Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Zoo - James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

James Patterson gets plenty of flack, but I've read a number of his books that I thought were pretty good. It usually depends on who his co-author is on a particular book, and how over-the-top the plot is. (As you know, it's difficult for a writer to get too over-the-top for my taste.)

ZOO is a stand-alone thriller written with Michael Ledwidge, who's collaborated with Patterson on another stand-alone novel I read a while back, THE QUICKIE. I thought that one was okay. Ledwidge is also the co-author of a series about New York police detective Michael Bennett, and I haven't read any of those.

ZOO is sort of like a Seventies disaster movie. Remember the old Fox TV show "When Animals Attack"? That's pretty much the plot of this one. All over the world, animals suddenly go crazy, start acting in uncharacteristic ways, and attack humans. When it gets bad enough, it leads to the sort of global apocalypse usually associated in fiction with nuclear war or zombies. The narrator for most of the book (Patterson and Ledwidge do a little switching back and forth between first- and third-person, but not to the point of being annoying about it) is likable biologist Jackson Oz, who winds up leading a group of scientists trying to find out what caused this phenomenon and what to do about it before humanity is wiped out.

It's certainly not marketed as such, but ZOO is actually a near-future SF novel. I'm not really enough of a scientist to know if what's behind the sudden rise of animal aggression is possible or not (in the words of the great Neal Barrett, Jr., "Who do I look like to you, Mr. Wizard?"), but it all sounds plausible enough and I suppose that's all that really matters in a book like this. There's plenty of action, good characters to root for, and the story really races along. I assume Ledwidge did the bulk of the writing, and it's good enough I might well check out some of the other books he's done with Patterson.

I'm not real sure about the ending, but overall ZOO is probably my second favorite Patterson novel after THE JESTER, a historical adventure yarn set during and after the Crusades that was co-authored with Andrew Gross. I think it's worth reading.

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