The Lost World

Michael Crichton, Author Alfred A Knopf Inc $29.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-679-41946-4
One fact about this sequel to Jurassic Park stands out above all: it follows a book that, with spinoffs, including the movie, proved to be the most profitable literary venture ever. So where does the author of a near billion-dollar novel sit? Squarely on the shoulders of his own past work--and Arthur Conan Doyle's. Crichton has borrowed from Conan Doyle before--Rising Sun was Holmes and Watson in Japan--but never so brazenly. The title itself here, the same as that of Conan Doyle's yarn about an equatorial plateau rife with dinos, acknowledges the debt. More enervating are Crichton's self-borrowings: the plot line of this novel reads like an outtake from JP. Instead of bringing his dinos to a city, for instance, Crichton keeps them in the Costa Rican jungle, on an offshore island that was the secret breeding ground for the beasts. Only chaos theoretician Ian Malcolm, among the earlier principals, returns to explore this Lost World, six years after the events of JP; but once again, there's a dynamic paleontologist, a pretty female scientist and two cute kids, boy and girl--the latter even saves the day through clever hacking, just as in JP. Despite stiff prose and brittle characters, Chrichton can still conjure unparalleled dino terror, although the wonder is gone and the attacks are predictable, the pacing perfunctory. But his heart now seems to be not so much in the storytelling as in pedagogy: from start to finish, the novel aims to illustrate Crichton's ideas about extinction--basically, that it occurs because of behavioral rather than environmental changes--and reads like a scientific fable, with pages of theory balancing the hectic action. As science writing, it's a lucid, provocative undertaking; but as an adventure and original entertainment, even though it will sell through the roof, it seems that Crichton has laid a big dinosaur egg. 2,000,000 first printing; BOMC and QPB main selection. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/1995
Release date: 09/01/1995
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