Review: The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

The Great Zoo of ChinaAfter last year’s comparably sedate novel, THE TOURNAMENT, Matthew Reilly returns in 2014 with the action-packed blockbuster THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA. Think Crichton’s “Jurassic Park” with the raw speed of Reilly’s “Contest” – then up the stakes to a colossal degree. You’ve never read an action novel like this.

Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameron is our hero. Alongside her brother Hamish, and a cast of ultimately forgettable human allies, she is granted the opportunity to tour China’s newly developed, but intriguingly clandestine zoo. The secrecy was necessary, however, because this isn’t a normal zoo: the animals caged in this enormous man-made arena are in fact dragons, of varying sizes; some as large as airline carriers. Naturally, there are various safeguards in place to prohibit the dragons from escaping the perimeter; various strategies in place should the worst-case scenario occur. And, naturally, all of these failsafe’s fail. When they do, the Great Dragon Zoo of China becomes a battleground for CJ and her friends, as they face titanic-sized aggressors. Soon it’s not just about their survival, though; the dragons are far more intelligent than their human captors have credited them. Suddenly the safeguarding of mankind is in CJ’s hands.

No pressure, right?

Reilly’s latest offering lacks any subtlety. It’s loud and cacophonous – a multitude of exclamation marks pepper these pages – and it’s unapologetic for it. There are the obligatory car-chase sequences and shoot-outs, and death-defying last-minute escapes. Comparisons to Crichton’s “Jurassic Park” are inevitable; they are almost identically framed, with the size of the aggressors being the only real alteration of note; but whereas Crichton’s novel always felt grounded in reality, in theoretical science, THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA is the stuff of sheer fantasy. “Jurassic Park” was genuinely frightening as the dinosaurs stalked their prey; the dragons here are so immense, so impossibly-sized, they become cartoon-like antagonists rather than fearful foes.

THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA is a morass of over-the-top carnage, slight character development, and continuously escalating stakes. It’s a blockbuster only Matthew Reilly could write.

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