Review: The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly
Release Date: January 27, 2015
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 416
Source: book provided by NetGalley for review



It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty 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. Of course it can’t…



Review: The Great Zoo of China is most definitely of the can’t-put-it-down genre. A quarter of the way into the book, the action picked up to the point where it was non-stop. Luckily, I was traveling and at times either stuck in an airport or on a plane so I had plenty of time to turn the pages. I imagine I got plenty of odd looks every time my eyes got big and I muttered, “Oh my God…”

I’m sure many comparisons will be made to Jurassic Park – a natural park setting in which extinct animals (or mythical, in this case) are brought to life and put on display for tourists only to cause mayhem and havoc. There the difference ends though. In the Great Zoo, the dragons are intelligent, problem-solving creatures. They are capable of planning escape and destruction. In fact, they not only plan it but they see the big picture of how to attain their freedom and they all work in unison to break the dome the holds them in.

The heroine, CJ Cameron, is a reptilian veterinarian brought to China by state and zoo officials in the expectation of her giving glowing praises of their Great Zoo. CJ, whose field of expertise is crocodiles, has already seen first hand how cunning reptiles can be and is the first to realize a single dragon attack is not merely an anomaly but rather a prelude to something bigger. Much bigger as it turns out. CJ is a wonderful heroine. She’s one of the few that knows she has to keep her head in order to survive.

Hamish, CJ’s brother, has come along for the ride as her official photographer and together they lead (most) everyone to survival. We don’t see much of Hamish but he comes across as charming and amusing, throwing out the occasional one-liner and playing off his sister beautifully.

There are also a host of secondary characters – the Ambassador to China and his aide, a New York Times reporter, a Twitter reporter, the officials in charge of the zoo, and a young electrician who helps save the day. But the most important characters were the dragons.

I love that there was more than one species of dragon and that each species had it’s own personality. The Red-Bellied Blacks are the cunning clan who started the uprising and have figured out how to get around the ultrasonic sound waves the zoo uses to hold them at bay. Their ingenuity just boggles the mind.

I have never read anything by Reilly before but I am already hunting down his previous novels to catch up. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you need to get your breath-catching, heart-stopping read on, this is it!

Favorite Quote: “The big red truck reached the edge of the runway and banked wildly as it sped around a crushed tank and, with its immense weight, smashed right through the remains of a burning troop truck.”

By time I read the above line, I was at the end of my day-long travels and bone-tired. Instead of ‘burning troop truck’, my brain translated it as ‘burning poop truck’.