by Madeleine L’Engle
Meg Murry doesn’t really fit in for a lot of reasons. She has a quick temper, she’s stubborn, and though she excels at math and science, her attitude in school gets her in trouble constantly. She doesn’t particularly care about that. She does care about her youngest brother, Charles Wallace. Though he’s too young for school, he also shows a peculiar aptitude that has already marked him as different. Moreover, Charles Wallace and Meg’s father has been missing for 4 years. They believe wholeheartedly that he will return, but they have no sign of when or how that might happen. Until a dark and stormy night when one of Charles Wallace’s new friends stops by for a visit. Mrs. Whatsit recently moved to the outskirts of town, along with Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which. They heard a call from Mr. Murry out in the universe, and will take the children to rescue him. Along with Calvin O’Keefe, an older classmate of Meg’s, the group tessers across the universe by wrinkling space and time. They discover the monstrous power of darkness, and of IT, has been holding their father captive. Facing their fears and their faults, the children strive to become warriors of light to rescue Mr. Murry from the darkness.
“A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle is a classic children’s novel originally published in 1960 that still makes regular appearances in classrooms across the country. The writing is ideal for its young adult audience because the plot moves quickly, maintaining a pace of adventure that keeps the pages turning. L’Engle does not underestimate her audience, and sprinkles the story with scientific and linguistic challenges that stretch the mind as well as what’s possible. By casting Charles Wallace as the youngest and sharpest character in the story and giving him the love and protection of his sister, L’Engle gives permission for young kids to embrace their differences without regard to the potential social cost. Indeed, her story tells us that the social consequences don’t matter because the people who do matter will always stick with us. L’Engle also teaches a valuable lesson by hinging a critical plot point on Meg’s ability to accept her faults. The imagery of overcoming darkness with light stands as a versatile metaphor applicable to grief, anger, morality, trust, and countless other themes throughout the book and in life. This novel stands the test of time and remains relevant for readers of all ages and generations.
As much as I love the themes and lessons throughout the book, I distinctly recall this novel being my first introduction to psychological thrillers. Not that this book even remotely fits that category, but the menacing darkness and overwhelming power of IT were pretty scary as a kid. Not to mention the man with the red eyes. The fantasy and possibilities mostly make up for that. As an adult reading the novel now, I can almost finish it in one sitting. Highly recommended for all readers.
by Michael Crichton
Billionaire John Hammond invests significant amounts of money in specific paleontology projects and the latest genetic engineering technology, and shrouds the results of these investments in secrecy on a tiny island off the coast of Costa Rica. After several years of construction, Hammond invites a few of his consultants to the island for a weekend to see what he’s been working on. At first, they are astonished to find that Hammond’s genetic engineering endeavors have recreated dinosaurs, amazed at the possibilities of technology, and thrilled to learn more about the behaviors and habits of these extinct creatures. Everyone except Ian Malcolm, a mathematician that predicted the demise of the endeavor before it even started. However, when the power systems go offline, leaving two tour cars stranded by the T-rex enclosure, the tiny flaws in the system begin to grow exponentially. As the people in the control room try to bring the park back online and under control, paleontologist Alan Grant draws on his knowledge of extinct dinosaurs to try to save himself and two kids touring the park. Although Hammond maintains the feasibility of the park and absolute control over every aspect, the escalating problems and mounting death toll suggest otherwise.
“Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton tells a fantastic and believable story about the possibilities of technology and the simultaneous limits of human ability to wield the power technology offers. Crichton has done thorough research into genetic engineering, paleontology, and chaos theory (a branch of mathematics dealing with dynamic systems), which creates a novel that supports its own premise, tries to close most of the logical loopholes, and leads the reader to believe in the possibility that Jurassic Park could actually exist in reality. In addition to building a believable storyline, the logical explanations and attention to detail also create a reading experience in which the reader feels smarter after having read the novel because they now have basic information about chaos theory, dinosaur behavior, DNA, and other elusive concepts. This is further aided by the specialized knowledge of each character, which makes them inept but acceptable for trying to fix the problems of the park that are well outside their unique areas of expertise. All of this is set in a framework of rapid action, unanswered questions, and shifting perspectives between characters, which builds suspense and urgency by giving the reader more information than what the characters have.
This was a fantastic book, and I can see why it was turned into a movie. Having seen the movie first, I was surprised at the ways in which the plot of the movie diverged from the storyline of the book. The book allows more room for explanations and details, which I appreciate because it enriches the story and increases the plausibility of Jurassic Park. And yes, I will admit that I felt smarter for having read the book because now I can casually mention chaos theory in conversation. Fast-paced and utterly enthralling, this book is hard to put down.