Thursday, January 22, 2015

Book Review: The Great Zoo of China, by Matthew Reilly

To say The Great Zoo of China is action packed just doesn't seem like enough. I'm not sure I've ever read a book that was so relentless.

CJ is our main character. She's been invited to write an article for National Geographic on a new, very secret zoo being constructed in China. After she gets there, along with some other reporters and Hamish, her brother and photographer, they discover that this zoo isn't just large -- it's a zoo for dragons.

The tour guides go through all the descriptions of how the dragons have come to be alive and how the zoo is perfectly safe. These very large and dangerous animals are well under control. They have all kinds of barriers to allow visitors to get close, but the dragons will leave them alone. It's perfectly safe. Nothing can happen. Cue the Jurassic Park  music....

The Great Zoo of China has a Jurassic Park theme, and that story is even mentioned by the characters in the book when they are on the tour. There is an added element in that not only do the dragons overcome the safeguards and become lethal, the management of the zoo is also trying to kill all the witnesses!

Did I like CJ? I have no idea. There is basically no character development in The Great Zoo of China. When all hell breaks loose, she takes over. She is way too cool under pressure. As a matter of fact, everyone is too cool. There is no panic, no screaming, no yelling or harsh words or anything. They all just follow what CJ says without question. No one argues. There's even another character that might be more qualified to lead the group, but he doesn't step up. It was weird.

The action is non-stop. I mean that. There's never a break. I think if the group could have reached temporary safety a couple of times and maybe communicated, bonded, built trust, got to know each other, planned together, it would have been more realistic. But we never get to know any of the characters and they don't get to know each other. I've never read a survival story like that.

The Great Zoo of China is very gory. The descriptions are explicit and almost cinematic in their quality. People get their faces ripped off, and things squirt and pop, and, well, you get the idea. Just be prepared for that.

The premise is excellent. The descriptions of the process of hatching the dragons, building the zoo, and all the safeguards seems very plausible. I fell for it. I even bought the innate intelligence of the dragons and how they managed to overpower the humans. I just really didn't like the breakneck pace where the characters just went from one gruesome, deadly encounter to another. And, of course, CJ was always spared -- usually at the very last second in some very unlikely way.

If you like action, The Great Zoo of China is your book. You don't want to miss it. If you like a relentless, fast paced survival story, pick this up. If you enjoyed Jurassic Park, you will probably enjoy The Great Zoo of China. If you need to connect with characters -- you will not get that in this book.

Published by Gallery Books, January 27, 2015
eARC obtained from NetGalley
416 pages

Rating: 3/5

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  1. Sounds like it's not my book- characters trump story for me! Even so, it sound extremely cool and original. Thanks for sharing!
    Esty @ Boarding with Books

  2. This is almost exactly the review I would have written Annette. I totally agree about the lack of character development, but it certainly was exciting, and remarkably plausible. A great review.

  3. I don't think I would be able to get past this book due to all the gore >.<


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