The Shore of the Inland Sea
In the summer heat of Montana, paleontologist Alan Grant examines a dinosaur bone in the earth. His assistant Ellie tells him he has a visitor. The visitor is Bob Morris, a lawyer with the Environmental Protection Agency. They go into a trailer to talk. Ellie explains that they are working in that area of Montana because it contains fossils of dinosaur nests and infant dinosaur bones. Morris explains his visit. The EPA is concerned about the activities of the Hammond Foundation, from which Grant has received funding. Morris wants to know why it only funds dinosaur digs at cold-weather sites; why it is buying up large quantities of amber, the yellow resin of dried tree sap, and about the biological preserve it is setting up in Costa Rica.
Grant also prepared a paper for InGen corporation about the dietary habits of juvenile dinosaurs. He did this at the request of the lawyer for InGen, Donald Gennaro, who said he was planning a museum for children to feature baby dinosaurs. Morris says that although they have no evidence yet, they believe the Hammond Foundation is evading the law concerning technology transfer. They purchased three supercomputers and sent them to Costa Rica, as well as twenty-four Hoods, which are automatic gene sequencers. Morris reveals that another American biotech company, Biosyn, has acted irresponsibly and illegally in setting up risky operations in Chile, based on genetic engineering. Grant does not take Morris’s investigation seriously. He thinks John Hammond, head of the Hammond Foundation, is harmless. Then Ellie tells him he has a call from Alice Levin, the technician at the TDL.
Grant and Ellie are pleased with their new finding of infant velociraptor bones. Then a fax arrives from Alice of the X-ray of the lizard remains. Grant is stunned because the X-ray looks exactly like a procompsognathus, an extinct form that flourished during the Triassic period, 220 million years ago. Grant and Ellie decide it is either an amazing discovery or a fake. Hammond calls, worrying about the EPA investigation. He talks about the biological preserve the Foundation owns, an island a hundred miles off the Costa Rican coast. Hammond plans to open it to the public in September of the following year. He gets agitated when Grant tells him about the procompsognathus, and persuades him and Ellie to visit the island for the weekend. He offers to pay them generously, and they agree to go.
Cowan, Swain and Ross
In the San Francisco law firm of Cowan, Swain and Ross, which owns five percent of InGen, there is consternation at the growing problems on the Costa Rican island. The investors are getting nervous. The lawyers, who include Donald Gennaro, InGen general counsel, agree that they must inspect the island. Grant and Ellie are two of the experts they have already hired to do so. A third is a mathematician, Ian Malcolm.
Grant and Ellie examine the blueprints of Hammond’s island project, which he has sent to them. They find it puzzling. It consists of mostly open space, with a network of roads, tunnels and outlying buildings, as well as a man-made lake. The island is split up into six divisions, each separated from the road by a concrete moat and electrified fences. Ellie notes that the dimensions are enormous. The moat is thirty feet wide and resembles a military fortification. The buildings are all concrete, with thick walls. Grant then examines the infant velociraptor fossil, with the help of computer-assisted sonic tomography (CAST). He gives out some information about adult velociraptors. They were the most rapacious dinosaurs that ever lived, and they hunted in packs, although nothing is known about their social behavior in groups.
Gennaro joins Hammond on the flight to Costa Rica. Gennaro regards him as evasive regarding the problems on the island. But Hammond is forthcoming about the progress he has made. There are now 238 animals on the island, and fifteen different species. He speaks of it as the most advanced amusement park in the world. To save costs on personnel, it is automated with the latest computer technology. He insists that everything is fine, although Gennaro knows that it is not.
Grant and Ellie join Hammond and Gennaro. Grant and Ellie take an immediate dislike to Gennaro. They settle down for the flight to Dallas, Texas, after which they fly to Costa Rica.
Target of Opportunity
The Biosyn Corporation of Cupertino, California, calls an emergency meeting of its board of directors. Biosyn is InGen’s rival in the development of what they call “consumer biologicals.” At the meeting, Lewis Dodgson, the aggressive and unethical head of product development at Biosyn, tells the board that InGen has managed to clone dinosaurs and is constructing the greatest tourist attraction in the history of the world. It will be hugely lucrative for InGen, who will patent the animals. The board agrees that Biosyn must obtain samples of InGen’s dinosaurs and then create their own, modifying them slightly to evade the patent. It is left to Dodgson to arrange this industrial espionage.
In the lounge at San Francisco airport, Dodgson meets his contact from InGen. He persuades him to steal frozen dinosaur embryos in exchange for one-and-a-half million dollars, half of which Dodgson already has in his suitcase. The man promises to do the job and be back at San José airport in Costa Rica by Sunday morning.
Ian Malcolm, the mathematician, joins the party at Dallas airport. He says that he has always believed the island resort would be unworkable. He predicts they will have to shut it down. On the flight, he explains to Gennaro exactly why the project will fail. His calculations are based on chaos theory, which says that even simple systems exhibit unpredictable behavior. He confidently expects such unpredictable behavior to manifest on the island.
On the final flight by helicopter to the twenty-two square mile island, which is called Isla Nublar, Hammond’s party is joined by Dennis Nedry, a computer consultant. They make a perfect landing in foggy conditions. A man named Ed Regis welcomes them to the island. On his first sight of his new environment, Grant spots a dinosaur.
Ellie, Gennaro and Grant stare in astonishment at the four dinosaurs they see. Grant identifies them as apatosaurs, commonly known as brontosaurs. They remind him of oversized giraffes.
This section sets up Grant as the practical, knowledgeable, outdoors man who likes to think of himself as standing outside the academic mainstream. He has no patience for academics or museum creators, whom he calls “Teacup Dinosaur Hunters.” He is also not interested in computers and does not understand them. This positions him well to be the hero of the novel, one of the themes of which is the vulnerability of computer technology and the foolishness of putting too much faith in it.
The dangers of genetic engineering are also introduced, in the context of the Biosyn company that behaves irresponsibly with the genetically engineered rabies vaccine that it developed. The name of the company is an obvious clue to the way the reader is supposed to think of it, since “syn” sounds the same as “sin.” It suggests that human attempts to tamper with nature through genetic engineering are misguided.
This section also warns of the dangers of allowing American biotech companies to set up operations in foreign countries in order to evade U.S. federal regulations. Crichton also hauls out a red flag to highlight the fact that genetically engineered animals can be patented, according to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1987.
Finally, this section introduces chaos theory, which is the theoretical underpinning for all the disasters that happen on the island. Appropriately enough, it is advocated and explained by Ian Malcolm, whose distinctive dress (all in black) makes him stand out from the others. It is almost as if he is going to attend a funeral. Malcolm’s first explanation of chaos theory (pp. 75-77) sets up the main conflict of ideas in the novel: chaos theory, that claims that all complex systems are inherently unstable and unpredictable, against the beliefs of people like Hammond, Wu and Arnold. These men believe that the latest computer systems can accurately predict the behavior of living systems. They also believe that biotech inventions can be controlled and confined according to what their inventors wish. The novel will show that Malcolm is correct and the others are wrong.