The Great Zoo of China – Matthew Reilly

It’s almost 4am and I’m high in my usual pattern of insomnia. I’d like to attribute this round of sleeplessness to the recent weather – summer in Australia and the summer solstice has just rolled along. It’s hot, humid and during the day, the house feels like an oven. Some nights bring cool reprieve but others, like tonight, are just stifling, even with the fan on high.

During last nights edition of no sleep for Eva, I managed to acquire the ebook to Matthew Reilly’s latest book The Great Zoo of China. At first glance, anyone could put China + discovered species kept under wrap = dragons. And me, being me I decided to look up reviews of the book prior to reading. They all pretty much said the same thing; Jurassic Park. Fair enough, the author admits he was inspired by Jurassic Park and I was curious. So I took it with a pinch of salt.

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It took me just over 2 hours to finish the book and even with my usual speed and the speed of which Matthew Reillys books go, I was surprised. The first third or so of the book went slowly to set up the rest and to give as much explanation as possible. Do you ever get annoyed with characters in either books, TV or movies who ask the obvious questions just so there can be a little spiel/regurgitation of what the author wants you to know? This third of the book had so much of that. Then you just hit this point where it feels like someone has stomped down on the accelerator and you’re holding on to anything for dear life while the driver laughs maniacally. I’m not going to lie, I was breathless by the end of the book. Marathon runners be damned, binge read some Matthew Reilly and tell me you don’t feel like you’ve just undergone some intensive cardio.

It certainly did not go into as much depth and character building as his Jack West Jr series or his Scarecrow series. The main character, CJ, felt like Mary Jane; perfect bar a purely aesthetic handicap. Her back story was written and worked too conveniently with the plot. You did so well with Scarecrow and Jack West, why can’t you give CJ the same treatment you gave to them? A part of me wants to go on about how it’s because probably doesn’t understand women as well as he understands men but I don’t want to open that can of worms.

I have a slight bone to pick with the plot. While I do not mind spoilers or knowing what to expect by doing some research prior to reading or watching anything, I do not like reading/watching something and going “oh yup, I know exactly what’s going to happen next” and it does. It’s like second hand embarrassment, I don’t deal well with that. Uncomfortable situation on screen making me feel a little squirmy? Nah, fast forward/skip/bye. With Matthew Reillys books, disaster is always around the corner this in itself is to be expected. But not like this Matt, please. Obviously, I understand that this is a personal opinion but take what you will from this.

The reviews, however, were spot on. TGZC felt like a How to Train Your Dragon + Jurassic Park crossover fan fiction. I felt like the ending was slightly anti climatic. It just drops – one page final chapter and that’s it. The ending to the Jack West Jr books was my favourite. There was a massive bang and while it slowed down, it did so at a comfortable speed and by the end of it went very very fuzzy and gave it space for Matthew Reilly to carry on with the series if he felt like. In my opinion, TGZC did not provide for such a space.

If I want something quick, thrilling and something that would give me an adrenaline boost, I would read this again. Matthew, I love your work but unfortunately, this just wasn’t on the same level as the others.

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