Thursday, March 14, 2019

Book Reviews Reloaded: The Great Zoo of China

This article first appeared on East Niagara Post on May 19, 2015. It is repeated here as I work to put all my book reviews in one place. They will be posted on Thursdays or Fridays and only be altered from the original in that I will add publisher information and pages. Hopefully, by revisiting these reviews, other people might find a book they'd like to pick up for their own enjoyment.
The Great Zoo of China - Matthew Reilly
Pocket Books
484 Pages
I guess considering that Hollywood is dipping back into the shallow end of the pool for ideas and pulling out yet another remake, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see novelists turn to the same thing. In this case, The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly seems like a readymade remake of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. Ironically, some two decades after the initial “Jurassic Park” movie release, Hollywood is releasing “Jurassic World.”

First, let me say that I have been a huge fan of Matthew Reilly’s earlier works. His Scarecrow series and Jack West series are action-packed novels that keep readers turning pages. They are quick, exciting reads that rank near the top of my lists for that genre. When I saw this book sitting on the new releases shelf at the Lockport Library, I grabbed it before anyone else could. I was hoping for another helping of Reilly’s fantastic narrative.
Sometime in the very near future, China has decided that it has to make its own mark on the world. In order to be a superpower like the United States, they have to develop something that will uniquely be known as Chinese. Americans had rock music, the moon landings, and Detroit steel. As China prepares to step to the top of the pile as a world leader, they are looking for something that will define Chinese superiority. The look back into their very long and distinguished history for the answer.
Stealing an idea from “Jurassic Park,” Reilly twists the idea into the Great Zoo of China, populated by dragons. Since dragons are a veritable symbol of that ancient empire, being able to resurrect the mythical, flying beasts would be a uniquely Chinese institution. When a large nest of dragon eggs are discovered, scientists immediately work on being able to bring back the dragons and create a zoo that will stun the world.

Special guests from around the world are invited for a sneak peek at the new zoo and all its treasures. Renowned scientists rub shoulders with diplomats from various nations and journalists from leading media outlets. They are given a private tour of the mammoth facility. There is nothing else like it in the world.

In true “Jurassic Park” fashion, the tour goes horribly wrong as the dragons turn on their masters and people begin to die. One of the guests, CJ Cameron is an expert in reptiles. It is her ingenuity and knowledge that will ultimately save the day, but not before unmentionable carnage and destruction.

Matthew Reilly has a knack for writing action. This book is filled with page after page of near-misses, certain doom, and non-stop action. The narrative keeps you on the edge of your seat, even if it all seems just vaguely familiar. How will our heroes escape the dripping jaws of a violent dragon? Is over the cliff the only escape? Reilly keeps you turning the page in anticipation was your heart beats wildly in your chest.

As with all of Matthew Reilly’s books, The Great Zoo of China is well written and keeps the reader begging for more. Every situation seems dire without a chance for survival, yet each time, the characters escape ready to take on their adversaries. This happens repeatedly throughout the book, progressively getting more unbelievable. However, Reilly does keep his readers enthralled with the written words.

The biggest problem I have with this book is its blatant copycatting of “Jurassic Park.” In an interview at the end of the book, Reilly admits that the Crichton book was a source of inspiration for him. However, he feels that since his story is about dragons rather than dinosaurs, his book can stand on its own merits. Unfortunately, I can’t get past the similarities. There are just too many correlations to the original book.

If you’re looking for an exciting read that will keep you turning the pages, then this could be the book for you. If, however, you’re looking for some originality, you might want to pass and pick up another book. When they decide to pick up the movie option for this novel, they should check to see if Laura Dern is available. I bet it would it would be a great film.

Craig Bacon wrote this review which was written by Craig Bacon. Read it twice. It’s just as good as the first time.