The Chinese are nothing if they are not good at keeping secrets. For forty years they have been preparing a zoo – a zoo unlike any other in the world with only one animal.
As the Chinese government prepares to finally open this special zoo to the public, they first invite some Western reporters and some VIPs to come and experience the zoo and to meet the animals … dragons. Among the guests is Dr. Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles.
The zoo officials are excited to show off what they’ve been working so hard and so long for. From the many precautions to provide for a space big enough that the dragons can fly but stay contained, as well as the devices used to control the wild creatures to keep them from attacking.
But CJ sees something in one of the creatures when the controlling device (like a dog shock collar) is used. Could it be recognition or even intelligence?
Not long after the VIP guests enter into the zoo itself, the dragons revolt. But this isn’t a wild, sudden frenzy, this appears to be a coordinated assault on the zoo workers (and VIPs) with the aim of breaking free of the zoo restraints and heading out into the world. It’s going to take a reptile expert, like CJ, along with a little luck, to secure the dragons and get out alive.
With the first couple of chapters I really started off enjoying this book. It took me a little bit by surprise (I knew nothing about the story), but in a very good way. But the further I got in the book the less enamored I became.
The book is very straightforward – no subplots to speak of – it just rolls forward, full tilt, and once the action starts (it doesn’t take long) each chapter tries to top the one before it with hard-hitting, fast action. You can practically see the CGI in your head.
The two big problems here are:
1) This feels like it was written for the big screen – but not in a good way. It feels formulaic. Anyone who’s watched a blockbuster film or two could probably predict what will happen next in this book.
2) This feels very much like Jurassic Park but with dragons instead of carnivorous dinosaurs. There’s nothing particularly wrong with Jurassic Park – it’s just we already have it.
I liked that summer blockbuster feel to the book at the start, but it didn’t really develop and instead became a stereotypical trope and predictable, and even, dare I say it, a tad unbelievable. Zoo workers are killed left and right, but that’s okay, we didn’t get to know any of them anyway – they were just redshirts, there to create some slaughter and havoc.
Looking for a good book? If you like your fiction to read like a summer blockbuster movie, complete with predictable outcomes, stereotypes, and common tropes, then The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly should be in your ‘to-be-read’ stack of books.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Great Zoo of China
author: Matthew Reilly
publisher: Gallery Books
hardcover, 393 pages