Book Review: The Great Zoo of China

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly is a modern action thriller with a good dose technological science fiction. Reilly is an international best selling author with more than a handful of books which have been translated in to a number of languages and sold around the world.

I tend to stay away from the best seller list with my reading. I know some of it is really good, but I prefer nonfiction and books that have stood up to time. Something did catch my attention about The Great Zoo of China . I am not exactly sure what it was, but something said read it, you’ll like it. I would find that while reading this book that feeling stayed with me.

Reilly sets a perfect stage. China is a rising power and demands respect, but that respect is hard to come by. In todays world, China is the second largest economy and has grown at an unbelievable rate over the last few decades. That growth and power are still second string because China is not a technologically innovative country. Reilly makes use of Apple products, “Designed in California, Made in China.” China is very good at making other peoples stuff, but not very good at developing new technology. Even China’s military marches with knock off AK-47s. Reilly uses this to great effect in the creation of the zoo. Designed in Europe. Marketed by American advertising companies. Technology from Europe. China builds a zoo with everyone’s technology and expertise, except for some crucial secret technology China designs itself.

The star attraction of the zoo seems to be a secret in the book’s press release. All the reader needs to do is look at the cover, and read the quote before the introduction to realize it is not that big of a mystery. The mystery does work to initially draw the reader in and keep him. This seems to be a recurring theme in the book. A scientist at the VIP tour notices that the science the zoo director uses in his presentation is not quite right, however, the presentation does create a clear picture for those in the audience without the scientific background. The scientist accepts this as a teaching tool. The educated reader will also notice the same thing is being done to him or her. The science creates credibility, and although the educated reader will note that it may not play off exactly right, will accept it for what it is. Hubris seems to be a major theme, even for the reader. This creates a trap for the reader. The science and technology drift into science fiction, but the reader hangs on because of the gradual and logical movement from reality. Very well done.

Reilly does an excellent job of creating a believable and accurate picture of China. His science and science fiction is also well done. They fuse together almost flawlessly. There is a point in the book where I felt the story went well beyond science and technology, but by that point I was so wrapped up in the story that it didn’t matter. The Great Zoo of China is very well done and a very fast paced story. It is a thrill a minute with enough real sounding science to keep the reader holding on.

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