Releasing in stores and online today, the Jurassic World Universe officially expands with ‘The Evolution of Claire’ – a prequel novel following Claire Dearing during her first months on Isla Nublar.
The Evolution of Claire is a Young Adult novel set within the Jurassic universe by author Tess Sharpe (Barbed Wire Heart, Far From You), and is her first foray into licensed fiction. The story is a personal journey for Claire, written in the first person perspective, overflowing with adventure, spunk, and mystery – the content is wholly Jurassic, while the tone and style embraces its young adult audience.
The story opens with Claire Dearing in 2004 at age 19 returning back home after her first year at college. We’re rapidly introduced to a very different Claire from the films, though she is equally motivated with a clear sense of confidence and decisiveness. She’s not eager to spend much time at home, and is driven to strike out her own life, however she is clearly close with her parents, her sister Karen, and nephew Zach.
Her personal motivations contrast to that of her business focused mind in World: her interests are political, with the goal of championing animal rights. She’s not just interested in their rights from afar, but is an animal lover with a pet lizard and dog, and has a history of becoming involved with the welfare of animals around her. She’s an optimist, believing there is always a morally better option, and it should be the one taken.
It’s soon revealed Claire’s animal interests go deeper than just typical extant animals, and she like many others is deeply enamored by dinosaurs. This is only furthered by the infamous San Diego incident, which revealed to her and the world that the prehistoric creatures existed once again. So when she’s offered an internship by the renowned Masrani Global corporation to spend her summer working at the not yet open Jurassic World – a place shrouded in so much mystery furthered by Simon Masrani’s eccentric marketing that Willy Wonka would be jealous – she of course jumps at the chance.
Claire is galvanized. An internship with one of the most influential individuals and corporations in the world is perhaps the window of opportunity to fortify a position of power in a cutthroat world. She knows how important money is in politics, and is eager to make her dreams a reality for the betterment of animals.
As Claire journeys to Isla Nublar alongside numerous interns of similar ages, she is thrust into a personal journey of growth, camaraderie, and independence. Her challenges involve impressing her hosts at the park, making new friends with her peers, dealing with romantic inclinations, and dealing with the occasional condescending bigot who tries to devalue her and her female peers simply due to their sex. Not to mentions dealing with dinosaurs – from distressed young Triceratops, overly playful Brachiosaurs, and of course, it wouldn’t be Jurassic Park without a Velociraptor.
Tess Sharpe introduces Claire and readers to the nuanced inner workings of Jurassic World, made more complex by the fact the park remains under construction. Claire’s intern duties range from shoveling dino-dung, enthusiastically going hands on with the wild dinos, to working in the Hammond Creation Lab itself alongside the one and only Dr. Henry Wu. Dr. Wu is one of the highlights of the novel, a supporting character who is as intriguing as he can be stern. Dr. Wu is not a villain by a long-shot, but rather a complex and intelligent character who helps shape and inspire Claire during her stay on the island. This surprisingly fleshed out development of Wu makes his seemingly one dimensional villain like portrayal in the World films all the more curious – could his motivations in the films be less sinister than we’re led to believe? This book fully cements that there is more to his story, as while his large hubris remains in tact, he also seems to have a strong moral compass.
Further, Simon Masrani himself features in the novel, and takes a personal interest in Claire’s education and career path. While he is his entirely eccentric and optimistic self, we’re also given a closer look at his capitalistic side, and are given glimpses into how far he is willing to go to bring his dinosaur park and John Hammond’s dream to life. With Claire’s noble steerings, she internally finds herself at odds with many of the choices the park management makes on a day to day basis – the very types of choices we see her making in the 2015 film.
Her internship at Jurassic World goes beyond its intended strains, as she becomes fully engrossed in a rumor of conspiracy and cover up which unravels around her the further she digs. In true Jurassic fashion, hardship is bred from greed, moral boundaries are crossed for a multitude of reasons, eventually leading to the inevitable end: chaos.
As the novel often says: Jurassic World is a place of contradictions, and it is perhaps that very concept which makes the more endearing Dr. Wu, colder Simon Masrani, and adventurous Claire Dearing all the more fascinating. These characters are as complex and unpredictable as the quickly evolving world around them. Control vs chaos, nature vs technology, human idealism vs realism all play out in a sandbox of science and occasional teen drama.
While the young adult leanings of the novel may be more prevalent than some older fans would like, the book naturally finds its place in the Jurassic world. Claire is a strong female character and role model for fans of all ages, and this novel is a much needed reminder: dinosaurs aren’t just for boys. It’s rare to find a large licensed property such as Jurassic so ready and willing to embrace a prevalent female perspective, and Tess Sharpe fully utilize this opportunity to create something unique, relevant, and needed.
The book is engrossing, valid and believable – my largest (small) critique being the interns were allowed to video call their families unmonitored – considering no real footage had leaked from the park, and secrecy was an important and required ingredient prior to the parks opening, this stood out to me. Coupled with the fact that the interns were so young, it’s amazing that no footage hit the world during the events of the novel.
The story itself is a complete arc, neatly revolving around a mystery that furthers Claire’s growth. By the end of the novel, which takes place over a few short months, Claire is changed – however she is not yet the Claire from Jurassic World. There are 10 years of stories and growth that lead her there, and this novel fully leaves room for future installments – and leaves some threads open, pointing to another book on the horizon.
For the canon connoisseurs, this novel is an absolute delight. (Mild spoilers ahead:) It digs into the science of Jurassic World, explaining its enhanced flora growth, prehistoric plants, and dinosaurs nutritional science. We learn that much of the technology of the park is proprietary and groundbreaking, and Masrani Global is working closely without outside sources to enable their use in medical and military applications (such as the Gyrospheres unique and nearly indestructible composition, or organically synthesized fusion bandages).
Though Claire never ventures to Site B, Isla Sorna is alive and kicking in the novel, as dinosaurs are occasionally transported from the island to the park on Isla Nublar. During the events of this novel, all dinosaurs in the park are survivors from Hammond’s time, born or created on Nublar or Sorna during the Jurassic Park era. The entirety of Sorna’s fate is left open, and Claire even comments that Masrani Global is more secretive about that island than Nublar (perhaps a hint there is more to Sorna’s story even now). While the lab is hard at work to create new animals, it seems they’re taking their time, in no hurry to introduce animals unfit for the soon to open resort.
This is perhaps influenced by a medical mystery that has begun to effect some of the dinosaurs on Isla Nublar, forcing the lab to take precautions to prevent the mystery ailment from spreading. This approach involves injecting medication directly into developing eggs, including strong doses of steroids, and I can’t help but muse if that’s why Jurassic World’s dinosaurs seem stumpier and angrier than their Park and real world counterparts.
There is one inconsistency with the lore: all the dinosaurs in the book are referred to as female, however as we know, life found a way. The Park era dinosaurs were both sexes despite the attempted population control, and were breeding on both islands. Perhaps the female terminology was a liberty taken by World staff, referring to them all as female, or an misnomer cultivated by a simple misunderstanding by the some employees that they were in fact female, despite being both sexes. Colin Trevorrow recently took to Twitter recently to further clarify that the dinosaurs of Jurassic World are both male and female, and other forms of population control were enforced.
Considering the novel never unequivocally states all the dinosaurs are female with evidence, this contradiction can be easily explained away in a multitude of ways, and it never undermines the story at play. The only real hiccup that is objectively wrong is the Velociraptor on the cover, a red eyed male of the second subspecies found on Sorna. The novel definitively states the raptor is a female, and has yellow eyes: this would be the female subspecies introduced in Jurassic Park 3, as the classic female variant has green eyes, its male counterpart yellow. This is not a fault of the novel, but rather a small canonical stumble on the part of the otherwise phenomenal jacket art adorning the book.
At nearly 1500 words I’ve barely scratched the surface of what ‘The Evolution of Claire’ has to offer in its 32 chapters spread over 390 pages. Tess Sharpe has smartly crafted an adventure within the Jurassic universe, brought a new life to Claire Dearing, and reawakened the possibilities held within a page, something we haven’t had since Michael Crichton wrote the original novels from which the first two Park films were created. Stories told in novel form is ingrained into the DNA of Jurassic, and this new chapter brings the story to life in excellent form.
No matter your age or interest, I can happily recommend the book, which is a fun and unique romp within a whole new Jurassic World. I hope to read more from Tess in the future, and fully believe this proves the potential for other stories within the growing expanded universe.
The Evolution of Claire is available in stores now at retailers such as Amazon and Target – be sure to pick up your copy today, and sound off in the comments below with your thoughts! As always, stay tuned for everything Jurassic – including our upcoming deep dive interview with the author herself!