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James Patterson is famed for writing popular thriller series featuring a strong leading character, most notably Alex Cross (The Cross Series) and Lindsey Boxer (The Womens Murder Club), but he has also penned a number of standalone stories. The most recent one of these that i read was Zoo, which he co-writes with Michael Ledwidge. I don't quite understand the co-writing thing Patterson has going on, but I can rarely tell the difference between stories he has written by himself and those he has written with somebody else. Ledwidge is one of the people he writes with regularly.
The animals of the world are demonstrating bizarre and uncharacteristic behaviours that result in vicious attacks against humans. Jackson Oz is a young biologist who dropped out of a prestigious university to focus on his theories about the attacks. He studies them in great detail and travels across the world to confirm his suspicions.
After being involved in one such attack in Africa, he teams up with an ecologist to tell the world and to convince the powers that be what they need to do to stop the crisis that is affecting everyone, everywhere.
The synopsis on the back of the book says that Patterson has been writing unputdownable novels for thirty six years and that this time 'he has written a book that surpasses them all. Zoo is the thriller he was born to write'. I don't think I can agree with this to be honest. I a a big fan of Patterson's books - I find them easy to read and they provide the bit of escapism that I want from these books, but this one just didn't fit that bill for me.
Zoo has the trademark short chapters that any Patterson fan will be familiar with. I like this because it does make it easy to read and to pick up and put down, so you can read it whenever you have a minute. Usually I read a Patterson book in a relatively short time because they are so easy to read, but this one I found a bit more challenging. The subject matter is very technical, because it deals with a lot of the biological make up of animals. As a result there is a lot of technical language that I just didn't want to have to understand. I am sure that it would have been very simple (possibly even too simplistic) for someone who knows about this kind of stuff, but I just wasn't interested so I kind of skim read it and didn't really enjoy it.
The characters are pretty likeable. There are only a few main characters in the story and Patterson has written them well. Jackson Oz is quite a good character to read about - he is a fairly normal guy with a bit of an obsession, but Patterson manages to make the obsession not come across as annoying for the reader. His lady friend is quite a strong character and, again, is pleasant enough to read about. There are some side characters that are a bit more unique and they lend a little bit of comedy to the story but not inappropriately so. Patterson has a habit of making relationships (both friendly and romantic) a bit on the cheesy side and Zoo is no different. The conversations between characters are a little too forced and squirmish to read because they are sometimes a bit fake. An example of this is that he doesn't use any swearing in his books, well very little anyway, and whilst I don't think that every other word should be a curse, in the situations he writes about, it doesn't seem natural that there isn't any.
Zoo is a suspense story and it does have an element of suspense in it, but I thought it was a bit predictable really. For me this wasn't up to Patterson's usual standard. His books in general are quite similar because he follows the same sort of pattern and once you've seen this pattern a few times it becomes quite familiar. Having said that they do tend to maintain some suspense, but in Zoo I just don't think it was there because I knew what was going to happen pretty much all of the time.
Obviously I am not going to reveal the ending of the book, but it was pretty lame really. Patterson has a tendency to finish on a fast paced high and then tie all the loose ends up with an epilogue, but Zoo just seemed to end with no apparent conclusion. I found it really frustrating and felt a bit short changed by it.
I think it's probably obvious that I am not going to be recommending this book. I know some people don't like Patterson books because they are simple and easy to read, but this is exactly what fans like me want from his books and I didn't get any of that from Zoo. It was too complicated a subject matter for me and the story wasn't great.
Available in hardback (£9.45), paperback (£3.85), audio book (£7.85) and kindle download (£3.66) from Amazon.
Paperback edition is 496 pages.