After reading a lot of literary fiction, I was in the mood for a less demanding read and the Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly fit the bill. While I’ve read Seven Deadly Wonders and Ice Station and found those fairly interesting, it was difficult to see this one as anything but a tribute to Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park.
We learn the Chinese people have developed a zoo of a magnitude and scale the world has never seen before and a select group of distinguished guests are invited to enjoy the facilities before it is opened to the public. The main attraction it features were once thought creatures of legend but through genetic manipulation, a population of them have been bred. The cover as seen below hints at the type of beast exhibited at this particular zoo.
The more alert guests notice however all is not right and become wary. Some of the zoo residents are not cooperating with their trainers. While on their way to an exhibit, one of the wayward creatures ingeniously removes the control device implanted in it, targets the cable car transporting the guests and from that point on the zoo descends into chaos. Having invested plenty of money and time into this project, the Chinese officials do not want word of this getting out. So the guests need to flee to safety before being silenced by the zoo owners or being challenged as the enemy by the escaped and out of control zoo inhabitants. Dr. Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameron, the main character, who is a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles ends up befriending a friendly creature that ultimately leads to their salvation although some lives are lost along the story arc.
I am confused as to what genre I should assign this book. There are: mythical creatures of fantasy, a genetic interference plot akin to science fiction, an ass-kicking female protagonist driving the action and all these combined culminating in an escape mission for survival also fits it into the category of adventure. As I picked out the Jurassic Park similarities early on, I was able to enjoy it without nitpicking at exaggerations.