Monday, May 18, 2015

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

"The Great Zoo of China" by Matthew Reilly
First published in 2014
393 pages
My rating: 2 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short Of It:
Big disappointment. The writing was sub-par and the plot was a cliche "Jurassic Park" rip-off. And somehow a book about dragons -- dragons! -- actually managed to bore me. I did a lot of skimming.

The Long Of It:
I was totally intrigued by the premise of "The Great Zoo of China," which is about the unveiling of a gigantic and highly secret free-range zoo complex in China with some very special creatures on display -- dragons. Real live dragons in six different varieties, to be exact.

I went into this novel expecting it to resemble "Jurassic Park" in some ways, but Reilly didn't really bring much original material to the table. Just as you'd expect, a select group of VIPs are invited to tour the zoo before its opening, and things go horrifically wrong. Dragons revolt! People are eaten! And our main character must save the day! (I really don't think that's a spoiler, as one unfortunate scientist dies on page 4.)

Aside from the predictable plot (which, admittedly, did have one slight twist), I really struggled with the writing. It was so bland and repetitive. I also didn't like the overuse of italics or the exclamation points used at the end of sentences to signify action, which was odd to see outside of dialogue. And I was irritated by the author's constant need to point out that everything at the zoo was created, thought up or built somewhere else. I could continue to wax on about issues I had with the writing, but suffice it to say I didn't like it.

On top of that, the characterization was incredibly flat. We learn only the barest bones about our characters, and they really weren't all that interesting or likeable. I found myself hoping the dragons would slaughter them all! The author gives our main character a halfway intriguing backstory and then barely delves into it, and we know very little about the other characters.

And, while the plot was action-packed, that's all it was. Our characters race from disaster to disaster to disaster, barely escaping with their lives each time. Basically, that's all that happens in the entire book -- humans running from dragons and other bad humans. I wanted to learn so much more about the creation of the zoo, the dragons themselves, the science, on and on. But nope, "Great Zoo" reads like a really bad action film.

I had high hopes for this book, but it fell flat for me. The idea of a massive zoo filled with prehistoric fantastical creatures held so much promise, but this novel was just poorly executed. (Although somehow this book has 3.7 stars on Goodreads, so apparently some other readers liked it a lot more than I did.)

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