Today I bring you a very specie edition of A Classic Couple featuring two remarkable books: The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1912) and Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (1990). You may be wondering what a novel by the creator of Sherlock Holmes has to do with the book that inspired my favorite movie. The answer? The Lost World has EVERYTHING to do with Jurassic Park because it’s the classic novel that the contemporary book is based on.
Just in case you’re anything like me and this fact has completely blown your mind, I’ll give you a few moments to recover.
I discovered this connection just a few weeks ago when I was browsing the shelves of Blackwell’s in Oxford and stumbled upon Conan Doyle’s book. I picked it up because I thought it was a funny coincidence that it shares the same title as the sequel to Jurassic Park. My jaw literally dropped when I read the back cover and learned that this was the inspiration for a book that I hold near and dear to my heart. What are the chances?!?!
Usually in this feature I focus on the similarities between classics and their contemporary pairings; however, these two books share so many obvious elements that I actually think comparing them would be rather dull. Instead, today I’ll be discussing the differences between the two novels.
+ Setting. If you’ve read or seen the film Jurassic Park then you know that it takes place on the fictional Isla Nublar. Not only does this allow Crichton to write without worrying about being geographically accurate, but it also eliminates the need to discuss any inhabitants of the island. Unfortunately, the fact that The Lost World takes place in the Amazon basin of South America means that the novel is riddled with prejudiced colonial ideology. There is little to distinguish Conan Doyle’s descriptions of the natives that the professors meet and the ape-creatures that violently attack them later on in the novel. This racist view didn’t necessarily surprise me given the publication date of the novel, but it certainly disappointed me.
+ Women. Yet another disappointment in the earlier novel is the near complete absence of women from the story. The only woman we meet is Gladys, who appears at the beginning and end of the novel for the sole purpose of being the narrator’s love interest. While Crichton’s novel could also benefit from a boost of women characters, at least we have Ellie Sattler as an intelligent, brave, complex woman to look up to.
+ Endings. I was surprised and delighted to see how different the conclusions of these two novels are despite their numerous similarities. I don’t want to spoil the endings for anyone, so I won’t share any specific plot details; however, it is enough to say that these two novels present very different views on the relationship between science and nature. While the earlier novel celebrates this scientific expedition as a glorious conquest that should be continued and used as a means of profit, the later novel condemns Jurassic Park as a dangerous yet futile attempt by humans to control nature. Perhaps this contrast can give us important insights into how we viewed scientific advancements at the beginning and end of the twentieth century.
Despite its problematic elements, I still very much enjoyed reading The Lost World and seeing how it compares to its contemporary counterpart. While I appreciate the earlier novel for its originality, I nevertheless must admit that Crichton’s Jurassic Park will always come first for me.
Click here to check out other Classic Couples from past posts.
What do you think of this classic couple? What other books would you pair with Jurassic Park? What are your thoughts on either or both of these books? Let me know in the comments section below!