Character: Sarah Harding
Text: The Lost World, by Michael Crichton
Sarah Harding spends most of the first half of The Lost World, well, not really in it much. Mostly because she’s off studying hyenas on the plains of Africa, you know, sciencey brain-work stuff. She exists in these first pages more as this legendary figure – the hero of thirteen-year-old Kelly, a smart but rather lonely girl – and also as sometime not-quite-but-possibly partner of Ian Malcolm, which is alluded to briefly but never acted upon. There is no romantic sub-plot, by the way, if you were worried.
‘Harding compact and muscular, looking young and energetic, in shorts and tee shirt, her short black hair pushed up on her forehead with sunglasses. Her field of study was African predators; lions and hyenas, and she was scheduled to return to Nairobi the next day.’
Harding works as an animal behaviourist in the field alone, and studies those carnivores working at night with her one guide. She’s famous for being tough and resilient – once trekking twenty miles of the Savannah after a car breakdown, and fending off lions by launching rocks at them. Because African Savannah 101: you don’t run from lions.
When she’s invited to join the expedition to Isla Sorna, though unaware of exactly what they’re looking for, she’s intrigued enough to go because she can’t help herself. Her resilience is soon tested when she boards a boat to the island with lead mean guy Dodgson, and finds herself overboard, fighting for life in the waters off the coast of her destination. From that point on Sarah Harding’s ‘take no BS’ button is permanently pressed. Plus, that Dodgson guy, yeah, he’s gets his comeuppance for the boat thing.
‘…she saw that tyrannosaur has his legs in its jaws, and was pulling Dodgson out from under the car. Dodgson wrapped his hand round her boot, trying to drag her with him, trying to hold on. She put her other boot on his face and kicked hard. He let go.’
Harding is a woman who stands back and assesses the situation, ekes out the details until she has the answer she needs, then takes action. And when she takes action, it’s all action. While some other characters are huddled in the corner or already stewing in the belly of the beasts, she’s measuring and taking those risks to get what they need to survive and get the hell off that island. She rescuing Malcolm from a T-Rex attacked trailer falling of the edge of a cliff. She’s punching raptors in the face on a motorbike.
PUNCHING RAPTORS IN THE FACE. ON A MOTORBIKE.
But one the best achievements of her appearance in this book is the inspiration she provides Kelly. You should never meet your heroes. Except perhaps, if you hero is Sarah Harding. Kelly’s character is strengthened and enhanced by her brief acquaintance with her hero which ultimately inspires her to find her own inner strength, which was a good, strong message.
“All your life, other people will try to take your accomplishments away from you. Don’t you take it away from yourself.”
The book itself I wasn’t overly impressed with, but I don’t care what anyone says, nor how ridiculous the story and situation is, or even if it’s hard to imagine someone being that frickin’ cool: when you’ve got someone creating as much damn action as Sarah Harding, it’s hard not to jump along for the ride.
And OK. Maybe the raptor thing is on a par with inspiring young women.