SHELF LIFE

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The Independent Culture
2 The Lost World by Michael Crichton, Century pounds 15.99. John Hammond's dinosaur island Jurassic Park has been obliterated, its founder killed and its monsters destroyed: so how come there are reports of mighty big lizards down Costa Rica way? Wealthy palaeontologist Richard Levine, on the trail of that old chestnut, the land that time forgot, heads out to yet another secret island only to disappear. His scientist colleagues - crippled Ian Malcolm, brainy but beautiful animal behaviourist Sarah Harding (how about Sandra Bullock for the film role?), mechanically minded Eddie and engineering professor Jack Thorne - track him via his bleeper. They know he's injured but not dead, and set off in excited pursuit. They have all the latest equipment, specially designed vehicles, whizzo electronic systems ... what could possibly go wrong? For a start, two obnoxiously clever 12-year-olds manage to stow away: rich, black computer genius Arby and poor, white lateral-thinker Kelly, not so much characters as exercises in post-OJ political correctness. And bringing up the rear is an evil geneticist, Lewis Dodgson, with dreams of a game park where executives can trap their own Triceratops to mount in the boardroom. "How many can claim to have a snarling tyrannosaurus head hanging above the wet bar?"

So what exactly is the mysterious Site B, also known as the accursed Isla Sorna? It turns out that Levine and crew have stumbled on Hammond's hatchery, where scientists raised baby dinosaurs, tagged them and released them to run wild. Thanks to a state-of-the-art geothermal generating plant, the deserted island's systems are still working. So the gang wanders about, having near-misses with raptors, Rexes and some jolly little chicken- sized chaps called compys. Crichton has written his story in that snappy movie-treatment style (... and he falls, screaming, into the raptors' lair. CUT TO ...) that saves so much time on storyboarding. And you can guess almost from the start who is going to be the Expendable Goody, doomed to die in a frenzy of snapping jaws.

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