Alazzar's Reviews > The Lost World

The Lost World by Michael Crichton
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Jun 17, 12

Read from June 11 to 17, 2012

I liked Jurassic Park so much when I read it 2 years ago that I gave it 5 stars. The Lost World, however, I was unable to finish.

I’ve often said in the past that I don’t mind weak characterization so long as the plot is engaging enough to compensate for it. Apparently, I was wrong.

This book is about dinosaurs. I, like most human males, wanted to be a paleontologist when I was a kid. To this day, I’m still certain that dinosaurs are objectively awesome. So, we had a strong plot element already.

But the characters were so goddamn terrible that it didn’t matter.

Let’s see, where to begin . . .

For starters, the characters are all inconsistent. They are strictly vessels for Crichton’s scientific explanations, and NOTHING else. I say that they’re explanation-vessels because everyone seems to know whatever it is they need to know at any given time, even if they’re dealing with a subject that’s well outside their area of expertise. Are you a brilliant engineer? Then of course you also know your fair share about geology, and can understand just enough German to tell us what the phrase in that book “probably” means.

Of course, your brilliance will come to a convenient end when your “retard switch” gets flicked, which is what happens when you’re in dialogue with another one of the super-geniuses. When super-genius #2 starts explaining things, you suddenly turn into a drooling retard who doesn’t understand second-grade science, because Crichton needs you to be asking a lot of questions for the reader’s benefit.

And don’t get me started on the kids. Crichton, for whatever reason, LOVES the idea of kids being inexplicable heroes. Now, in some books and movies, that’s fine, but the reason kids tend to end up being heroes in GOOD stories is because either A) they have exceptional courage, or B) their wondrous, imaginative minds haven’t yet been tainted (blinded?) by the reality of adulthood. These are the reasons seventh-graders save the day in movies like, say, E.T. They do not save the day because they’re APPARENTLY BETTER PROBLEM-SOLVERS THAN THE FUCKING DOCTORS STANDING TWO FEET AWAY.

@*($%!!!

So. Not only are the characters inconsistent, but there is ZERO reason to like them. Why did I stop reading at page 332 (of 393) and just skim to the end in about 5 minutes? Because I did not give a shit about what happened to anyone. I figured some people would die, or maybe they wouldn’t. But it didn’t matter either way, because I didn’t care about anyone. And the kids, who pissed me off for being such unrealistic little geniuses, were clearly going to live anyway, because Crichton just loves his child characters and couldn’t stand to kill them off. There was literally never a point in those 332 pages where I worried that one of the children might be hurt, because I knew it just WOULD. NOT. HAPPEN.

Which brings me to another complaint about this book: it’s predictable as all fuck. I’m not one of those people who’s awesome at untangling a plot and figuring out what will happen next. In fact, I never really sit back and try to figure out what might happen next, because that’s just not something I want to take a break to do. But even if I did, I’m not sure I’d be great at it. And yet, as I read this book, I just came across lines that forced me to stop and say, “Well, that guy’s obviously going to die in a few pages,” or, “Gee, I wonder if he’ll—yep, there it is.” This is not exactly what I’m looking for in my action book.

Like Jurassic Park, the first 200 pages or so of this novel sucked ass. It was a bunch of setup that, in my mind, wasn’t necessary. Why? Because I didn’t care about the characters. Everyone in the book was so utterly forgettable that I was just more concerned with getting to the dinos, which didn’t really happen for a few hundred pages.

And then, like its predecessor, The Lost World broke free of those opening 200 pages and got reasonably entertaining for a while. But the big difference here is that Jurassic Park just kept getting better and better until I gave it 5 stars, whereas this pile of dino dung regressed and got worse again.

The thing that finally killed it for me was one of the “action” scenes. It just dragged on entirely too long. There was no intensity to it, because I already knew that everyone would live (or, even if they didn’t, I wouldn’t care anyway). I couldn’t make myself read another several pages of that stupid scene just to see what would end up happening, so I started skimming. And I never stopped.

Oh, and before I forget—the raptors in this book pissed me off. (This is actually a point I should have made earlier, when I was talking about character inconsistency, but I guess this wouldn’t be a true rant without a little disorganization.) Like the sometimes-retarded/sometimes-brilliant scientists in this story, the raptors would often show off how advanced their little dino brains were, only to suddenly lose all credibility as functioning life forms when they started showing how dumb they could be with their attacks. Oh, and spoiler time: (view spoiler)

For a while (after I broke past the first 200 pages), I was willing to give this book three stars. I’m still not sure it belongs in the two-star cesspool with things like Mythago Wood and Symphony of Blood , but it certainly doesn’t deserve to be with my three-star books. I’d been enjoying (or at least tolerating) this book for a while, but then I just hit an action scene that lasted way too long, and it broke me. It tarnished the memories of anything good that may have preceded it, and it broke me.

If I were to re-read Jurassic Park now, I’m not sure I’d like it as much. I mean, I have very fond memories of it, but I find it hard to believe that two books in the same series by the same author could vary so wildly in terms of quality. Maybe the first installment isn’t really better, but my tastes have just changed since two years ago. Or maybe this second book was just the same old song and dance, with no improvements to help keep the idea fresh.

In any case, it’s like a wise man once said (probably):

This book fucking sucked.

EDIT: I just posted this review a few minutes ago, and I've already remembered more complaints that warrant listing:

1. Frowns: Crichton doesn't appear to know what a "frown" is. His characters frown at the weirdest damned times. It's almost like he knows he wants the character to make some sort of facial expression before they say their line of dialogue, and "frown" is the only one he's ever heard of, so he just keeps going with that.

2. Telling vs. Showing: Crichton, upon introducing a character, loves to give us a two-paragraph background of who that person is. You know, instead of letting that sort of thing come out naturally as a part of character development. It's like a fucking index card with a brief synopsis of the character's past scrawled on it.

3. Incomplete Dialogue: A lot of times, Crichton will cut a character off mid-sentence with some action nearby. Now, don't get me wrong--that's a fine writing convention. It works. But not when you use it a million goddamn times in your story.

Half the time, as another Goodreads reviewer pointed out, it seemed Crichton did this just to fuck with us and make things seem more suspenseful. (Which is pretty weak, when you have to rely on such a tactic so often.) But to me, I also thought there were times where it was just plain sloppy writing, like Crichton didn't really know how to end a character's train of thought in a normal manner, so he decided it was just easier to stop typing mid-sentence and have something growl in the distance. UGH.
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