BE ADVISED: The following article contains spoilers for The Evolution of Claire.
Several years after Michael Crichton’s iconic Jurassic Park and The Lost World laid the foundations for the sprawling Jurassic movie verse that Universal Pictures have built, we finally get to build even more Jurassic lore in a novel format. This time, through Tess Sharpe’s The Evolution of Claire.
The Evolution of Claire falls nicely within the gap between Jurassic Park III and Jurassic World – exploring the story of a young Claire Dearing, and how she is an intern on Isla Nublar during the construction of the Jurassic World resort. The book is a fantastic deep dive into Claire’s character – explaining beautifully how the traumas and effects of a dangerous Nublar shape Claire into the cold, calculating and clinical character we meet in Jurassic World before Owen can break through her layers and reveal more of the slightly vulnerable, more sensitive character who we first meet in the beginning chapters of this novel. The Evolution of Claire does a fantastic job of really exploring Claire’s character – delving into how she behaves, and why she behaves the way we she does. Tess has done a fantastic job in working in conjunction with both Universal and Bryce Dallas Howard herself to really align the Claire in the novel with the Claire we see on screen. The novel helps add context and explanation to Claire’s actions, and helps to provide a fulfilling backstory which really compliments the Claire we see fighting sharply for animal’s rights in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
However, The Evolution of Claire doesn’t just focus solely on Claire Dearing – as much as the name may suggest otherwise. We have a whole cast of rich and diverse characters – some new, some returning – who really help to carry the story and build real, strong emotional connections with the story as it unfolds. We have Claire’s fellow interns – from the snobby, brat-like Wyatt (Whom I’m sure we can all compare to someone during our time at school), to the more desperate characters like Tanya and her twin brother Eric, who are on Isla Nublar for far more nefarious reasons. Like the Biosyn plot of the original Jurassic Park – where Lewis Dodgson paid Nedry to obtain embryos from the original site, in The Evolution of Claire, Tanya and Eric are being forced to steal specifications and technology from the new Masrani Global facility on Nublar – all for a rival medical science company who have technology which will save their sister’s life, for a price. This kind of ethical question comes into play towards the end of the novel, but really makes the reader think about technology and all its relevant applications – both good and bad. It also leads to the most traumatizing area of the book – an area focused around the character of Justin.
Justin is introduced as a cute, slightly-geeky character around Claire’s age with similar interests and a passion for business. He instantly hits off with Claire, and the two form quite the small romance which we gradually see grow as we explore the book further. It’s your typical teenage romance – all nerves and bumbling along, but it is well written and really serves to build and elevate both characters and their investments in the park further. It is this sparking romance that impacts us most when reading the novel – as it all goes horrifically wrong. Whilst trying to re-route the power to collect paddock information for the rival technology firm, Eric and Tanya accidentally unlock a Velociraptor which has just been transported to Isla Nublar from Isla Sorna – which is explained to be a hatching ground much like in the days of John Hammond. However, whilst attempting to escape the paddock to relative safety, Justin ultimately sacrifices himself – dying at the claws of the Velociraptor so that Claire may escape. It is this act of sacrifice that shocks readers – and helps to form the traumatized and clinical Claire we met in Jurassic World so well. Seeing an intern die was a shock – and it is a shock which was pleasantly surprising as I did not expect such chaos from a Jurassic World prequel novel.
It is here that it feels appropriate to move onto Simon Masrani’s character – as we learn a lot about his character within this novel. One of the driving components of Claire is finding a previous intern’s journal – despite being told they were the first group. This leads to the discovery of an algae which is harming the Brachiosaurs – but also to the discovery of a cover up, which we ultimately learn, lead to the death of a previous intern and the covering up of their first intern group. It is through these actions, and the dialogue with Masrani towards the end of the novel, that we learn a lot more about this kind and caring man – and the burden of sacrifice and loss upon him. He feels deeply whenever something goes wrong and whenever somebody dies – but he also feels that it is important to not let death ruin somebody’s legacy. In the case of the missing intern, Isobel – Masrani decided that it was better to cover up her death because she truly cared for the dinosaurs – and wanted them to bring happiness to people across the world. Masrani makes the hard decision to cover her death up because, in doing so, he allows her legacy to live on and grow throughout the park. The Evolution of Claire does a fantastic job of building upon Masrani – developing his ethics whilst also showing how the world of business is sometimes murky and blurred. His character in the Novel really adds to the Masrani we meet in Jurassic World, and to Tess’s credit, I feel as though Masrani is arguably one of the most beautifully written characters within the whole book.
We also get to revisit Henry Wu within the novel – and the novel adds a little bit more humanity to Wu’s character, exploring how the events of the first park perhaps effected Wu a little bit more than he lets on. His persistence to create more of these creatures to honour his colleague’s deaths adds a lot more to his persistent cause – and helps to make more sense of his character’s lapses of judgement within Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Wu is, fundamentally, continuing mad science to honour his fallen comrades. The story also introduces a couple of fun park workers – the most memorable being Bertie, an animal trainer who works with the T-Rex, Brachiosaurs and Triceratops, and Oscar – who is a dark, security-focussed individual not too dis-similar from Lambert within Jurassic World Evolution. Adding these additional characters does a fantastic job in adding personality to the Jurassic World we see within the films – reminding us that everyone from the security staff on main street to the paddock workers at the Raptor Pen had a story – and had something which they would have done within the run up to Jurassic World’s opening. It’s interesting as in some areas, I feel as if Tess has opened the flood gates – showing exactly how much scope for additional and meaningful story telling there is within this universe.
The story also feels fulfilling – exploring how different areas of the park have been worked on and why certain features and functions exist. We gain insight into different components – from the construction of the Monorail and how the Mosasaur was a late addition to Jurassic World, to the development of certain paddocks and enclosures, and how the processes to transfer animals were created. Nothing here ever feels forced for the sake of fan appreciation. Everything Tess includes within the story feels logical and conclusive – and really speaks volumes of the kind of faults, errors and corrections that a real theme park may encounter before launch day. You can tell that Tess worked hard to research existing source material in addition to real-life attractions, and the result is a story which feels logical and crucially – makes sense when grounded within the Jurassic Lore. We gain a lot of insight in a short amount of time – and you walk away from this book really longing for more. I want to see more of how Jurassic World was constructed. The roundup of dinosaurs. The capture and sedation of them. This book answers so many questions and adds so much context, whilst at the same time – opening so many more questions. These are questions which I can only hope Universal are willing to invest in – allowing us to get more novels and canonical materials in the future
The book isn’t perfect. Towards the end, the developments perhaps feel a little bit rushed – with a lot happening in a short span of time. And, some characters – such as Vic Hoskins, for example, do not make appearances. But – this could be because there is ample room to tell more stories including these characters soon. What Tess Sharpe has done is produce a fantastic and insightful prequel to Jurassic World. The novel builds upon many characters we already know whilst adding new ones – and everything feels organic and appropriate to the universe. The Evolution of Claire is a fantastic novel – and I hope that it is the start of many more to come under the Jurassic banner.
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