Having recently finished book two of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series, I was in the mood for some light and fast-paced reading that could help scratch the itch I always feel after finishing a really good “up-at-night-can’t-put-it-down-holy-cow-did-that-just-happen” novel. I saw a commercial for the new CBS series Zoo, based on James Paterson and Michael Ledwidge’s 2012 novel of the same name and thought the premise was interesting. So I picked up the ebook and got to reading, putting it to work as the back-scratching piece of literature I was looking for.
Zoo is a science fiction story about non-human mammals rising up and violently attacking humans. That’s pretty much the gist of it. Our protagonist is a young scientist, Jackson Oz, who is obsessed with finding out the reason behind these attacks, trying to convince skeptics in both the scientific community and the government of the impending doom that is coming one rabid dog/lion/dolphin at a time.
I’m not so familiar with Patterson’s work that I can name you all the Alex Cross novels in order, but I’m also not such a stranger that I don’t know who Alex Cross is. He’s Morgan Freeman from that movie, right? The one with spiders? I have read one or two of Patterson’s novels and have found them to be easy reads that work really hard to create urgency in each and every end-of-chapter faux cliffhanger. Zoo is no different.
Most chapters are just a few pages long and early on, chapter breaks feel forced and somewhat arbitrary. The entire novel is written in the first person, using the past tense (as when following our main character) or the present tense (as when following a soon to be attacking animal) depending on the point of view. The writing sometimes gives the novel a rushed or unfinished feel and can seem amateurish in the way it tries really hard to relate to the reader.
I’ll gladly admit thought that it was an intriguing enough idea to keep me genuinely interested in how the story was going to turn out. The idea of animals we take for granted every day such as house pets or zoo animals suddenly and violently turning against us is pretty fascinating. That they do it in a coordinated way is even more so. Not all the writing in the book was bad either. The scene where a group of scientists are spit-balling ideas on what caused the outbreak of animal attacks is particularly well written and felt authentic. I just wish Patterson had perhaps taken a different approach and spent time tightening up the main character.
Considering I came to the book with the open mind of someone looking for a quick reading fix, I was satisfied with the pacing and overall premise. I just wasn’t a super big fan of the actual writing, which depending on who you are, could be an issue.