"The Lost World" was much better on paper than it was on film. The film took a great deal of liberties with the story, going as far as adding entirely new characters and plotlines as well as borrowing from "Jurassic Park" to move the story along. This review, however, is of Michael Crichton's wonderful book and not the film loosely based on it.
I'm one of those people who usually sees a film before I read the book it is based on. With the "Jurassic Park" flicks, I really enjoyed the first one and hated the second one. With this in mind I was hesitant to pick up either of Crichton's dino books. After reading "Jurassic Park" though, I found that not only was the story different, it was much better. That made me wonder if "The Lost World" would do the same. As expected, "The Lost World" did not let me down. It was almost entirely different from the film. The primary plot of this story is that one Richard Levine is curious to find out if a "lost world" actually exists. He has been researching odd animal findings in and around Costa Rica and believes that somehow a few dinosaurs actually survived extinction. Not knowing about John Hammond's business venture in building a dinosaur park where dinos actually exist, he picks the brain of Dr. Ian Malcolm in hopes to convince him to help him seek out this "lost world." Of course, Malcolm is the wonderfully cynical mathematician from "Jurassic Park." He was thought to be dead but through the wonders of the written word, Crichton revives him. As Levine presses Malcolm for help, he eventually decides to go it alone and ends up trapped on Isla Sorna, also known as Site B. At this point the story drops (for the most part) all arguments over evolution and extinction and becomes a rescue mission. Malcolm, along with the likeable Dr. Thorne, the headstrong Dr. Harding, field technician Eddie Carr and two very intelligent stowaways, sets out to save Levine's life and hopefully protect the secrets of Site B.
Of course, no Crichton novel is worth a dime without a decent villain. In this case, we revisit BioSyn's Lewis Dodgson, the catalyst for most of the chaos in the first book. He, along with two counterparts, sets out to collect a few eggs from Site B for his own gain. Dodgson is sinister, calculating and very sure of himself. I'll let you find out for yourself just how much of a problem he becomes in the "lost world."
As in "Jurassic Park," Crichton often goes off on long scientific tangents explaining the habits of lions and jackals in Africa. He also gives drawn out explanations on why or why not the dinosaurs were wiped out by asteroids. But just like in his first dino book, Crichton pours out this information in a way that, to me, doesn't bring the action to a screeching halt. I enjoy reading these little tidbits of scientific information, but I can see where others might find them to be a bit too much info to take in while your being attacked by velociraptors.
Many reviewers find this book to be subpar. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that it is a sequel. Sure, Malcolm shouldn't be back in action, but he's such a fun character that I'm willing to let Crichton slide here. I'll also concede that doctors Harding and Thorne closely resemble Grant and Sattler from the first book. I'll also admit that the two kids are nothing more than a rehash of Hammond's grandchildren. However, Crichton puts a very good spin on an old tale with "The Lost World." In my opinion it moves at a much faster pace than its predecessor. Although the characters aren't very well developed, we are given enough information to care about or hate most of them. Also, there are quite a few differences between the actions and even the biological makeup of many of the dinos in this book and "Jurassic Park," but these differences do help to move the book along.
"The Lost World" isn't a perfect book. It revisits old territory but still manages to give the reader a lesson or two about extinction and chaos theory. I give it five stars because it works wonderfully as an action yarn and it's nice to catch up with one of my favorite characters, Ian Malcolm.