Jurassic World: The Evolution of Claire by Tess Sharpe is a newly-released YA prequel novel to the Jurassic World movies. It is also a point-of-view reversal from Crichton’s Jurassic Park and the spiritual successor to Crichton’s The Lost World, while exploring the main question of the franchise.
Spoiler-free for The Evolution of Claire, but contains unmarked spoilers for previous works in the franchise.
Jurassic Park, the novel, is a story with no character arcs. Alan Grant likes kids from the start. Hammond is an egomaniac who dies. They, along with Ellie Sattler, Ian Malcom, the kids, and the other assorted characters (including a very much alive lawyer), are all static characters. They arrive at the park, their personalities, skill sets, and worldviews fully-formed, and each of these are then used as a means to explore the park’s mystery and overcome its dangers. This is not meant as a criticism of the story, but merely to point out that Jurassic Park is not one of Crichton’s character-focused novels. It’s idea-focused, and part of the fun is exploring the ideas through the lenses of specific personalities. It’s a very Isaac Asimov style.
The Lost World is likewise filled with primarily static characters. A set of people, dropped onto Isla Sorna, where their already-formed personalities, skill sets, and worldviews are put to use. External conflict abounds. However, here we also have Kelly, who is our first dynamic character of the novels, the first to introduce internal conflict.
At the start of the novel, she is harassed by her peers for being a nerd, her only friend being fellow nerd Arby, has a frequently-absent mother, and lives near the poverty line. While smart, she is derided for it, being told that boys won’t like her and that girls are not supposed to be good at math or science. When she finally gets to meet her hero – Sarah Harding – she is immediately concerned she is making a poor impression, that she is not enough to merit her idol’s attention.
In the end, Kelly finds the confidence to trust herself and to trust her own judgement, and that’s what ends up saving everyone’s lives.
The Evolution of Claire, unlike Crichton’s novels, is entirely character-driven. In fact, just as Jurassic Park uses its characters as a lens to explore the park, The Evolution of Claire uses the park to explore Claire.
In this novel, Claire doesn’t need to find her confidence. While she is still highly sensitive to other people’s perceptions of her, she is confident in who she is. She takes no negging, no “not like other girls” flattery, and actively ignores or defies those who try to undercut her self-value. She has already embraced the lesson Kelly had to learn throughout The Lost World.
“I think these people owe you their lives.”
“Not really,” Kelly said, with a little shrug.
Sarah shot her a look. “All your life, people will try to take your accomplishments away from you. Don’t you take it away from yourself.”
–The Lost World (1995), page 421
“I see someone’s taken a women’s studies class.” Wyatt grins meanly. “Come on, we had a deal.”
“Yeah, about that,” I say. “I think I’m going to keep my information to myself. My women’s studies class taught me the worth of my own work – and how guys like to take credit for it.” I smile and put a sharp edge it it, just like he did.
–The Evolution of Claire (2018), pages 258-259
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any where left for her to grow. Throughout the book, Claire finds herself confronted with one particular question: What then do you do with the confidence? Will you be righteous or ruthless, and where is the line between them? Is it a sharp line, or are there shades of grey?
This is simply another angle on the core conflict of the entire franchise:
“Your scientists were so focused on whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” – Ian Malcom, Jurassic Park (1993)
“Your scientists were so confident in what they could do, they were ruthless in their pursuit of it.”
Every movie and book (with the potential exception of Jurassic Park Adventures, a kid’s books series I have not read since elementary school), have people fully confident in either their abilities or their worldviews, and that is ultimately the cause of things going wrong. The danger from ruthless confidence is obvious, it’s what drove Nedry, Dodgeson, the novel version of Hammond, Billy… really anyone trying to make a quick buck off of the dinosaurs. But there is danger from righteous confidence as well. Maise, Owen, and the movie version of Sarah Harding all release dinosaurs upon unsuspecting humans. Trying to patch up the infant Tyrannosaurus Rex brings the parents to the trailers. Alan Grant’s anger in Jurassic Park III drives Billy to suicidal actions.
Most of these characters exist on one side of righteous/ruthless or the other. Hammond is one of the few that exists on both sides, but through two wildly different interpretations of him. Crichton’s Hammond is ruthlessly and greedy and dies at the end of the novel. Spielberg’s Hammond is righteously confident; he genuinely believes in the inspirational power the park will give people – “How can we stand in the light of discovery, and not act?” When his park is proven to be a danger, his opinion shifts in accordance with his righteous personality. So as a whole character, Hammond never actually crosses from ruthless to righteous. He is either fully one or the other.
Claire is one of the character’s we see truly exist on both sides of that line. How Jurassic World and Fallen Kingdom handled either sides, or the shift between them, is a discussion being had on many corners of the internet. What The Evolution of Claire does is provide the context for it all. How do the islands of Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna change people? What is the actual cost of being righteous or ruthless in your confidence? What is the cost of being both?
Malcom’s quote about the line between could/should is about the morality of ideas. Claire’s question about the line between righteous/ruthless is about the people caught up in those ideas.
The very first novel, the one that started it all, used characters to explore the park. Now the latest novel, the latest installment, openly basks in the fact that the perspective has long since flipped, that this is a franchise that uses the park to explore ourselves. The Evolution of Claire is the evolution of Jurassic Park itself.
Jurassic Park was a staple of my childhood, and I am quite frankly astounded that it took me as long as it did to write an essay about it. If you would like to support future essays about Jurassic Park, or other science fiction stories, please support me on Patreon!