Pros: One of my favorite genres
Cons: Oh god, it hurts
Rating: 2 out of 5
Zoo, by Michael Ledwidge and James Patterson, falls right into my favorite mix of genres: bio-thriller, adventure, thriller. In it, animals mysteriously start attacking humans all over the globe. Jackson Oz, who’s been predicting something like this for years, suddenly finds people taking his work seriously. Oz ends up working for the government along with a cadre of other scientists, trying to figure out the why behind the attacks. Animals are coming together in greater and greater numbers, and civilization itself becomes endangered.
At first I really enjoyed this book. The genres appeal to me enough that I can enjoy the basic story even without great execution. I loved the stakes of the story:
If I was wrong, I was crazy. If I was right, the world was doomed.
It’s hard to go wrong with those options! I also enjoyed some of the humor, and while the writing was rather florid, that’s a thing I can overlook in this type of adventure/thriller story. I wasn’t thrilled with Oz’s chimp companion; I thought that plot point went out of fashion a couple of decades ago. That said, the authors handle it well enough.
The authors switch back and forth between past tense (any time they write from Oz’s point of view) and present (any time they write from someone else’s PoV). It’s weird and a bit confusing. There’s also a five-year jump at one point, and while ultimately I think the authors made the right choice there, it too seemed confusing at first.
Unfortunately, the book jumped the shark partway through. I mean, dolphin. Jumped the dolphin. When dolphins started leaping into a boat en masse I lost it and laughed my ass off. From there the book grew more and more over-the-top.
The authors sometimes break the pacing with a bit of lecturing or moralizing, and they wrote many of the side characters as stereotypes. My real problem, however, came at the end of the book.
Spoiler Warning: Given the structure of this kind of thriller, I don’t think this spoiler will ruin much of anything, but I include the warning for those folks who want to avoid any kind of tip-off. The climax of the book totally lost me. Given the chemistry of how the characters attacked the problem, I found it completely and utterly unbelievable how quickly the whole world-wide problem melted away. It made no sense. I disbelieve that the kind of changes they’re talking about could act so swiftly, particularly when you’re talking about animals that live in the middle of nowhere. End Spoiler Warning
I enjoyed Zoo reasonably well up until The Dolphin Incident, and it broke down from there. Ultimately I can’t recommend it.