If you've seen the movie, you know the gist of the plot. Its also safe to say that you're going to find the first half of Jurassic Park mind numbingly boring, because all of it is Crichton explaining how a billionaire managed to make real live dinos. If I hadn't been so familiar with the set-up, I probably would've enjoyed the world building a lot better (even though using 50% of the book to explain the science, technology, and different theories that went into creating the park is still a bit excessive). However, the second half of the book makes all that waiting well worth it.
The story really speeds up when dinosaurs finally start escaping and munching on people. And as wonderful as the animatronics were in the movie they couldn't quite live-up to how the dinos are portrayed here. Crichton makes it clear that these aren't the dinosaurs that used to inhabit Earth, but things pieced together by humans making assumptions about how nature works. It's a combination of arrogance, lack of responsibility, and laziness that makes the park turn into such a disaster. There's also something really disturbing about the idea of suddenly finding yourself near the bottom of the food chain.
My only complaint, aside from exposition overload in the beginning, is with some of the characters. Okay, I shouldn't say some of the characters when all I really mean is one; Lex. Lex was the bane of my existence while reading this book. She's the youngest character and virtually serves no purpose. In fact, she is one of the most useless and annoying characters I have had the misfortune of reading in a long time. I actually left the book immensely disappointed that Crichton didn't let a Raptor or T-Rex eat her.
Lex spends the entire book complaining about how hungry she is, how dinosaurs are stupid, and how she doesn't have to listen to anybody on that island because none of them are her parents. She does this even when being stalked by a T-Rex who thinks she looks like a bite sized snack. Every time she opened her mouth it was to spout some stupid line that made me want to bang the book against my forehead because I couldn't strangle her. Raptors are ripping people apart and might be in the same building she's in. Her response? "I'm hungry." Oh and not only is she hungry, but she's picky too.
After being pursued by a T-Rex all night (and well into the day), sneaking past venom spitting dinosaurs, and then finding out that Raptors have been out eating a bunch of people; the group finally makes it back to the visitor's center (which, by the way, has numerous mutilated bodies lying around) only to have to stop everything in order to search for food so that Lex will stop bitching. And you would think, with all the complaining about how she's starving, that Lex would be happy with just about anything to eat, but no. She wants ice cream and will not be satisfied with any of the other food her brother offers her.... Seriously. Dinosaurs are eating everyone and she's turning her nose up at food because it’s not ice cream? Feed her ass to the dinosaurs, people. It might save your lives later.
In connection to my complaints about Lex, I have to ask. Where were all the women? There are a grand total of 2 female characters here and one has the grand misfortune of being Lex. The other is Grant's female grad student who plays an extremely minor role. She essentially just sits at Malcolm’s bedside and reassures the audience that Grant will probably be fine running from a bunch of dinosaurs. She does get one good part where she plays bait, but that only lasts for a couple of pages and then she's back to being a nursemaid.
So, I will say that at least the movie gave the two female characters actual uses. Like Lex was intelligent and had some valuable skills with computers that played a role. In the book it's Tim, her brother, who is good with computers. He also has all the knowledge of dinosaurs and keeps a cool head in every situation. He's like a little savant. In fact, now that I think about it, everything that eventually gets the survivors off of the island was Grant and Tim's doing. It’s like Grant and Tim single handedly save everyone who believed that the park was a bad idea. [spoiler]Except Malcolm. Poor Malcolm.[/spoiler]Not sure if I'm okay with that when there were so many other characters who it would've made more sense to have contributed in some way to getting them off the island.
All in all, I really enjoyed the last half of this book. I probably won't be reading The Lost World, but this was a fun romp.