Author: James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Published By: Vision
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I was looking for a fast read when I hit the local Barnes and Noble the other day. Something that would be different from what I usually read, but would not take me fifty years to read like the average 700-page novel that seems to be the norm these days. It was the cover of ZOO that attracted me - the big bold ZOO in bright red with a piece cleverly torn out of it seemingly by a claw. It was also the name - James Patterson. With that, I rushed home with my newest paperback acquisition.
Animals attacking humans is something that has been happening since the evolution of man. But, according to the research of former Columbia University student Jackson Oz, over the last thirteen years, the number of attacks on humans committed by animals has risen exponentially. And, of late, those attacks are becoming more bizarre, more coordinated. A lion attack in Africa may not seem like something strange, but when the attack is a coordinated one and the attackers are a pride containing only males, one starts to wonder. Even Jackson's own furry friend has been acting strangely...murderously so.
For years, everyone thought that Jackson Oz was just an internet conspiracy kook, ranting and raving about the next apocalypse coming in the form of Human Animal Conflict or HAC. Now, as people are succumbing to attacks by their former pets, attacking bears who are nowhere near their indigenous regions, rats coming up from the sewers to attack in swarms and more, Jackson Oz finds himself becoming a well-sought-after individual. But can Oz and a team of scientists find a way to stop whatever is causing this, or is a new evolution about to take place...one that sees humans wiped off the face of the earth and animals ruling the world?
I was looking for a fast read - found that. Something different from what I usually read - check. But was it as interesting as the cover. I've read James Patterson before - Kiss the Girls, The Women's Murder Club, etc. He usually writes fast paced crime dramas. Teaming with Michael Ledwidge has added a sci-fi edge to his fast-paced dramatic style and it definitely caught my interest.
So did the premise of the book, which is something that I've wondered about in the past. I have often voiced my opinion that the builders of the world are all too often encroaching on the last free ranges of indigenous animal species. With nowhere to go, of course there are bound to be more deer on the road, more bears roaming through neighborhood garbage cans, more wild turkeys chasing cars. The more we encroach on wild animals' domains, the more plausible it becomes that man will be attacked by beast. Add to that the raging pollution, rampant cellphone abuse and ever-increasing reliance on fossil fuels, and the premise of this book surrounding the reasons behind the animal attacks grows even more believable.
The main character, Jackson Oz, is quirky - somewhat like a mad scientist without all of the beakers and test tubes. Yet, somehow, you can't help but like him, what with his compassion for the chimpanzee he rescued and his grim determination to rescue the human race from extermination. Reading through his point of view is interesting, but I loved the special point of view twist found in ZOO. You see, readers are often treated to the point of views of the attacking animals, giving readers a glimpse into the minds of the animals as they are preparing for attack. At times those glimpses are chilling and they often reveal the tiniest bit of information regarding the "whys" behind the attacks.
Having some knowledge of animal behavior helped me discover anomalous behavior in some of the animals in this book, helping me in predicting attacks and aiding me in believing the theory the book's scientists come up with behind them. I love that the theory also holds a warning for the readers...a warning against becoming too dependent upon technology and fossil fuels, something I, too, believe in.
I have to say, I loved reading this book...I even loved the ending, though I'm certain it will not be what anyone reading this book would ordinarily expect. To say more is to give too much away, so I'll keep the rest to myself. But, suffice it to say that I told everyone I knew about ZOO and the more I told them about what I had read so far, the more they seemed interested in checking the book out. I would love to see something like this become a movie. Sure, sci-fi animal attack movies have been done before. Remember Empire of the Ants, Jaws, Orca, Food of the Gods, Piranha, Frogs and more? Certainly, ZOO contains much more of a believable plot than that of Sharknado!
Until someone decides to make ZOO into a sci-fi action thriller, reading the clever novel by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge will have to suffice.