Disclaimer: I got this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
The Great Zoo of China doesn't have a super original plot: China figures out (well, more like stumbles upon) how to make real life dragons. So of course they create a giant, no-expense-spared them park and invite some important people to visit and check it out before it opens to the public? Sound familiar? Replace "China" with "Costa Rica" and "dragons" with "dinosaurs" and you have Jurassic Park.
HOWEVER, Matthew Reilly was smart enough to hit that issue head on and makes a joke about the similarities to Jurassic Park in the book. Which was pretty awesome.The Great Zoo of China may share a similar plot with Jurassic Park, but they are two very different books.
First, the characters. Our main protagonist is CJ Cameron, a reptile specialist who has severe facial scarring due to a crocodile incident a while back. She's a strong female character and even though she comes off as almost too conveniently perfect (she speaks fluent Mandarin which comes in pretty handy numerous times), she's likable. She comes along with her photographer brother, Hamish, who provides some much needed humor. Unfortunately, everyone else is fairly one-note and forgettable.
The action is great. Once everything is set up, it's pretty much non-stop until the end. I definitely didn't get bored and was having a pretty good time through the first half of the book. Then it started getting ridiculous. They lost me once CJ started having conversations with one of the dragons and jumped on his back to ride him around the park. I know, it's a book with DRAGONS, but I prefer to keep at least a little bit of realism in there.
But what bothered me the most? The constant trailing off sentences and italics to express something shocking. It drove me nuts. I don't need a shocking revelation to be in italics in order for it to be shocking. In fact, if ANY of the sentences that were in italics or used ellipsis were just written in normal font, they still would have came across just fine and as intended. It wasn't necessary and was distracting. I don't know if that's normal Matthew Reilly writing because I've never read any of his other books, but it came across as very amateur.
Overall, I did give this book 3 stars because it was fun and engaging, but it may be closer to 2 and a half stars for the issues I talked about above. I think at the core, Reilly had a really great story, but unfortunately it got muddled with some unnecessary distractions.