[Review] The Great Zoo of China - Matthew Reilly

Title of Book: The Great Zoo of China
Author: Matthew Reilly
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Year: 2010
Language: English
Format: Hardback
Pages: 393

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…


The simplest summary of this book would be Jurassic Park with dragons. But it’s actually more complicated than that. Dr. 'CJ' Cameron is an expert on reptiles. She's invited (along with other journalists) to a zoo in China to write an article for National Geographic about it. The zoo is so mysterious that the guests knew nothing about it except that the zoo is huge. They found out later the zoo was housing hundreds of dragons. CJ was skeptical with the whole thing since she has first-hand experience with deadly predators almost taking her life, but the guide assured her that the zoo is safe. Everything went smoothly until the dragons started to take control of the zoo.
Reading the summary, people would almost immediately compare this book to Jurassic Park, which is understandable. That's what I did. However, I still think that this book is different from Jurassic Park. First of all, it's about a zoo that keeps dragons. Dragon is a mythical creature. How would the author twist the lore about dragon and make it believable? Well, he did a great job at that. He manages to build a new 'fact' about dragon and even add 'scientific facts' to back up his truth about dragon in this book in a way that makes sense. Even I believed it when I was reading this book. 
One thing that contributes to the awesomeness of this book is of course the dragons. Reilly made up several kinds of dragon to fill his zoo. Again, in a way that makes sense to me. What's interesting is, they are not described as majestic, mythical creatures as many fantasy books do. Instead, they are described as beasts, with realistically terrifying feature. They also have abilities that real predators have, such as how they can sense the increased beating of a wounded animal’s heart (from sharks) or how they have good memories for hunting (from crocodiles). 
The main character is Dr. Cassandra Jane 'CJ' Cameron. She's an expert in reptile, she's also a veterinarian. From the beginning of the book, we know that CJ has a big scar on her face as a result of a deadly struggle with a crocodile. Her experience on this would be revealed later in the book. This feature might seem trivial, but it adds to her background. The way she handles the dragons is realistic considering her experience with crocodiles. Her expertise in reptilian also helps ground the story more. I love how she’s a tough woman, but there are also moments when she doubts herself and feels afraid.
The first part of the book takes a little while, which is understandable. Reilly tries to establish the details and necessary information regarding the zoo and the dragons early on. After that, the book swings into full action. As with action movie, this book is fast-paced and kept me on the edge of my seat. I love how easy to read this book is. Each chapter left me wanting to read more, which is why even though this book is almost 400 pages, I managed to finish it in two days.
Although this book is thrilling and full of action, this book left no room for character development. The event in this book takes place in a day and it’s focused more on how the characters tried to survive the dragon attacks. I don’t even think I could distinguish other characters beside CJ and her brother Hamish. With that being said, I still think it’s a fun book and a good choice if you’re seeking a thrilling adventure read.

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