And now for something completely different. This week, we’re looking at Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. It’s a quick, exciting read about certain mammals turning against humanity. If that makes you think of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening and plants turning against humanity, you’re not the only one. Luckily, Patterson and Ledwidge are better writers and at least make an attempt to give plausible scientific reasoning for animals gone crazy.
(Let’s not talk about how The Happening is one of my big guilty pleasures, though.)
First I’m going to talk about a couple non-spoilery things, and then I’ll give some big spoiler warnings for the rest of the review.
Like I said, Zoo does a pretty good job at giving plausible scientific reasoning behind the plot. I’m not the best at science so I can’t say how accurate it really is, but they had some good hand waving. The characters used a lot of vocabulary that sounded awfully legit and Patterson and Ledwidge never gave me a reason not to trust them. Any stretches of science here can’t be any worse than what Doctor Who does every episode (bless their paradoxical hearts).
Once the secret animal uprising became very public, we got to see the people who were running from the threat, the people trying to solve it, and the people protesting any attempt to resist the new world order. Some just carried protest signs along the lines of, “Payback’s a bitch!”, but others were militant and joined the animals in attacking humanity, particularly government officials and scientists. I don’t find it unreasonable to think that the particularly wacky PETA people out there would react like that. Actually, I wish we’d gotten more than a couple pages with them. They probably would have pissed me off really quickly, but they were interesting and added a new layer to the chaotic, muddled character of the general public.
There were also several points where the environmental message kind of hits you over the head, but for the most part that didn’t bother me too much.
SPOILERS UNDER THE JUMP.
Unfortunately, my spoilery things are a little more negative. The science behind the animals going crazy is basically a mix of petroleum chemicals and cell phone radiation cooking into some crazy pheromones, mutating parts of mammalian brains, and making them think that humans were giving off dangerous smell-vibes. The book explains it better than I do. Here’s the thing: the main character starts tracking these changes in 1996. Things start going crazy in 2012, and then the really awful things happen in 2017. So, it took twenty years for everything to truly go to hell.
But they solve it by cutting off use of petroleum and cell phones for a few days. A few days, and 20 years of chemical/radiation build-up is just gone. Then they get comfy and fall back for like an hour and all the animals go batshit again.
Yeah. I can’t really buy that. Can you? And it’s a shame, because I loved how slowly it built up. Apocalypse things usually come out of nowhere and the build up here was well-handled.
The ending was far more cynical than I was expecting. I expected the ending to be something like “AND THEN HUMANITY ROSE ABOVE IT ALL AND LEARNED TO LIVE BETTER AND STOP FUCKING UP THE ENVIRONMENT AND ALL WAS WELL”, like most stories along this line end.
Instead Zoo went “lol no” and humanity just screwed up all over again and it’s heavily implied that they fell to the animals. On the one side, that could be more realistic, but damn it’s depressing. I’m an optimist and I love humanity. I know we’re not perfect but I think humans are capable of so much good and the cynical ending to Zoo left a bitter taste in my mouth.
AND END SPOILERS.
Overall, it was a fun vacation read. If this is your style, it’s totally worth reading.
Favorite quote: “Turns out an apocalypse actually comes on pretty slowly. Not fire and brimstone but rust and dandelions. Not a bang but a whimper.”