If there are any haters out there, I’d like to give you the heads up immediately that this is a Matthew Reilly book review – and I looovveee Matthew Reilly books. Despite (or, hey, let’s be honest, because of) the AK-47s, borderline racism towards America and the excessive use of the word AWESOME, I love Matthew Reilly’s books. They’re fun, fast and action-packed: they are basically the equivalent of a blockbuster film, but in book form. Plus, on top of all that, Matthew Reilly seems like a really nice, down-to-earth guy, without all the smugness of other best-selling authors, such as, say…Dan Brown.
The Great Zoo of China follows the unveiling of something extraordinary in China – something that the Chinese government has kept hidden for over 40 years, and which will trump Disneyworld, the Eiffel Tower and, hell, The Great Barrier Reef in one fell swoop. When big reptile expert Dr Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameron, alongside a small group of VIPs, is invited to The Great Zoo of China, she isn’t suspecting the wondrous sights and animals it contains – they also don’t expect the hell that they’ve just willingly entered.
Although the cover pretty much gives it away, I’m not going to state exactly what type of animal is residing inside The Great Zoo of China. I will, however, admit that Reilly’s novel is quite similar to Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park – a similarity that Reilly himself brings up, particularly since he states that Jurassic Park is his ultimate favourite novel (for anyone who hasn’t read Matthew Reilly books before, that statement right them pretty much encompasses his style of writing). And just like Jurassic Park, readers are left screaming at the pages going ‘WHY ARE YOU SO STUPID?’. Oh well.
Like all of Reilly’s novels, The Great Zoo of China is action-packed, fast-moving and incredulous. His main protagonist, a woman! (which, in my mind, makes Reilly a super awesome feminist), is similar to other protagonists Reilly has written about – she is strong, intelligent, a fantastic problem-solver who is good under pressure…and physically scarred (her face shows the battles that she endured in the mouth of a giant crocodile). Not only is she great with giant reptiles, but she’s also apparently a whiz at shooting bazookas, taking down bad guys and avoiding a nuclear blast. Like they say, never get a man to do a woman’s job, right?
There are two things that I love about Reilly’s books, and thankfully The Great Zoo of China is no exception. The first is that Reilly makes reading easy. While I realise that is a weird thing to write, particularly for a publishing student who reads perhaps a tad more than the average person, but the thing is, a lot of novels are hard work, even some of the best. Yet when I read a Matthew Reilly book, I’m not conscious that I’m reading a book (stupid as it sounds), because I’m so wrapped up in the story. Incredibly, this is sometimes what Reilly is critiqued on, but I’m of the firm belief that if a book is easy to read and still highly entertaining, then the writer is doing his job very, very well.
The second aspect of Reilly’s books, particularly his more recent ones, is that they are jam-packed with fun facts: politics, history, economics and geography. Anyone who turns their nose up at fiction because it ‘doesn’t teach them anything’ clearly hasn’t read a Reilly novel, if only for the fact that they will learn more about AK-47s than they thought possible.
(On that ‘fiction is useless’ argument, I’d also like to add that studies have shown that the more a child reads, the more they are able to interpret other’s emotions. So, there.)
The Great Zoo of China is fun, fast and, dare I say it, awesome. Just like all of Matthew Reilly’s books, it contains a lovable, fierce protagonist who is (almost) too good to be true – but hey, that’s the best bit about fiction, isn’t it? Not only will The Great Zoo of China keep you gripped until the final page, but it will make you, once again, wonder why a famous producer hasn’t snapped up the rights and turned Reilly’s books into a film yet.
Have you read The Great Zoo of China? Are you a fan of Matthew Reilly? Let me know!