Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book Review - Zoo

Zoo – James Patterson

James Patterson’s collaborations can be a mixed bag although some are always stronger than others. Michael Ledwidge is one of the stronger authors he works with. The premise for Zoo is one of those that filled me with both trepidation and excitement. It sounds kind of cool but could be a disaster if not executed properly.

The blurb:

New York. Mexico. India. California. All around the world, brutal attacks are crippling entire cities. It isn't the work of terrorists, but of animals, and their somehow coordinated assaults are escalating at a terrifying pace.

Jackson Oz, a young biologist, watches the events with an increasing sense of dread. A coordinated lion ambush in Africa demonstrates the enormity of the violence to come. Could it be the beginning of an all-out war on man?

With the help of ecologist Chloe Tousignant, Oz races to warn world leaders before it's too late. The attacks are growing in ferocity, and soon there will be no place left for humans to hide. With wildly inventive imagination and white-knuckle suspense that rivals Michael Crichton at his very best, James Patterson's ZOO is a non-stop thrill-ride from "One of the best of the best." (TIME)

I usually find books that criticise the realism behind the science of a plot to be pedantic. At the end of the day, I am reading a work of fiction and so I expect a certain amount of liberty to be taken. If the words on the page are said with enough conviction and the writing is good then that is enough for me. I will then settle in and enjoy the characters and the plot.
Unfortunately with Zoo this did not happen. The science was reasonable enough. I am sure it is all nonsense but within the confines of the story it worked. The problem was the plot and characters were very lacking.

Jackson Oz is a promising student who dropped out of University to follow his passionate belief that animal attacks on humans were becoming more frequent. He is somewhat of a geek in his lifestyle, has a nymphomaniac of a girlfriend and owns a Chimp to boot. All this is covered in the opening pages. The problem is, once this is set up, Patterson seems to forget about it. Jackson Oz seems to become more savvy and sensible as the book progresses. There is no real sign of the geeky character that would have made for an interesting protagonist.

Not once is, Jackson Oz ever phased by the high ranking officials he comes into contact with. Despite his frustration and cynicism against his detractors this bitterness is never on display.

There are also some truly baffling reactions. When people he loves die, Jackson barely mentions his sorrow. He just moves onto the next situation with a shrug of the shoulders. For an intelligent guy that is convinced HAC (the incident that is turning all the animals) exists, Jackson does not immediately relate the strange behaviour of his chimp and the virus. Why on earth not?

There are other problems I had. The plot fast forwards five years or so and during that time the greatest minds in the world, had not progressed from thinking HAC must be virus. Really? They hadn’t considered anything else?

At the risk of sounding like one of those pedantic reviewers I mentioned earlier I will stop there.

This is not a bad book by any means. There are several redeeming features and some of the scenes with the animals are vivid and could have been tense. I think the main issue is that the book is not overly exciting when it really should be. Jackson Oz should have been on edge and fighting for his life every second, but instead he is rarely troubled and spends his times in meetings, removed from the serious danger.

The ending is detached and a bit careless. Maybe Patterson was going for a profound conclusion, but it certainly does not achieve that. Instead we get a rushed resolution that is swiftly unresolved.

Overall, I was a little disappointed in Zoo. It had its moments but mostly flattered to deceive.

My rating: 6.9