Zoo (Zoo #1) by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Zoo - Michael Ledwidge, James Patterson

Animal attacks are starting to occur at a startling frequency.  The only scientist in the world tracking this development is Jackson Oz.  He is ABD on his PhD but cannot stop working on the attacks, despite becoming the laughing stock of the scientific community.  Oz is certain that if something isn't done soon, they may reach a point of no return.  Finally, the animal attacks reach a level which the world can no longer deny and Oz and a group of scientists are in a race against time to figure out what is setting the animals off.  It's no understatement to say that the fate of civilization rests in the balance and Oz feels the weight of it all solidly on his shoulders.

I picked up this book because of the CBS show Zoo. I love examining how media changes across format.  Those who are worried about spoilers can rest assured because while the basic premise of the book and the television show are the same, quite a few characters are different and the cause of the animal revolt is different.

Zoo gives us several different POV throughout the story.  Unfortunately, they pretty much all sound the same.  I like the idea of learning what is going through the various minds of the animals who are attacking but they shouldn't sound just like Oz, the protagonist.  It's a basic rule in writing a novel, all characters should have their own unique voice to tell an interesting novel and at least on this level, I would say that Patterson and Ledwidge failed.

Jackson Oz is ADD and is therefore a disabled protagonist.  That being said, none of the issues which people who have ADD deal with on a daily basis ever really appear in the story. It's as though he is ADD in name only. In my head, Oz sounded a lot like any character played by Bruce Willis. When the Humvee Oz is riding in gets attacked by a bear, he snarks to himself about the bears not being sent by AAA.  It's the typical action hero banter coupled with some ridiculous hypermasculinity and by about halfway through the story, I was really tired of it.   Oz is essentially set up as the white man saving the world which is an annoying trope all too common in dystopian style books.  He's the lone voice in the dark sounding the alarm and the only person capable of putting the pieces together regarding the cause. Anyone who challenges his assertions is obviously an asshole trying to make Oz feel small.  He's actually insulted by being called his own damn name.  ABD does not make one a doctor, no matter how much his sensitive little fee fees were wounded by being reminded of the truth.

Despite all of Oz's bluster, we are supposed to believe that at the end of the day, Oz is simply a brilliant man who has been discounted by the powers that be.  Any every man that we are all meant to relate to. Here's the deal, if Oz is so smart, why did he ask his ex girlfriend to check in on his pet chimp Attila while he went off to Africa to investigate lion attacks?  Why would anyone put someone they care about at risk that way, particularly given that even without the supposed pheromone which has been sending out attack signals to all animals, chimps are dangerous to be around? It's particularly problematic that Oz even acknowledges that the day is coming when Attila won't be able to live with him anymore. According to Scientific American, "Chimpanzee males have been measured as having five times the arm strength as a human male," and if that doesn't get you they also have huge canine teeth. Chimps have been known to be aggressive if approached or if they feel threatened.  Oz makes a big deal about the fact that Attila was not a fan of his ex girlfriend and still yet, he asked her to feed him once a day.  Obviously, it was no surprise that she ended up dead because of Oz's conceit.  Years later, though he made this mistake with Atilla, he is absolutely incredulous when the public doesn't want to believe that their pet dogs are dangerous.  If  the great and supposedly intelligent Oz didn't figure it out, why should the rest of humanity just jump to get rid of their beloved pets?

We all know that the protagonist at the end of times story cannot be without a love interest.  After Attila mauls Natalie to death, Oz ends up marrying biologist Chloe Tousignant, whom he saves from a group of crocodile. Chloe, unlike Oz is credentialed and yet, she offers very little competency to the search for the origin of HAC.  If that were not enough, each time Oz mentions her or thinks about her, all he talks about is Chloe's physical beauty. Not once does he mention her intelligence.  Like her husband, Chloe also deals with a disability and has a history of anxiety and panic attacks; however, Chloe's disability manifests itself when she and her son are threatened.  It feels like it is play on the part of the authors to further play up on Chloe's vulnerability and waif like countenance.

 

 

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Source: http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2016/04/zoo-zoo-1-by-james-patterson-and.html