The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly
It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for 40 years. They have found a species of animal no one believed even existed. It will amaze the world.
Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing discovery within the greatest zoo ever constructed. A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see its fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameron, a writer for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and an expert on reptiles.
The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that they are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong…
When it comes to thrillers from Matthew Reilly, phrases like ‘high octane’ and ‘intense action’ don’t even come close to adequately convey how much insanity he manages to cram into every novel. I’ve come to expect twisty-turny plots that rattle along at a breakneck pace and that I’ll be so caught up that I’ll be frightened to even blink. The good news is that The Great Zoo of China is no exception to this rule.
Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameron is cut from the same hard-core cloth as Reilly’s other action heroes, Shane Schofield and Jack West Jr. She displays that same inner strength and cool under pressure attitude as her literary predecessors, and I warmed to her no-nonsense approach immediately. She’s an instinctive problem solver. Whenever anything goes wrong, and believe me they do, she takes stock and powers through. If I was stuck in a remote location surrounded by deadly animals, and assuming I wasn’t eaten immediately, I would want CJ by my side.
CJ’s brother Hamish is another fun character. The polar opposite to his sister in almost every way, he compliments her strengths and weaknesses. The siblings have a strong bond and know from experience that they can on rely on one another when things go wrong.
The villains of the piece, made up of brutal Chinese military and loathsome officials, are all suitably dastardly. Needless to say, Cassandra and her brother are nothing more than pawns in a greater game, and when trouble start brewing their potential usefulness suddenly expires. Surrounded by enemies, both human and animal, Cassandra and Hamish are in a race to survive.
My favourite Matthew Reilly novel is Ice Station, and as I read further I spotted a couple of similarities between it and The Great Zoo of China. Like Ice Station, most of the action is limited to a single location. Remote locations serve the thriller genre so very well. The cast in both books is also relatively small. It makes sense to keep things self-contained like this, as it creates an extra level of tension.
Reilly has a writing style that really draws you in and I think it can best be described as cinematic. Everything is larger than life like an IMAX experience, explosive and immersive. The chapters are short and punchy finishing on a cliffhanger, often literally. There is no time for pretension here. This is adrenalin fuelled entertainment, pure and simple. Reilly knows exactly what beats he needs to hit in order to ensure his plot never slows to anything other than light-speed. This works for me, I love a good blockbuster and Reilly is producing as close to a literary equivalent as you are going to get. As an aside, I still daydream that some of Reilly’s books will eventually find there way to the big screen. That would be all kinds of awesome.
In a truly unexpected moment of synchronicity, an article appeared online last week that tied in directly with the plot of this book. There is a link to the article here, but be warned click on it at your own peril. I have tried to make a point of dancing around just exactly what the fabulous beasts in the book blurb actually are, but this link confirms it. Click on it at your own risk!
I can only hope the next Matthew Reilly novel will appear soon and if we’re really lucky some of the characters here will feature. Reilly is back doing what he does best, razor sharp, fast paced thrillers where anything goes and very often does. If you like your action turned up to eleven then this is most definitely the book for you. Don’t over think the plot. So what if it is a bit over the over the top, who cares? My advice is to just grab on with both hands and hold tight, it is going to be a hell of a bumpy ride. In a word, The Great Zoo of China is bonkers; I loved every moment of it.
The Great Zoo of China is published by Orion and is available from 12th February.