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Jurassic Park was certainly one of the movies that defined my childhood, and a huge part of the reason I’m still into dinosaurs this day. Of course, when I was a kid; I didn’t really understand/care about the more existential things going on during the movie: the scientific debates, the legal agendas, the mathematical theories, the nature vs. science theme, all that stuff went over my head. But I didn’t have to know that stuff, all I had to know was that there was awesome dinosaur action!
YEAH! RIP HIM APART!
It was a while until I actually knew the film was based on a book, and even longer still when I finally sat down and read it. I was in fourth grade, and my school was having a book fair. Every year they would sell a bunch of books pretty cheap to encourage reading to the students. I was already an avid reader, so I loved going to these things. While browsing the shelves, that’s where I found it. I was amazed. I was looking for the original novel for a long time, and finally found it. On top of that, I had just enough money to buy it. So of course, I did. So, what did I think of it?
Well, I don’t know really.
To be honest, at the time, the novel just left me really confused. First off, it was probably the biggest book I’ve ever read at the time. Even though I loved to read, I wasn’t one of those kids who constantly read fifty 700 page Harry Potter door stoppers. Second off, it was very different from the movie, almost to the point that the only similarities where the names of the characters, some personality traits (some) and the name of the park. Third, a lot of the things discussed in the books went way over my head. Remember, I was only in fourth grade at the time, probably 10 years old at the latest. Pretty much everything about it went over my head. So much of it can only really be appreciated by computer programmers and mathematicians, not to mention all the scientific and philosophical debates and complicated scientific terms that no elementary school kid would know or care about. I just wanted to read about some dinosaurs, and what I got I just wasn’t ready for.
Did that mean I hated the book? Well, no actually. I knew that much of the book I really wouldn’t get until I was older, so I decided to just put it down and wait until I was old enough to appreciate it more. Now, after several years, I have finally reread the book from cover to cover. So, what do I think about it now?
I honestly believe it surpasses the movie by a long shot.
When you get down to it, Jurassic Park the movie is an adventure movie with an intellectual edge, but still accessible to a younger audience. The novel, however, packs in so much more. Because it doesn’t have the time and budget constraints of a film, it covers so much more story wise. We see much more of the characters, much more of the science, we learn much more of the world, and yes, a lot more dinosaurs.
This novel came out in an interesting time for dinosaur science. The 80’s was going through what is often called ‘the Dinosaur Renaissance’, a time when many massive dinosaur discoveries where made and the old image of dinosaurs being slow and dumb lizards was being replaced by the image of dinosaurs being fast, intelligent warm blooded masters of their environment. Along with this, there was a big dinosaur fad in the 1980’s in pop culture.
Like, a big one.
Like, you don’t even know dude.
There was a million and one educational dinosaur specials on TV (each of varying quality, and one starring Fred Savage), several Saturday morning cartoons surrounding the creatures, countless toy lines, and not to mention major films like The Land Before Time coming out. For a kid growing up in the 80’s, everything was dinosaur (sadly, I was a kid growing up in the 90’s/early 2000’s, but thanks to Jurassic Park, there was another dino craze).
Strangely, Michael Crichton (the books author) wanted to hold off writing the book until the whole ‘dino-craze’ blew over, which is something I respect. I guess he didn’t want his book to just look like another product of a fad, and wanted it to stand on it’s own. However, the book still obviously has the influence of the 80’s dinosaur resurgence, especially in the way the dinosaurs are portrayed. The book depicts the dinosaurs using theories that were very new at the time, and although some of those ideas seen in the novel haven’t exactly held up too well, for the most part a lot of the science shown was well ahead of it’s time. So now, I think it’s time we take a look at the dinosaurs of the Jurassic Park novel.
Hey, Philosoraptor! Haven’t seen you for a while, buddy. Where have you been?
WE DIE AS HONORABLE RAPTORS!
Anyway, you want to help me review the dinosaurs in this book?
Yeah, let’s do it!
So, how should we start?
Well, like I said, the 80’s dinosaur resurgence brought in the image of dinosaurs not as slow, waddling beasts but instead as fast moving animals. This is especially noticeable in the book’s depiction of Apatosaurus.
Apatosaurus is the resident sauropod of the book series (although some editions mislabel it as a camarasaurus).
Speaking of which, Camarasaurus needs more representation in media.
This famous sauropod was replaced by Brachiosaurus in the films (which launched that dinosaur’s acting career) but Pat is due to return in Jurassic World.
Take that, Brachiosaurus!
Apatosaurus, or as it was commonly known all the way up to the early 90’s (and still even sometimes today) as Brontosaurus, has normally been imagined by the public like this.
Slow moving, awkward, and clumsy in it’s own body. In the book, it is depicted as incredibly agile for it’s size. The characters meet a herd of apatosaurs in a similar vein as the brachiosaur meeting in the film. Not only are the characters surprised that it is on land, but they note how at home the creatures look on solid ground. For most of the 20th century, is was taught that brontosaurs were clumsy when they were on land, and had to be in the water to support their enormous bodies. But we know now that sauropods spent their lives on land and where quite adept in their environment. In the novel Alan Grant notes that the apatosaurs were moving faster than expected. Perhaps a bit too fast. There is an argument in the book that perhaps the dinosaurs are more active than people might be expecting, and this may make visitors think they aren’t seeing real dinosaurs because they are so used to the old, dumb and slow image. But Hammond doesn’t want them to change because ‘then they wouldn’t be real dinosaurs’. There are a lot of arguments like that, and almost every dinosaur shown depicts a theory that was very new at the time and straight from the Dinosaur Renaissance. Some depictions, however, stem from rather old theories.
Once the characters go on the tour, the first animals they see are a group of hysilophodons (or dryosaurs depending on the edition) and Othnielia (now known as Othnielosaurus).
These dinosaurs are depicted in the outdated theory that these animals spent their lives in the trees.
I’ve mentioned before that this behavior might not be technically wrong, as we honestly don’t know, as many animals have a gift for climbing even though we would never know that from their bones alone (goats, anyone?). But I have a feeling this is one of those ideas Michael got from some of the older books he read before the 80’s, and still thought it was accepted fact. But to be honest, I actually do like these depictions, as they have a bit of a nostalgic feel to them. I can’t fault Crichton for making his ornithopods tree dwellers.
The next dinosaur they see on the tour is Dilophosaurus.
The novel version of this dinosaur is quite different from the movie version. The coloration is completely different, said to be like that of a leopard, and it’s crests were depicted as bright red. They are also shown to be their full size (at 20ft, but the film’s version may have been an infant) and don’t sport the frill seen in the movie. They do however, still spit venom. There is obviously no evidence of such an ability, but it seems that one of the points that the book was trying to get across was that we can’t be for certain everything about these animals from just their fossils, and that things could take us by surprise if we were to bring these creatures back to life. I’m not going to completely dismiss the idea of a venomous dinosaur, but I’m am going to say the odds of finding such evidence are low.
Oh yeah, and the death of Dennis Nedry in the book by the hands of the Dilo is much more gruesome than it is in the movie.
But Dilophosaurus isn’t the only dinosaur in the novels shown to be venomous. The second dinosaur with this trait is Procompsognathus.
Procompsognathus (replaced by the more famous Compsognathus in the films according to supplementary material, despite being referred to as Procompsognathus triassicus in the film itself) is a poorly known Triassic theropod known only from very damaged remains. It was a relative of Coelophysis, much like Dilophosaurus. And also like Dilophosaurus, in the book they are portrayed as venomous. Perhaps in the JP universe venom is a common trait to coelophysid dinosaurs?
These little guys actually play a significant role in the book’s plot. Unlike the movie, one of the major plot points of the novel is the problem that some of the dinosaurs may be escaping the island, and the ones that seem to be causing the most headaches are Procompsognathus. The story actually kicks into gear when one of these dinosaurs are actually discovered on the mainland, and this problem is actually what forces Jurassic Park to hire experts to assure everyone the park is safe (in the movie this is actually caused by the death of faculty members at the beginning of the movie at the hands of the Velociraptor). In the book they are described as pack hunters, a behavior seen in the films as well. One interesting behavior attributed to them in the story is that they actually eat the poop of the dinosaurs, which helps with the waste problem and is also the reason why the park breeds so many. Because of their size, they are assumed to be harmless (although at one point it is said that their five fingered hands are ‘unsettling human-like’, which I have a hard time buying), but it turns out they are much more dangerous than previously thought.
Two scenes from The Lost World: Jurassic Park movie with the Compies are inspired by the events that happened in the novel. The first is the scene from the beginning of the movie with the little girl, which is loosely based on a scene in the beginning of the book.
Another scene from the movie that was inspired by the book is the one where the Compies gang up on a mercenary and kill him.
In the book, something similar is happening, but instead the Procompsognathus actually attack and kill John Hammond!
In the book, he kind of had it coming.
Other dinosaurs that were seen on the tour include Triceratops, but they have a minor role in the book.
It’s seen briefly on the tour, simply standing in a field. It’s described as being an elephantine grey, with the girth of rhinoceros. Lex, who’s a very young girl in the book, finds it completely boring. She later, however, meets and befriends a baby Triceratops. A scene like this was supposed to appear in the movie, but was cut out at the last moment. She was even supposed to ride the baby, and an animatronic model was made for the scene. The model later made a cameo appearance in The Lost World.
In the movie the Triceratops is sick from some unknown ailment. A scene like this happened in the book, but it didn’t involve a Triceratops, but instead a Stegosaurus.
Remember how in the movie we never find out exactly what is making the Triceratops ill? Well, in the book we find out! We know that the West Indian Lilacs are a culprit, but they know the dinosaurs don’t eat them. Yet, they’re showing signs of poisoning, but the symptoms only happen every six weeks. Well, it turns out that the stegosaurs are swallowing gastrolithes, stones that some dinosaurs swallowed to aid digestion. They only do it every six weeks, and the stones themselves have trace amounts of poison from being in contact with the lilacs! So, for those of you who needed closure for that Triceratops scene, here you go (although Triceratops had a pretty complex tooth battery and probably didn’t need gastrolithes to aid digestion ,but it’s the best answer we’ve got).
Another common dinosaur seen in the park is Microceratops.
This little guy, now correctly known as Microceratus, is only seen a few times and is mostly inconsequential to the plot. However, we will be seeing this dino in the upcoming Jurassic World, or at least it’ll be mentioned (it will also be referred to by it’s current name, so yay). Interesting thing to note, however, is that in some versions of the novel wherever Microceratop’s name is mentioned it’s replaced by Callovosaurus, a dinosaur known from fragmentary remains and probably looked like a Dryosaurus.
Even though Micro is smaller, at least they’re more interesting than this blank slate.
The park also has hadrosaurs, including Hadrosaurus, which is only seen once being chased by a Tyrannosaurus.
Gallimimus replaced Hadrosaurus in this scene in the movie.
One thing I wonder about this dinosaur’s inclusion is how the scientists would have been able to identify this dinosaur as a hadrosaurus. Hadrosaurus is known from very fragmentary remains…
This is literally all we know from the dinosaur.
…and most images of this dinosaur are actually based on that of it’s relative Gryposaurus.
So, if scientists were to clone this dinosaur, they would probably say it was from some unknown hadrosaur and possibly name it themselves. Perhaps Hammondosaurus ingens?
A more prominent hadrosaur in the story is the Maiasaura.
Now, you may be asking yourself why Michael added these ‘boring’ hadrosaurs and not include the more ‘awesomesauce’ ones like Parasaurolophus or Corythosaurus? Well, let me explain something to you. Imagine yourself in the 1980’s, during the mist of the Dinosaur Renaissance. Maiasaura was everywhere. You may ask yourself, why? Because Maiasaura was one of the poster children of this dinosaur revolution. Maiasaura was one of the first dinosaurs with direct evidence that it took care of it’s young, putting one more step forward in the thinking of dinosaurs as something completely different from other reptiles. So, it would make sense to have Maiasaura appear in a book that was greatly inspired by the Dinosaur Renaissance.
One of the major appearances of this creature in the book is when a herd of them awaken Grant, Lex and Tim when they are sleeping in the wild. In the movie Brachiosaurus replaces Maiasaura in this scene. It is also in this scene where Grant finds out that the Maiasaura’s vision is based on movement, which is something I’ll touch upon a little later.
Flying pterosaurs are also present, but instead of using the over used Pteranodon, this novel actually uses the seldom depicted Cearadactylus.
I think the reason why he chose this pterosaur instead of Pteranodon was not only because he wanted to take a break from the norm, but also because this pterosaur takes on the general appearance of a generic non crested ‘pterodactyl’. It’s big, and it has sharp teeth. I’m personally really glad they went with this guy.
The creatures show off the then new theory that pterosaurs walked on all fours when they were on the ground, and not on bipedaly as they are sometimes shown. However, one is depicted trying to take off with Lex, but I can’t remember right now if it used it’s mouth or it’s feet (I know that sounds arbitrary, but trust me, it makes a world of difference). This scene also inspired the Pteranodon scene in Jurassic Park 3, so there’s that.
DUN DUN DUUUNNNN!!!
OK, enough beating around the bush. Let’s talk about our two stars. First, the always awesome Tyrannosaurus Rex!
In the novel, the Tyrannosaurus is depicted as being colored red, which is certainly a striking color choice. Part of me kind of wishes that color scheme was depicted in the film, but it may have been too much. Anyway, the tyrannosaur is pretty well depicted, showing pretty much all the new theories that came up in the 80’s. It walked horizontally, was relatively fast, and was an active hunter. It was a very well representation of the creature for the time, despite what this alternate cover may have you believe.
Yes, this is real. Yes, it does make me vomit in my mouth.
It does however, have it’s quirks. It’s stated in one scene to have a forked tongue, something I find very, very, VERY unlikely any dinosaur had. It is also shown to be quite a good swimmer, moving it’s tail around to propel herself in the water like a crocodile. I really like this, because most dinosaurs were probably decent swimmers, but so much paleo art depicts prey dinosaurs escaping into the water to get away from a T. rex, and once they hit the water the Rex just gives up. In reality, a Tyrannosaurus would probably still chase after it, especially since any hadrosaur or ceratopsian would be just as out of place in the water as the T. rex, meaning they have no real advantage there.
This book also started the whole thing that a T. rex’s vision is based on movement, but unlike the movie, it has a good explanation for this. Remember how in the movie they used the DNA of a frog to fill in the gaps in the DNA sequence? Well, they also do this in the book, but only for a few dinosaurs. And one of the side effects is that their vision becomes based on movement, just like a frog. They explain this thoroughly in the book, but in the movie it’s treated as complete fact, leading an entire generation to believe this unfortunate myth.
A young T. rex also appears in the novel, and to be honest, I think the juvenile does more in the story than the adult. It certainly kills more people. Heck, I don’t think the adult kills anyone in the entire book!
Sometimes it takes a baby to get things done.
So, the final dinosaurs we are going to talk about are Styracosaurus and Euoplocephalus.
They’re only mentioned to be in the park but we never see them. Well then, I guess that’s it. Bye!
Oh yeah, Philosoraptor, I forgot you were here.
Oh yeah, I forgot you where here.
Why haven’t you come in yet?
Really? I thought we kind of dropped that once you became a good guy and now you’re just the rational side of my conscience.
Looks like you really want me to talk about these raptors. I mean, we’ve talked about Jurassic Park style raptors a million times before. What else is there really to mention.
Just like in the movies, the novel Velociraptors are much bigger than the actual ones. This is because author Michael Crichton read Gregory St. Paul’s book that classified the much larger Deinonychus as a species of Velociraptor. As such, the dinosaurs shown are meant to be Deinonychus instead, and not Velociraptor.
See, I’ve already said that. I said that in my FIRST REVIEW of the Jurassic Park movie. What else can I say?
Wait, how do you know?
Wait, are you saying what I think you’re saying.
Have I been wrong all this time?
Are the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park actually supposed to be Velociraptor mongoliensis, and not Deinonychus?
But, the book says they’re six feet long! That’s still way too big! Did Michael really mess this up that bad?
How can you explain this?
Oh yeah, how could I forget?
So, are you saying that perhaps the Ingen scientists found out they cloned a raptor, but since they didn’t know about this particular genus at the time, just mislabeled it Velociraptor. And that the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park aren’t actually Deinonychus but instead Achillobator and everything I have known is a lie?
That is an interesting theory, but there is one hole in your hypothesis.
Achillobator doesn’t exist.
No, it’s a chimera. Just a mixing of bones from several different species, right?
All this time I thought it wasn’t real, but it is?
I’m sorry…it’s just…
I’m so happy.
OK, back to the review.
These raptors in the book ooze of the Dinosaur Renaissance. Raptors were a key part of this movement, so it makes sense that they appear in this novel. They are shown to be fast, warm blooded, and very intelligent (still perhaps a bit too intelligent, though). One comment that Robert Muldoon, the game warden, makes about them is surprisingly modern. He says that one reason that dinosaurs are so hard to keep is because they aren’t quite reptile or bird. They have features of both, but aren’t quite either at the same time. They can’t hope to keep them like reptiles because they are not, but they still aren’t birds. He describes them as some weird mixture of the two, and that makes them a nightmare to take care of. Nothing like them exists. I think this is a very progressive point of view on the matter, since it now almost pains me to hear when a documentary calls dinosaurs ‘reptiles’, because really they were a creature all their own. Still, this sentiment may have held more water if the dinosaurs weren’t, you know, completely scaly.
That thing’s closer to birds than reptiles? Yeah, right.
Too bad one scene said that raptors had a forked tongue, but I digress.
Michael Crichton obviously did his research when preparing for his book, and it really does show. The entire book stinks of the paleontological discoveries being made at the time and the new ideas that were then taking shape. I would say his depictions in the book hold up much better than the movie counterparts, especially for the time, so on a scale for accuracy I give this book an…
8 out of 10.
Join me next time as I do a Dinosaurs Over The Years and discuss one of my most hated dinosaur tropes: inaccurate ankylosaurs.
Dinosaurs Over The Years: Ankylosaurus is next.