Mile Bowman, his wife Ellen and their small daughter Tina are vacationing in Costa Rica. When they reach the beach, they allow Tina to go off on her own to enjoy herself. She runs to the water, and then goes into the shade of some palm trees. A lizard about a foot tall with three toes approaches her. She thinks it is cute. But shortly after, Mike and Ellen hear their daughter screaming.
Tina is recovering in a modern hospital in Puntarenas. She had been badly bitten by the lizard. Dr. Cruz, the doctor in charge, assures her parents that she will recover quickly. Another doctor, Dr. Marty Guitierrez, arrives. He identifies the lizard as a Basiliscus amoratus, and says that Tina simply suffered an allergic reaction to a lizard bite. Even though the lizard Tina described and drew does not match the Basiliscus amoratus in key details, Guitierrez remains confident of his diagnosis. As she leaves the hospital, Tina explains to Cruz that the lizard had three toes, made marks on the sand like a bird, and walked like a bird too. When he hears this, Guitierrez admits that he is no longer certain that Tina was bitten by a basilisk lizard.
Two days later, Guitierrez reflects on the fact that basilisk lizards have never been known to bite anyone. He also mulls over recent reports he has heard from local villages of lizards biting children. He suspects that there must be a previously unknown species of lizard on Costa Rica. As he walks along the beach, he sees a monkey with a lizard in its jaws. The lizard has brown stripes, just like the one that attacked Tina. He fires a tranquilizer dart at it, and retrieves the dead lizard. He decides to send it to Edward H. Simpson at Columbia University in New York, who is the world’s leading authority on lizards.
Simpson is away on a field trip, so his lab sends the lizard, which they describe as “basiliscus amoratus with three-toed genetic anomaly” to the Tropical Diseases Laboratory of Columbia University. The TDL finds no evidence that it carries any disease. Dr. Stone at the TDL faxes this information to Guitierrez, who erroneously assumes that Columbia University has confirmed that the specimen was a basiliscus amoratus. He is reassured, and assumes there is no health hazard in Costa Rica. The lizard had been driven from the jungle into a new habitat and would soon settle down and the biting incidents would end. At the clinic in Bahía Anasco, three lizards crouch in a room with a newborn baby. One of them tears a chunk of flesh from the baby. Then all three lizards flee into the night as the midwife screams.
The Shape of the Data
The midwife, Elena Morales, decides not to report the attacks, because she might be criticized for leaving the baby alone. The death is reported as SIDS (sudden death infant syndrome). At the Tropical Diseases Laboratory, a technician named Alice Levin sees Tina’s drawing of the lizard and says it is a dinosaur. Stone scoffs, but she insists it looks exactly like a small dinosaur. She suggests taking the remains to the Museum of Natural History, but Stone refuses. He says identification can wait until Dr. Simpson returns from Borneo. The fragment of the lizard is put back into the freezer.
The suspense-thriller genre in which Crichton writes depends heavily on the technique known as foreshadowing, in which an event or a remark by a character gives an ominous taste of what may be coming later. Foreshadowing can also involve giving the reader hints or small doses of events that are only developed fully later. Crichton uses foreshadowing extensively in Jurassic Park. It helps him to create the suspense he needs to engage the reader’s interest. One example is the incident in the Prologue in which the injured man is brought to the mainland for treatment. His companions say he was in a construction accident, but Bobbie Carter takes one look at his injuries and guesses that he has been mauled.
At the end of the Prologue, Bobbie’s finding of the definition of raptor in her dictionary as “bird of prey” is another piece of foreshadowing.
Many other examples could be found, including Ellen Bowman’s fear that there may be snakes on the beach, and her husband’s assurance that no reptiles could live on a warm beach because they are cold-blooded animals that cannot regulate their own body temperature. The mention of reptiles foreshadows later developments.
The second technique Crichton uses in this early section is dramatic irony. This occurs when the reader knows more than one or several of the characters know. For example, the Bowmans, whose child is bitten by a lizard, know nothing of the incident involving the man supposedly injured in a construction accident. Neither does Dr. Guitierrez. And none of them know of the baby that is attacked by lizard-like creatures, since Elena Morales chooses not to report it. In other words, the reader can see an emerging pattern—an ominous one—that none of the characters can yet see. This adds to the suspense.
The First Iteration also gives Crichton an opportunity to raise some of the scientific questions that the book explores. The piece of innocent dialogue between the Bowmans, for example (mentioned above) helps ease the reader into thinking about the cold-bloodedness of reptiles. A question hotly debated among scientists is whether dinosaurs were cold-blooded or warm-blooded creatures. This will be explored in more detail in the opening chapter of the Third Iteration.
The dictionary description of the raptor as a bird of prey, and the passage at the end of the chapter “New York,” in which the lizards run off, “leaving behind only bloody three-toed tracks, like birds,” are also early hints that will become more significant later, when Grant explains the scientific debate about whether dinosaurs were more like gigantic birds than lizards.