BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Monday, August 31, 2015

Bea Reviews The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

Publisher: Gallery Books
Source: the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: January 27, 2015
Challenges: NetGalley and Edelweiss ARCs  | What An Animal
Buying Links: Amazon* | Book Depository* | OmniLit*  | iTunes* | Barnes & Noble
* affiliate links; the blog receives a small commission from purchases made through these links.

Blurb from goodreads:

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…


Bea's Thoughts:

First off, I love that cover. When I was looking up links, I found the book has been released with quite a few covers but this is far and away my favorite. That head, or is it a tail, weaving in between the letters of the author's name, the seal in the middle, the colors, all of it. Striking. That cover lured me in as did the title, then the blurb sold me.

I had a guess about the great secret and I was right! *happy dance* Some of the author's lore was off, especially the Chinese aspects, so I was surprised to see him say in an interview at the back of the book that he did a lot of research. Artistic license, I guess. Bah humbug. But that he put a lot of thought into his creations, there's no doubt. There's an incredible amount of detail. I don't know how spot-on his technological aspects are, but they came across as believable. The story weaves human pride and greed, the desire to play god, and the lure of forbidden knowledge with action, lots of action, violence, and some stereotypes. I've seen reviews that compared it to Jurassic Park and I had that same thought myself as I was reading it. There are definitely similarities, certainly in the themes. More than that and I'll be giving away spoilers.

While the book has lots of action and lots of cool technology, the character development is lacking. Particularly weak were the depictions of the Chinese people; Reilly relied heavily on cliches and stereotypes. Only one of the Chinese characters, an engineer, had any depth to him. The white characters were slightly better but really, you're reading for the action and not the people. I did like the heroine CJ, even if she was a little too perfect at times; smarter, kinder, more ethical than the evil Chinese. Twitch, twitch. There are also a fair number of implausibilities; the book requires a great deal of suspension of belief.

If you like a fast-paced story, with lots of action and cool technology, you can handle or are willing to skim over the gory parts (and there are many), and can overlook the poor character development and all of the cliches, pick up this book. It kept me engaged, I had to know what happened and who would live. It's flawed but enjoyable.


  1. Do you think Reilly was writing FOR another Jurassic Park? It was the very first place I went when I read the synopsis. I think I know the secret from the cover, it's sort of obvious (?), too.

    But you very fairly reviewed this book because there is an audience for this book! I can see this book on my airplanes or with people on vacations. It sounds like an easy read to fill time and keep you company. Although I'm not keen on stereotyping, either :(

    Great job!!

    1. Oh, there's definitely an audience! It's an entertaining few hours full of what-ifs?

      I think he was going for the same audience as Jurassic Park but was he intentionally so similar? Hard to say.

  2. I think I can guess the secret too, and it makes the book very tempting. But I think I would be too annoyed by the inaccurate lore and especially by the ethnic/cultural stereotyping. I'll think about it, but I'm not quite sold yet. Good review - you definitely showed me both what I would love as well as what I might hate, and that's what I want in a review!

    1. Your guess it probably right. :D And I am trying to put down the differences from lore as artistic license. The stereotyping bothered me and the violence was a bit much at times. Maybe get it from the library instead of spending your own money.

  3. I thought of JP while reading the blurb too. Hmm ... I have a guess of what it might be, and if I'm right, that would be cool. Cool about what it is, not because I'd be right. Of course, being right is always cool. Yeah ... anyway, the book sounds good! lol.

  4. I don't love the stereotyping but I'm okay with the lack of character development. I don't expect too much of it in these kinds of novels though it's always extra special when it does show up. This does sound like a fun read and I think I can guess the secret. I probably won't buy this but this might be a fun library pick.

  5. Well that's sad. Maybe for some people they won't catch the stereotypes, but I'm Asian and grew up with a lot of Chinese friends. While the plot of this novel sounds really cool, I think I'd be sorely disappointed with the lack of "research" or spin to her characters.

    1. Yeah, the stereotyping was very disappointing.

  6. Great review, Bea! I like how you've shown the good and bad. It does sound intriguing, but I don't like to read about too much violence or lots of stereotyping especially characters.

  7. This was a fun one, and I too loved the details. It screamed movie too me, but I certainly enjoyed myself.

    1. It did scream movie. I wouldn't be surprised if it gets adapted.


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