Though I have to say I found the story to be a bit hodgepodge, with fairly diverse elements converging together, it was all relative to the story, for the most part. There are some items that I didn’t feel needed to be included; and there are some amazing technologies that truly didn’t seem to fit with the era this book was supposedly based in. Like a software program that takes about a day to learn how to translate the language of a group of apes using only a few small sample verbal recordings, and yet Crichton imagined these apes to speak concurrently with both voices (grunts and huffs) and hand gestures. Though only the vocals were analyzed, the software program was still able to translate enough of the language to let the scientists communicate with the apes.
The basic story is this: a mining corporation is in pursuit of a type of diamond that has little value from the perspective of fashion, due to the tainted blue coloring, but has enormous value for computer hardware applications. Their exploration team, deep in the Congo, suddenly stops reporting, and when the home office obtains control of the video equipment and is able to use it to view the campsite where the team was stationed, they find a grim scene.
One of their most talented scientists decides she is going to take it on herself to lead the next team, even though she has zero field experience. (Okay, I'll suspend disbelief and just run with it.) However, it seems the company is far more interested in finding the diamonds and doesn't care about recovering the bodies or equipment from the last team. Based on a few seconds of video footage they were able to capture from the event that killed their previous team, Ross decides she wants to take a primate expert with her, and contacts a scientist who is experimenting with teaching communication skills to a young female ape named Amy, who becomes an important figure in the story, and even has a good portion of dialogue throughout. As per any good thriller, there are setbacks around every corner, and the team is forced to navigate around those while all the time racing against an international conglomerate set on beating them to the discovery of the diamonds.
I did find the setbacks and conflicts to be handled far too easily. For example, in one part, the aircraft the team is using is suddenly under fire from radar controlled anti-aircraft missiles being launched from the ground, and they're just like, "Let's open the back cargo door and throw out some chaff." Problem solved.
As mentioned earlier, the overall quality of the writing and the story are well crafted, however, there are several points during which Crichton takes the reader on a lengthy and mostly unnecessary sidebar. For example, though the action and intrigue in one section is becoming fairly intense, we suddenly spend 4 or 5 pages getting a history lesson on one of the technologies used in the book. This happens several times throughout the novel, so it appears to be intentionally written this way. I found those parts to be long-winded, distracting, and fairly dull.
The end of the book also appears to have been written specifically with the hope that the book would become either a movie or perhaps a video game. There are so many final conflicts that merge together at the exact time, it’s almost impossible to believe the heroes will ever survive. And then, suddenly, it’s over. The team does exactly what they need to do to get out of every conflict that cropped up in the final chapter and we are left with a fairly small epilogue to wrap everything up, which it really doesn’t do.
Overall I’m giving this one 3.5 stars, and I’m crossing my fingers that the next Crichton novel I read is better.