local joint. Still satisfying.
*Just a note, the movie version is nothing like the book version. There isn’t a scene where the T-rex terrorizes the town.