The Lost World (novel)

bones of dinosaur head look menacing
Something has survived.

In Michael Crichton’s novel The Lost World, scientists find genetically-cloned dinosaurs living on a small volcanic island.

Crichton made a name for himself by writing fiction that sounds like reportage, but The Lost World doesn’t even sound like reportage.

The story begins believably enough, with mathematician Ian Malcolm speculating at a seminar of scientists about why dinosaurs became extinct. The verisimilitude disappears when two middle school geniuses get involved.

Before you can say Jurassic Park, Malcolm, paleontologist Richard Levine, field biologist Sarah Harding, applied engineering professor “Doc” Thorne, and Thorne’s foreman Eddie Carr are on the southernmost of Costa Rica’s Five Deaths island.

And the middle-schoolers, who stowed away in the science team’s exploration vehicles, are there, too.

Although there’s plenty of believable detail, such as jargon-rich conversations between scientists, only the most gullible of readers would believe The Lost World is anything but fiction written with Hollywood in mind.  There are high-speed chases, literal cliff-hangers, and blood and gore enough to fill a giant popcorn box.

But for the less-gullible, Crichton includes musings about the history of science, the scientific process, why the dinosaurs disappeared, and the rise of mass culture signals the end of the human species. That material is better than the story.

The Lost World by Michael Crichton
Alfred A. Knopf. ©1955. 393 p.
1995 bestseller #02; my grade: B+

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

The Pelican Brief, a novel

Shadows of a man and a pillar against a marble wall
Whose is the shadow?

Although John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief is described as a legal novel, it reads like an Ian Fleming–Stephen King cross.

The plot is about an attempt to pack the Supreme Court with justices who will be favorable to a new Louisiana oil drilling operation that will mean billions to a secretive donor to the Republican president and extinction to the Louisiana brown pelican.

In a single evening, a professional hit man kills the court’s oldest justice, a liberal, and the court’s youngest justice, a conservative. The FBI is baffled. What reason could anyone have for killing that pair of justices?

Law student Darby Shaw spends a couple days in the library and whips out a cui bono analysis. Her law prof/lover gives her “pelican brief” to a friend in the federal government, who passes it on.

Suddenly the prof is dead and assassins are after Darby.

Darby contacts a Washington Post reporter; together they fight for truth, justice, and the American way.

The bad guy who manipulated the president gets his comeuppances.

Darby and the reporter go off to the Virgin Islands together.

And the President is left practicing his putting in the Oval Office.

The whole thing’s too implausible for fiction.

The Pelican Brief by John Grisham
Doubleday. ©1992. 371 p.
1992 bestseller #2; my grade: C

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni