Great Zoo Of China by Matthew Reilly

I managed to, somehow, not find out what this book was about for eight months... even though I requested the book from Netgalley with my own fair hands. For roughly eight months I thought the book was just about a really epic, yet bog standard zoo. My conclusion for how it happened is that I originally read about it in a buyer's guide at work... for those of you not familiar with these retched things, they are a catalogue of each month's new titles... but once you get to a certain level of success as an author your book descriptions tend to go out the window. This probably means that The Great Zoo of China read something like, "The Chinese government have been keeping a secret for 40 years. From the bestselling author Matthew Reilly." (On a separate note, people who write buyer's guides are going into my Room 101... we know who the book is by, we read it in the header... tell us about the damn storyline!!)

So basically, yes, the Chinese government has been keeping a secret for forty years. It turns out the fantasy novels you've been reading aren't that fantastical after all. Deep in the wilds of China a group of VIPs are being given a tour of the Great Zoo of China, or should I say, the Great Dragon Zoo of China. CJ and her brother are there on behalf of National Geographic, for what should be a luxury, and safe trip. But CJ's instincts are telling her something is wrong, and soon they find out that you shouldn't under estimate a species that has been around longer than you have.

Matthew Reilly books are wonderful adventures, but they're big. Admittedly this is relatively small in comparison to some of his others, I think Ice Station is about 200 pages bigger. They are daunting reads, but only before you actually start to read them. Once you've started, they're always a rollercoaster.

The easiest way to describe this book to you is to say it's Jurassic Park , but with dragons. I can even hear the Jurassic Park theme tune in my head when they see the zoo for the first time. only in this case it's sort of a cross between Jurassic Park and Star Wars... don't ask me why, that's just the mash-up my head is creating.

There's a whole array of characters, the easy going Hamish, joker photographer who's used to a bit of danger, through to the strict government officials who manage to keep secrets from the other characters as well as the reader. If you aren't just satisfied with the human characters, you also get to interact with the dragons and quickly develop some love/hate relationships with them.

I honestly don't know where it should be classified but I guess we start with thriller, work our way over to action, and all the way through it's an adventure... it's so much more than "Jurassic Park with dragons". If I had to hybrid it, I'd say you're looking at something akin to dropping John McClane off in Jurassic Park... yes Die Hard (2) meets Jurassic Park. I'd definitely watch that film, and you should definitely read this book.

I got so caught up in the book that I only wrote four notes, very unlike me, so I thought I'd just share them all with you. Point three contains a spoiler... you have been warned.

  • The word bombardier appears a lot at the beginning, enough for me to find it annoying.
  • CJ's one big question. I loved how this was drawn out, she was restrained when you'd have thought she would have been excited about the discovery.
  • Holy shit they translated the dragons!! The clues are there early, but it doesn't appear until near the end. It's done just right, I think the book would have been challenging to read if there had been more of it through the whole book.
  • "It had been waiting for her. It was again grinning it's smug, self-satisfied smile." I just really enjoyed that line. I was getting a bit of a Toothless vibe from this, I could see it in my head.

You get swept away full force into the action, you're urging them on and ducking and diving in the fights. I have to give it to Reilly, he always manages to make a compulsive read. The only reason I put down this book was because I thought my eyeballs were going to dry out from staying up to read it. I'm raving, I know, I swear I'm not being paid to write this review, it's just a fantastic read. It does leave you wondering if somewhere in the depths of China there's a small army of workers building a great zoo of China...


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