Less Than Thrilling Thursday: The Great Zoo of China

Posted 15 January, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Less Than Thrilling Thursday: The Great Zoo of ChinaThe Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly
Published by Simon and Schuster on January 27th 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fiction, General, Thrillers
Pages: 416

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have proven the existence of dragons—a landmark discovery no one could ever believe is real, and a scientific revelation that will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing findings within the greatest zoo ever constructed. A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see these fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr. Cassandra Jane “CJ” Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles. The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that the dragons are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong. Of course it can’t…

Aw, man. If I’d read that synopsis before picking up the book, maybe I could have saved myself some time and trouble. So look, call me a Spoiler-McSpoilerson, but I’m going to tell you something you find out in the first five pages of the book – if you haven’t figured it out already. The species the Chinese have obtained to amaze the world are dinosaurs dragons.

This book is basically piece for piece a novelization of the movie Jurassic Park. Sure they’re dragons instead of dinosaurs, it takes place in China instead of Costa Rica. My favorite quote of the book by far is:

“It’s pretty cool and impressive… if you never saw fucking Jurassic Park.”

Also there’s:

“These cable cars are the best in the world. Swiss designed.”

Does that sound anything like John Hammond’s repeated insistence that there is ‘Nothing but the best.’ in Jurassic Park? And so it goes, someone hides in a dumb waiter at some point. The dragons are fierce and intelligent and the humans continually underestimate them. The scrappy but brilliant scientist brings as many people through the park alive as she can. 

There are a few interesting points on how the dragons are bred, the dragon’s intelligence, and the security system dreamed up for the park. But overall, for me this book was entirely too action driven and the action was entirely too predictable. The author didn’t give the characters any time to just sit down and develop, there were non-stop obstacles and someone was always running from a dragon or hanging onto a racing garbage truck for dear life. 

I also got a little giggle from the author interview at the end (bless his heart), he said that he knew there would be inevitable comparisons to Jurassic Park and pointed out where the two diverge. This book is different (says the author, I’m paraphrasing) because it’s set in China, the beasts are dragons not dinosaurs, China is a country looking to make their mark on the world stage not a private company bringing in experts to see a park and determine it’s suitability, and on and on.

Who might enjoy this? People who love the movie Jurassic Park AND love action novels. This one wasn’t for me as I only fit one of those categories, but on the bright side, this novel inspired me to re-read Jurassic Park and pick up Crichton’s The Lost World for the first time. 

What about you, Reader? Can you sink your teeth into an action packed novel even if the characters are flat and one dimensional?

April @ The Steadfast Reader


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