A few months ago I read Jurassic Park and I, as I said in my review, thoroughly enjoyed it; thusly, I was quite excited to read the sequel, The Lost World. Fair to say I found the second book just as impressive and enjoyable as its predecessor.
The Lost World has a fair share of similarities and differences from the original Jurassic Park. Sure, there’s the island covered with dinosaurs, and a race to find out what’s going on and then escape. Like Jurassic Park, the characters the book focuses on are largely the same – most strikingly, Richard Levine’s students, Arby and Kelly, surreptitiously finagle their way into the expedition to Isla Sorna; they’re very close approximations to Hammond’s grandchildren Tim and Lex in Jurassic Park. Indeed, Arby is a more intense and introverted character (good with computers too) while Lex seems more superficial, so the comparison to Tim and Lex is palpable. I’m not suggesting this is bad, but it’s noticeable and, if anything, grounds The Lost World with a sense of familiarity. It’s the same to Jurassic Park but also different.
The initial parts of the book concern themselves with establishing the mystery of unknown animals washing up on the coast of Costa Rica, and the gradual revelation that InGen – the corporation from the previous book who genetically-engineered dinosaurs for the titular theme park – had a “Site B” on a neighbouring island. I felt that the Site B description did back up a lot of the first book, where Levine describes the laboratories on Isla Nublar as essentially window-dressing; on consideration, of course Jurassic Park would’ve needed an industrial facility for creating dinosaurs. Of course the technology wouldn’t be flawless.
A major driving factor for The Lost World is curiosity – the character of Levine simply won’t let the idea of a second island go, and this transforms into an urgent quest for rescue and escape from another equally hazardous-to-human-health island. Again, the island is a good, isolated setting that imbues a sense of closeness for the story and also a sense of isolation that makes the narrative of wild dinosaurs plausible. The island is a natural means of isolating the story. What drives the pace of the story is both the urgency of escaping the dinosaurs but also the race to the island before the Costa Rican authorities summarily destroy any trace of InGen’s work.
One thing The Lost World has heaps of is jeopardy, and pacy action scenes. The stakes, like before, seem to get exponentially higher and exciting, but this doesn’t stop the book from ruminating on the societal impact of technology. A major philosophical theme in The Lost World continues from the one in Jurassic Park: just because science can do something doesn’t mean it necessarily should, and there’s also some pretty prescient statement on the effects of technology on how it homogenises society. There’s a continued criticism of how modern science is less a philanthropic quest for knowledge but more an exploitative means of enrichment, and how the value of science has changed. Indeed, the Jurassic Park was created not for the good of humanity – though the ability to clone dinosaurs is indeed noble – but because it can be exploited for profit. There’s a continual sense that The Lost World is another cautionary tale about the author’s perceived “misuse” of scientific method. It’s thought-provoking.
That’s not to say this gets in the way of the action, which is written precisely and is detailed. Again, velociraptors are portrayed as the main antagonists – intelligent beasts that simply don’t give up on the hunt – but there’s also a degree of characterisation to some of the other dinosaurs – the tyrannosaurs, especially, who are put across as menacing and terrifying but they’ve maternal and paternal instincts behind that behaviour.
The Lost World also functions well as a standalone novel; there’s hints to the events of the first book but the plot is not reliant on it. Ian Malcolm – a character who bridges both books – is reticent to discuss his adventure in the first book too much. The Lost World takes place on another island, totally separate to Isla Nublar of the first book and the parts of the plot that allude to the first book – the reason for the InGen facility on Isla Sorna – are explained adequately, but not dwelled on to the point the reader is baffled by continual references.
Too, there is the sense of conspiracy. Why is the Costa Rican government so trigger-happy with any evidence of the cloned dinosaurs? And the subplot of industrial espionage – another indictment on ‘modern’ science and its methods, perhaps? – from Jurassic Park is further explored and brought to a close here.
Overall, though, another cracking read that certainly held my attention with the pace, jeopardy, and action. Crichton’s work here is eminently readable, exciting and gripping and, fair to say, I am very excited to further explore his other work, too!
Buy The Lost World on Amazon UK