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The Thing From the Tar Pits : JURASSIC PARK By Michael Crichton (Alfred A. Knopf: $19.95; 413 pp.)

November 11, 1990|Andrew Ferguson | Ferguson is an editorial writer with Scripps Howard News Service.

Nedry's intestines are neither the first nor the last to be spilled and gnawed in Jurassic Park. In these scenes, Crichton's prose, usually rough-hewn and business-like, takes on an almost sensual vividness. "Nedry stumbled, reaching blindly down to touch the ragged edge of his shirt, and then a thick, slippery mass that was surprisingly warm, and with horror he suddenly knew . . . his guts had fallen out." The vividness increases when you remember that Nedry has spent the afternoon eating Mars Bars.

As unattractive as these passages are, they're almost Johnsonian compared with the dithering of the mathematician Malcolm, who serves as Crichton's Greek chorus. Hubris-of-man and heedlessness-of-science soliloquys flow from him like intestines from a computer nerd. Our "Western training" saps our appreciation of nature, Crichton-Malcolm announces ponderously, and encourages us to conquer nature rather than live harmoniously with it--a tired if once again fashionable idea that has been far more cogently expressed elsewhere.

My pre-publication copy of "Jurassic Park" bears the ominous phrase "Soon to be a major motion picture," raising the suspicion that this fat novel is really a screenplay larded up with a few tons of exposition. A movie would have the advantage of being without Malcolm's dime-store philosophizing, but it would lack too the book's only real virtue: its genuinely interesting discussions of dinosaurs, DNA research, paleontology and chaos theory.

Crichton could have performed a service by using this material to write books of popular science. Instead, he's written a ponderous novel soon to be a major, and undoubtedly trashy, motion picture. Suddenly it seems as if everybody wants to become rich.

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