Author: James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
The hype for this week's book proclaims: "Once in a lifetime, a writer puts it all together. This is James Patterson's best book ever" and "ZOO is the thriller he was born to write." The book even has a graphic novel edition. Find out if I felt it was his best, his pinnacle achievement.
Copyright: May 2013 (Grand Central Publishing) 416 pgs
Sensuality: Graphic violence
Mystery Sub-genre: Thriller
Main Characters: Jackson Oz, a young biologist
Setting: Modern day, New York/Washington D.C. primarily
Obtained Through: Library
Jackson Oz was in college pursuing a Biology doctoral degree when he developed his hypothesis that something was going wrong with the entire animal kingdom. He became obsessed with his hypothesis and ended up dropping out of college with only a few classes needed to complete his degree. Thus, he has no degree and the scientific community considers Oz loony and his theory as wild conjecture. Oz has refined his theory, now called HAC: Human-Animal Conflict--animal behavior is changing, displaying hyperaggresive behavior towards humans. Now animal agression has begun to pop up globally and garnering some splashy headlines. Oz is contacted by a friend in Botswana Africa with a tip that there is proof of his theory there in Africa when an entire village is anihalated by lions. Oz, unemployed, immediately flies to Africa.
He gets his proof in a close encounter with a large lion pride made up of all males working as a team to kill humans. During Oz's struggle to get away alive with video, he meets Chloe who barely survived a lion attack of a team of scientists. Naturally Chloe, from France, follows Oz to the U.S. and becomes his girlfriend, but not before finding his chimp has killed somebody in his apartment (the worn out woman-in-a-refrigerator trope used here.) Then there is a five year jump, Oz and several other scientists are working on the HAC crisis which sees world economies crashing from the fallout. Can Oz and the other scientists find out what is causing global animal murder of humans while there are some shreds of civilization remaining?
Jackson Oz lives with a chimpanzee when he is the voice of Human-Animal Conflict theory. He wants to be taken seriously as a legitimate scientist and help figure out what is happening, but he comes across as whinny and short sighted (living with a chimp). Chloe Tousignant, a French Ecologist, is a cardboard character existing mostly for Oz's benefit and only gets a smattering of speaking lines sprinkled throughout the book. She is initially the Damsel in Distress cliché and never really progresses past that. This was a waste of a character, she could have been a layered interesting part of the plot, but no. Attila is Oz's chimpanzee that murders and runs rampant to kill again with a chilling intelligence. President Marlena Hardinson was an opportunity to have a strong female character, but here again the female character fell notably short. President Hardinson is so swept away with grief from her daughter's death at the hands of the family dog that she essentially succumbs to her male advisers telling her how to handle the crisis. Her character is practically non-existent, mowed over, and pathetic. There are many other characters, but in general they all were rather stiff.
The setting jumps around to various locals to give examples of animal violence against humans around the planet. The many settings are portrayed well enough. The plot had potential but never seemed to engage me. I believe that was due largely to the writing style that was elementary, lacking in emotion, stiff, and impersonal with an excess of "telling" rather than "showing." Yes, I really had problems with this novel. Even the cause of the HAC phenomenon has some logic holes. The climax was subtle, so subtle I went back to find it. The wrap-up is a warning to our culture that our immediate gratification mentality and inability to sacrifice for our own survival will be our downfall - a good or even great theme if it had been executed better.
I have read early Patterson books such as "When the Wind Blows" and "Lake House" that I enjoyed. When I read the claims that this was Patterson's best book ever, the one he was born to write, I gave it a try. I was sorely disappointed in this book. Really. If the writing style had used more showing than telling the characters might have blossomed, and if female clichés hadn't been used for every female character of note, it might have reached okay or medium well status.
Rating: Poor - I had to force myself to finish it. Fatally flawed on multiple levels.