A review by C J Dee
Format: Hardcover, 515 pages [excluding an interview with Matthew Reilly about The Great Zoo of China]
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Dr Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameron is the world’s leading expert in large reptiles. CJ is asked to inspect a new zoo in China for National Geographic. With her brother and photographer Hamish in tow, CJ joins a tour group including reporters for the New York Times, the US Ambassador to China, his aide and various Great Zoo of China staff.
The big reveal is made and the group discover what makes this zoo so great. Dragons. Hundreds of dragons, held by technology. However, when the captive dragons sabotage and outsmart the technology, CJ must use her wits and experience to save her countrymen, her brother, and herself.
I was given The Great Zoo of China and told to put down whatever I was reading to read it. I am glad I did. The Great Zoo of China is a fast-paced, action-packed tale of adventure.
CJ Cameron is Matthew Reilly’s first female lead and he has done something that I really wish more writers could do. He has written a strong female lead that does not need to be indignant or domineering to be shown strong. CJ is likeable, deals well with pressure and has a great back story.
The story hits the ground running and doesn’t stop until the credits roll. Readers are taken on an exciting journey through crumbling buildings, crocodile infested swamps, high speed chases, and ravenous dragons ripping people limb from limb.
Reilly mentions in the enclosed interview that Jurassic Park is his favourite novel and the one that led him to a career as an author. As such, it was important that he set The Great Zoo of China apart from arguably the most famous zoo-gone-wild novel. There are certain points that could be construed as derivative: for example, the big reveal, the expert waiting until lunch to drop the hard questions and the small child for whom the intrepid hero feels responsible. However, the similarities only enhance The Great Zoo of China and are not so similar as to be distracting.
The dragons in The Great Zoo of China are remarkably well written. Each of the main dragons have their own personality ranging from vicious to caring to aloof. It is difficult to get to the end of the novel without falling in love with Lucky, the yellowjacket dragon.
If you’re in the market for a fun, action-adventure novel then it is definitely worth picking up a copy of The Great Zoo of China.