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Michael Crichton’s ‘Congo’

Posted by at 10:00 am Wednesday, May 17, 2017 in New Pulp, Pulps, Review
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Michael Crichton’s ‘Congo’

'Congo'Mention the name Michael Crichton and most people will think of Jurassic Park (or at least the movies). Maybe some of his other works turned into movies like Andromeda Strain or Westworld.

But, no, this time I look at one novel of his written specifically in the pulp adventure tradition of H. Rider Haggard: Congo (1980).

And, yes, it was turned into a movie. But the book is better.

In Congo, you have several groups of people searching in Africa for the lost city of Zinj. Located near a volcano, the city is the source for rare blue diamonds, which are needed for faster communications. The main group is from a company called ERTS, which needs the diamonds to keep their technological edge. They have already sent and lost an expedition. Everyone in that expedition was all killed by something.

When the new group, lead by a woman and including a “great white hunter” (in the tradition of characters like Allan Quatermain), and a gorilla who can “speak” in sign language, find the lost city, they find a competing expedition also wiped out.

They soon discover the cause: a rare species of “gray apes” that seems a cross between humans and gorillas. They had been breed and trained by the inhabitants of Zinj, long dead, to protect the city and diamond mine. And so they have been killing anyone who discovers the city.

But before the new expedition can obtain anything, everything blows to hell. Literally. The nearby volcano erupts and wipes out the gray apes, the city, and the mine. Only a few from the expedition escape in a hot air balloon.

Interestingly, when Crichton wrote the novel it was intended to be made into a movie, apparently to star Sean Connery, who had been in the recent The Great Train Robbery movie Crichton had done. I’m guessing he would be the “great white hunter.” But at the time wasn’t possible to do the apes, so the project was abandoned.

So we instead got an adaptation in 1995 where they made changes or additions to the storyline. Ernie Hudson‘s character replaced the one that Connery would have played. Laura Linney played the expedition leader, and they added a romantic connection between her and the leader of the earlier expedition that was killed off. Like I said, the movie is okay, but I thought the book was better, more pulpish.

One Comment

  1. Really? I thought the movie was way better than the book. In fact, most of the movie adaptations of Crichton’s books are generally better than the source material. If Laura Linney blasting away with a laser gun at killer gorillas while fleeing from an exploding volcano isn’t pure pulp then I dunno what is.

What do you think?