Friday, December 27, 2013

Zoo, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

I spent a summer a few years ago unemployed.  It was horrible.  I had a lot of free time on my hands and I was spending a lot of that time reading (that’s when I started this blog, actually).  I made the mistake of reading World War Z at the time and, while I enjoyed the book, I spent a lot of time fixated on how I would survive the zombie apocalypse.  I mean, I was really fixated on the idea.  For lack of a better term (and because I love puns), it gnawed at me.  So, needless to say, WWZ made an impression.  While wandering through Chapters doing my traditional Boxing Day stock-up of books, I spotted my latest read, Zoo, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge.  I knew I had to read the book when I saw its tag-line: “People around the world are panicking… and this time it’s not zombies.”  That’s a pretty big gauntlet, and I was intrigued…

Zoo is about a world-wide pandemic that breaks out where animals, who previously viewed humans wearily as being at the top of the food chain, change their social practices and behaviours and turn on man-kind.  Jackson Oz, intrepid biologist, has been tracking the increasing patterns of Human-Animal Conflict for years, but because his idea was roundly dismissed by academia, when the reader meets him, Oz finds himself on the fringe of acceptability.  However, as the problem develops and spreads, Oz is brought in by the powers to be to work on finding a solution.  

This book is an interesting and engaging read.  It presents a unique problem, and forces the reader to evaluate how they interact with the natural world, how important modern conveniences are to them, and what humanity’s self-imposed power-structures mean to their daily lives.  It also made me eye my cat nervously and suspiciously for the entire day.  While I don’t believe he’d try to eat my face, one can never be quite sure…. Kidding.  Kind of.

While I haven’t read a lot of Patterson’s books, I do recognize this one as following the Patterson-esque formula for success; a young, engaging protagonist, a mounting crisis, and a lot of action.  I’d be surprised if I didn’t see this book at the airport bookstore the next time I take a flight, as it’s ideal for reading on a trip; it’s a fast read, you can come and go from it without missing much, and is just interesting enough to dull your need for a drink while waiting on a delayed flight without needing to over-do the cocktails.  

But, for all that (and without giving away the ending), I found that the solution for the problem of animal attacks was pretty easy to guess at, even before the foreshadowing, and the solution that Oz finds was arrived at with very little difficulty and/or effort.  The exposition on this book is massive – it takes up almost 2/3 if not 3/4 of the book – but the climax and resolution to the story come almost too quickly and are further complicated by the addition of some character development of a secondary character that should have occurred earlier in the story, but that didn’t really even need to happen at all.  

So, final verdict?  I would say read this book.  It’s a great escape from the average action book, and the inventive plot is really engaging and well-done.  Does it compete with World War Z as the tag-line implies?  Not really, but it’s still a good read.  But, whatever you do, don’t get too caught up in suspecting Fluffy to be after you.  He’s probably not.  Unless…..

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