Book Reviews

Review: The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly


I have a confession – I love Matthew Reilly.

And his books.

Mostly his books, but him as well. He seems like a nice guy, with a great sense of humour.

But back to the books.

For many years I have ranked him in my top three favourite authors. I love his fast-paced, engaging stories that obviously come from a very vivid imagination.

Basically, I wish I had written his books.

So when I saw the proof copy of Reilly’s latest book, The Great Zoo of China, on the desk at work, I quickly snapped it up before anyone else could. I was in China on a two-week holiday earlier this year as well, so I was intrigued to see how he used that as the backdrop to the story.


I was not disappointed!

China is on its way to becoming a modern superpower; they are leaders in manufacturing and they have an intimidating, and sizeable military force. In an effort to become a dominant cultural power to rival the USA, the Chinese government have been working on a highly secretive project for the past forty years – the greatest zoo ever constructed. But this is not just any zoo; this is a zoo to rival Disneyland. This zoo is to house a species of animal that are believed to exist only in myth. This is a zoo of dragons.

The Great Zoo of China introduces us to a new character in the Reilly canon, and his first (adult) female lead – the resilient, fiery and independent Dr. CJ Cameron. CJ, an expert on reptiles and a writer for National Geographic, and a small group of VIPs and journalists have been invited by the Chinese government to preview the zoo and its magnificent creatures. Despite being shown around and reassured that nothing can go wrong, naturally it does. After all, it wouldn’t be a Matthew Reilly book unless something went wrong. And on a drastically huge and life-threatening scale!

True to form, this book had everything I love about a Reilly novel – fast paced storytelling, lots of action, good guys, bad guys, death, destruction, whiz bang tech stuff, monsters, and no time for breathing between crazy action sequences. It is an epic book, with Reilly writing at his explosive best.

However, there were two big things I noticed about the novel that I can already see being the subject of some comments and scrutiny, so I have given my two cents worth on them:

This story isn’t very original – Matthew Reilly has pretty much just re-written Jurassic Park.

Um, no. This is not the case. Yes, that parallel can be drawn and yes it does have similar aspects. Reilly has always said that Jurassic Park is his favourite novel of all time, and he was evidently very aware that people would want to draw parallels between his new book and the classic Crichton novel. Reilly does directly deal with the similarity in the book though, so he is very self-aware of the potential for comparison. I think, if anything, it’s more of an homage to Michael Crichton’s story. I don’t think it’s fair to say that Reilly is being unoriginal here. After all, since when did Jurassic park get as crazy as a Reilly novel?

Matthew Reilly is just jumping on the dragon bandwagon because they have come back into fashion – Smaug (The Hobbit), Drogon (Game of Thrones) and now Reilly’s dragons.

I am pretty sure Matthew Reilly would be chuffed to have his band of dragon creations mentioned in the same breath as Smaug and Drogon. Reilly always spends a great deal of time thinking, researching and developing his ideas for books, so I am sure The Great Zoo of China would be no exception. With that in mind, it would have been years between the initial thought/concept/trigger that got Reilly thinking about this as a novel, and then actually releasing it in all it’s glory. It just so happens that dragons are the craze right now, which certainly won’t hurt book sales!

I devoured this book in 2 days, and cannot wait to buy my own shiny new hardbacked copy on 10th November 2014!

Rating: 5/5


10 thoughts on “Review: The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly”

    1. Thanks for the comment 🙂 Yes, I was lucky enough to make it to Matthew’s book launch event at the start of the week where he talked about coming up with the initial idea in ’03. Good to know I was spot on about his process! 🙂


  1. I have just about completed this book but have to say that overall I am disappointed with this effort. Matthew Reilly has always been one to write big adventure novels with larger than life characters and over exaggerated scenarios which I have normally found fun to immerse in. But in this story, I find the main hero character CJ incredibly unconvincing and the overall story line somewhat silly. Matthew’s previous characters such as Jack West and Scarecrow are so much easier to embrace to a point that you almost feel kike you know them personally. It seems like that Reilly’s character CJ is a female version of these guys, for the sake of having a female heroine for a change. As for the dragons, there is a real inconsistency as to their intelligence. One moment they have worked out how bring down a power supply to shut down the infra red dome, or they rip off their ears so that they can’t be controlled, destroy helicopters with their claws, but can’t seem to work out how to destroy the heroes. As for the talking dragon Lucky….eesh! I usually enjoy Matthew Reilly’s novels and the diversity of story lines he has presented over the years, but this book seems to be an over reaction to the complaints made by readers who didn’t appreciate his last novel, The Tournament!


    1. I know Matthew Reilly’s books aren’t for everyone – one of the ladies I work with just can’t stand his novels! And that’s what makes books and reading so great – that no matter what your tastes or interests, there is something out there for everyone! It’s just a matter of finding what works for you 🙂


      1. Yes! I understand that. But my point is that as a long time Matthew Reilly fan, I have not found his latest offering up to the standard of his previous works. I will always read his books, but this time ha s been somewhat disappointing. Thanks for taking the time to give me your reply 🙂


  2. I also love this book, as well as his other works. As a reader what I don’t understand is why so many are comparing it to Jurassic Park or that he wrote it because of the “Dragon Craze” or whatever its called. Admittedly Matthew Reilly isn’t for everyone but the same could be said about all authors. I think people need to understand that a book concept could be in the author’s head for years. A story like this can’t be thought up and finalised in a year! Your two cents worth on the issues are appreciated.


  3. I think your review is spot on… however I would like to point out that so far, at 50% into the book, one could easily substitute dragons with dinosaurs, alligators with frogs, and YOU DO INDEED have Jurassic Park. So far, I have not become attached to CJ as a character, and as for the action, I’m sure nobody could have withstood all she went through (so far)…

    However, I don’t read Matt Reilly for reality… and that’s okay with me.



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