A GREAT ZOO
We first became aware of International Bestselling author Matthew Reilly's high octane explosive books back in 2010. We recently had the chance to read and review his high concept book THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA.
One could easily make the case and point that Jurassic Park the movie should have indeed been called Cretaceous Park. For branding purposes Michael Crichton decided to call the book Jurassic Park, and the rest is history. Welcome!
"A Different Jurassic Park"
Published 5/11/18 by Prehistoric Magazine
Recently it was brought to light that the legendary film director James Cameron had originally wanted to direct Jurassic Park but Steven Spielberg beat him to it. Take a step back for a moment and simply digest what was written. When I first heard that, I was taken aback to say the least. The man behind the movie TITANIC and AVATAR wanted to be at the healm of the 1993 summer blockbuster movie JURASSIC PARK. That’s incredible.
The news recently broke about James Cameron and his desire all those years ago to aquire and direct Jurassic Park. Now what is written about this most interesting of stories is the behind-the scenes aspect. By the time 1989 came around, Michael Crichton was more than likely in the polishing stages of his epic novel Jurassic Park. It was also around this time that he was working on a screenplay with Steven Spielberg that would later become the hit T.V. show ER. Steven Spielberg asked Crichton what current project he was working on in the world of books. After coaxing it out of him, Crichton responded that he was working on a book about dinoaurs and DNA. I guess you can say the rest after that was history. Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg had a friendship that went back to 1970, when Michael Crichton was a relatively new author and his latest book THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN was being turned into a movie. So it only seems fair that when it came time to option his high concept, Michael Crichton looked no further than his good friend Steven Spielberg. Crichton optioned the book to Spielberg for 1.5 million and also signed on to co-write the screenplay with David Koepp. The movie opened June 9, 1993 and grossed $1.029 billion.
It is nearly impossible to say where the franchise would be today if James Cameron had in fact beated Steven Spielberg to the punch to option the book way back then, but it is most definitely fun to hypothesize what that first movie would have been like. In terms of making the actual Jurassic Park movie, it’s fair to say that Steven Spielberg did an excellent job of producing a product that was a movie for the whole family. It was truly something that the entire family and all ages could enjoy. But James Cameron was quoted as saying that if he had been able to acquire the rights to the book, then he would have turned Jurassic Park into something that was far scarier than what the movie was.
I believe it’s fair to say that we can go back to the book in order to figure out what terrifying scenes might have made their way onto the big screen. For anyone that has read the novel, it would have been an incredible sight to have seen the T-Rex river scene. In this scene, we see Grant and the kids escaping down the river in a raft. To their surprise, the massive tyrannosaur steps into the water and begins swimming after them. For movie-going fans, this scene most surely would have looked amazing up on the big screen, but was possibly cut due to the budget. But still, it’s fascinating and downright terrifying to picture a full grown t-rex chasing a boat down the river.
Anyone who has read the novel is most definitely also familiar with John Hammond’s death scene. It’s also important to note that in the book, John Hammond’s character is much more of a cutthroat driven business man than the man we see in the movie. Near the end of the book, Hammond falls down a ravine and breaks his ankle. As he lay on the ground, bloodied, weakened, and helpless, a small pack of Procompsognathus converges on the fallen man and begins to slowly pick him apart. What a truly terrifying scene it would have been in the movie.
Last but not least, my all-time favorite is the death scene of Dennis Nedry. In terms of pure gore, the book trumps the movie. Nedry is blinded by the dilophosaurus and falls to the ground. Reaching down, he feels something warm and slippery. He comes to the realization that he is holding his intestines in his hands. Nedry then feels something clamp down on both sides of his head. He comes to one last horrifying realization that the dinosaur has its head in its jaw, before the swift predator finally sends Dennis Nedry to his untimely death. No one will ever know what Jurassic Park would have been if director James Cameron had been at the healm, but one fact remains constant—it would have been much bloodier, darker, and downright gruesome than what we all know the movie to be.
"The Great Zoo of China"
Published 5/12/18 by Prehistoric Magazine
I first became aware of Matthew Reilly and his high-octane books back in 2010 with the release of his small novella HELL ISLAND. The book was only 110 pages, but it was literally the most action-packed 110 pages I had ever read in my life. The novella was literally a movie on paper. These are just the types of books I like to read, it’s what I live for, and it’s what I hope to replicate with my own writing career. Since then, he has sold nearly ten million books around the world.
Graduating up, I decided to try my first full-length Matthew Reilly novel. The book that I dove into was none other than THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA. Before we even get into the review, let me be the first to say that this is a giant Hollywood blockbuster movie waiting to happen. This is a massive concept that I’m surprised some big named director has not sunk serious cash into. How much money would it take to bring this rollercoaster ride to the big screen? I am most definitely no expert but I would say at least $150 million to make the movie, if not $200 million. Even for someone with the most deepest of pockets, it’s still a massive sum of money, and a giant risk to say the least. One thing is for certain: if someone one day does take on the task of adapting this book, they will have a giant global concept on their hands.
THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA is without a doubt the most over-the-top action book I have ever read. The story begins with the fact that the Chinese have been hiding an enormous secret now for over four decades. They have waited patiently, biding their time, waiting for the opportune moment to showcase their marvel to a small group of VIPs, with the ultimate hope of opening it for the world to see in the not too distant future. Right off the bat, it’s easy to see the comparison to the first Jurassic Park movie, with the fact that a small select group of people has a chance to tour a park that is set to open in the not too distant future.
As was stated, for over four decades the Chinese government has covered up the existence of dragons. Namely, they have them, they come in all shapes and sizes, and the Chinese are hell bent on fully monetizing their prized possession for all the world to see in what will essentially be the greatest zoo ever constructed. As you can see, the similarities to that first Jurassic Park movie are uncanny.
The story follows Dr. Cassandra Jane, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles, and a small group of VIPs who are invited to take a tour of the zoo. Things start off very formal with classic introductions, well-dressed professionals, and promises to the group that they are in for a treat beyond their wildest imaginations.
It isn’t long before all the formalities are shattered and the small band of VIPs finds themselves in the struggle of their lives. Soon, explosions follow, beasts take to the sky, and most importantly, lots and lots of people get eaten. Besides the all-out, nonstop action that this book possesses, a real highlight is the lifelike descriptions of the dragons in the books. This is where Matthew Reilly went through painstaking detail to make the beasts as realistic and believable as possible. In the book, the dragons are not towering mountains of myths from the past; rather they are based on real-life animals. The dragons mostly resemble large crocodiles in the way they act and behave. It is this simple fact that only serves to add to the sense of realism that exists in the book.
The dragons in the book possess the predatory senses of crocodiles, alligators, snakes, hawks, big cats, and sharks. A fun part of the book comes from the fact that crocodiles have amazing memories for hunting, and let me tell you, in the book, some of the mean dragons remember toward the end of the book who mistreated them. The use of subsonic grunts and the vibration of bodies that are submerged under water is how the dragons communicate to one another, and it is in this way that alligators also employ the same tactic to communicate in the wild.
In the book, Dr. Cassandra Jane, (CJ) must find a way to get both her and her brother out of the park and to safety. She must navigate an explosive and terrifying park that is literally self destructing before her very eyes. A special highlight of the book is that the predatory dragons come in all shapes and sizes—from small, nine-foot tall dragons to ones as big as a football field, and even ones that fall somewhere in the middle. The beauty in having dragons of all sizes lends itself to the terrifying nature of the book. The smaller dragons possess the ability to pursue their human prey into narrow corridors and tunnels—small areas that the massive dragons can’t make their way into—thereby leading to some very terrifying and explosive scenes in the book.
The dragons in the book go by the names of Yellowjackets, Eastern grays, and Red-bellied black dragons. THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA is an all-out thriller of a book sure to keep you turning the pages until the end, and it is a giant Hollywood blockbuster movie just waiting to happen. I can really picture a family of four sitting down with their sodas in hand, giant tub of popcorn in the middle, and watching the opening credits to the movie. Do yourself a favor and be sure to check out THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA. We are confident you won’t regret it.
PURCHASE THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA: HERE
Recently it was brought to light that the legendary movie director James Cameron had originally wanted to direct Jurassic Park. Instead Steven Spielberg acquired the rights to the book hours before Cameron could. The full article is below.
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