Monday, May 18, 2015

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

Release Date: January 27, 2015
Publisher: Gallery Books
Author Website:

Rating: 4 out 5 stars.

For over forty years, the Chinese government kept a secret while building what would be the rival of any great tourist attraction in the world. With their sights set high, the preeminent zoo officials invited journalists to view the zoo complex ahead of its grand opening. Dr. Cassandra Cameron was among those invited, due in part to her expertise in reptiles. She and the others were astounded the moment the true Great Zoo of China was revealed.

All too soon the excitement shifted to terror as the long-forgotten animals in the zoo launched their own type of welcoming party for the group. Secrets and hidden agendas pushed the limits of cooperation between CJ's group and the zoo staff and resulted in more pain and failed plans. Using all her wits and wisdom, she survived the first brushes with death at the animals' hands, but can she get out of the zoo alive? Will the animals find a way to free themselves and unleash their power upon the entire world before she can find a way to stop them?

Every so often I look through the titles offered at NetGalley and find something a little out of my comfort zone that still intrigued me. When I stumbled upon this book, I figured it would have some action mixed with a surprise or two inside the covers. Right from the first page, the author let loose a big secret. The zoo which China based its hopes to surpass the cultural impact of the US was no ordinary zoo at all. At the beginning of the novel, zoo officials covered up a disturbing incident. This opened the door for the author to introduce one of the strong lead characters, Dr. Cassandra Jane Cameron, commonly known as CJ. Her arrival on behalf of the National Geographic magazine coincided with another tour group of VIPs. Midway through her own tour, all heck broke loose as the animals attempted to take over the zoo.

As an expert on reptiles, CJ was both excited by the prospect of a newly discovered animal to research, but hesitant with so many unknown variables. She and her brother, Hamish, joined another journalist as well as the US Ambassador to the zoo for a informative tour of the zoo. The group arrived at the zoo in style where they met the zoo officials and other scientists. They were given the specifics of how the zoo came to be built and the basics behind the revival of a long-forgotten animal. It was clear from the beginning who had ulterior motives and hidden agendas, but the way the devious characters maneuvered people to do their bidding was subtle and effective. It all added up to a war between two sides, but not the sides you'd expect. These discovered animals were intelligent, fast and ruthless with plan of attack years in the making. Once put into action, the attack tested both animal and human alike.

Many of the characters seemed realistic, especially in the face of such overwhelming odds (or animals the size of jetliners). Some were resourceful and relied on their expertise or specialized training to help them through the various scenarios that they encountered. Others did little more than cower in the corner or follow the lead of the stronger characters. Much of the action really took off once CJ's group began the second leg of their tour. As I mentioned before, the animals were both intelligent and ruthless. Therefore, there weren't a lot of scenes where CJ and those with her could catch their breath. Staying too long in one place was often a very, very bad thing. One event after another kept the story moving forward until the end. The maps and diagrams included in the book helped me to keep track of what was happening and why it mattered.

Overall, I liked this book more than I thought for a couple of reasons. I was happy to see a strong female lead character that relied on her brains and training more than her being a woman. There was a scene toward the beginning of the book where the guests of the tour were given gift bags by the zoo staff. Each bag contained items that the zoo thought would be appropriate in a stereotypical fashion - blue bags with masculine-themed items for the men, pink bags with make-up and other such items for the women. CJ's reaction mirrored mine as I continued to read. The other reason I liked this book was due to the plausibility of something of its kind actually happening. A few months after this edition of the book was published, there was a discovery made in China of several dinosaur eggs. Could life imitate art in their building an actual Great Zoo of China? Time will tell. With believable characters, surprising discoveries and tons of action to keep your pulse racing, this book should be on your TBR list.

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly is currently available at various online retailers and local bookstores. It can be purchased in either hardcover or Kindle (digital) formats. The following is a link to the book's page at Amazon.
The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

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