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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Zoo - Michael Ledwidge, James Patterson

Reading the back half of Zoo feels like being pelted by something from the back end of a chimpanzee. Repeatedly. Its a devolution to all the implausibilities and tired stereotypes that are present in the first half, but overshadowed by the development of the plot. Its overriding theme -- that of the basic stupidity of mankind -- might not be so bad, except that, by continuing to read, you feel as though you're living proof of it.


The story, by James Patterson and/or Michael Ledwidge (I'm sick of these star/no-name "collaborations"), isn't even what it pretends to be. Ostensibly, it's about the mammalian branch of the animal kingdom suddenly rising up against mankind. In reality, the authors turn all those dogs, cats, lions, bears, and monkeys into large furry insects. It was either that, I guess, or make them smarter. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.


This is one of the new breed of books that ironically provides a high number of stopping points with its many bite-sized chapters, yet, because you know you can put it down at any time, keeps you reading addictively. The downside, if you pause long enough to think about it, is a sense that the whole thing has been dumbed down to a child's level. Or that it was specifically written for the ADD crowd. But in this case, it's the authors who seem unable to stay on point.


One particularly funny example has them telling us on one page how citizens have begun boarding up their homes as if there were a plague afoot. Two short pages earlier, however, we read about women attending yoga classes and children going to school. Be careful walking to school, Timmy.  Don't get mauled by any wild dogs.


The larger world is a real problem for Patterson and Ledwidge, who seem to believe it's still 1950 and the government can squash any story it doesn't like. All across the nation, let alone the world, men, women, and children are being killed by a vicious potpourri of animals, but the press and the people remain clueless. Until they don't. Then, remarkably, they are clueless again. If ever a book by multiple authors read like a book by multiple authors, this is it.


No better is the smaller world inhabited by our hero, Jackson Oz. He's a brilliant scientist who never obtained a degree because he got sidetracked by data suggesting that animal attacks on humans are increasing at a startling rate. He tries to raise the alarm, but is largely ignored. Why? Well, he believes it is because, in the scientific community, he is merely "Mister" Oz. But I think it may be because he goes by the name of a character from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. A werewolf, no less.


We know, of course, that sooner or later he must be heard, but any hope that this will serve to settle the story down is quickly dashed. His new scientist buddies exist simply to validate him and his theories, his government contacts are all dumb bureaucrats, and the military is overrun with arrogant fools who think they can bomb the animals back to the twentieth century. His only real consolation is a gorgeous French scientist he meets in Africa who falls in love with him right after his pushy American girlfriend dumps him. Serendipity in the Serengeti. Or something like that.


Zoo is well named, but the literary conventions on display are as frightening as any wild animal.