A group of Americans, including a Senator, a famous news reporter, and a prominent herpetologist, are invited by the Chinese government to take a tour of their one of a kind zoo before it’s grand opening. Imagine their surprise when they discover the main attraction is dragons! Of course the protective systems in place, fail and it’s anyone’s guess as to who will make out alive.
Oh gosh. Where do I start? Okay, obviously this is similar to Jurassic Park. Matthew Reilly says in his afterward that The Great Zoo of China was inspired by Michael Crichton’ s masterpiece. I’ll leave it to you as to whether or not this is an homage or just a total ripoff. I’m going to get the negatives out of the way first. Like the scientists in Jurassic Park, their Chinese counterparts have played with the DNA of dinosaurs. In this case they’ve been able to bring to life what they call Archosaurs, which are like Pterodactyls, only nastier. One official even references the occurrences at Jurassic Park. All I could think was: “Why are you doing this? Have you learned nothing?” Of course they control their 232 dragons using some extremely cruel methods. No surprise that the dragons grow to resent their captors and plot revenge. I kind of felt like this:
Unfortunately the group of American visitors are caught in the middle between vengeful dragons and the Chinese government who will do anything to cover-up this unfolding disaster. Now to the characters. They were pretty much one dimensional. You had your dyed in the wool corrupt Chinese whose sole concern is out-doing the United States, and your heroic Americans, led by the respected herpetologist CJ Cameron, who is making a comeback in her field after she was hideously injured while rescuing a child from a crocodile. I’ve got to tell you, if you ever find yourself battling dragons, you want this woman on your team! She can battle multiple dragons, scale mountains, dispatch villains, and leap over tall buildings in a single bound! Oops, sorry. That last one was Superman. Still, you get the general idea. She’s just a little too kick-ass. But this brings me to what I liked about the book. It was nice seeing such a strong female character even if she is a bit cartoonish. Plus CJ develops a bond with one of the nicer dragons (yes, there’s a group of those), which is kind of sweet. The action begins on the first page so it’s a pretty quick read. The descriptions of the dragons are beautiful, and you find yourself admiring them even as you’re cringing at the myriad of gruesome ways they choose to dispatch their victims. So at the end of the book I was left with this picture and quote from Harry Potter: “Marvelous creatures, dragons.” ~ Mad Eye Moody/Barry Crouch Jr.
In reference to dragons and The Great Zoo of China? Marvelous? Not so much.