Book Review – Zoo by James Patterson, Michael Ledwidge

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James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge have created a true masterpiece with Zoo. They have made what is quite possibly the world’s easiest writing instruction manual, a guide so simple that it only has one rule: if it’s in Zoo, it’s wrong.

Let me go into more detail so I can properly explain this book’s genius. First, we have a brilliant example of how to write a stupid premise. Animals going crazy and attacking humans left and right, causing a global crisis? Yep, that’s pretty much as dumb as it gets, so don’t make a premise like that for your novel. Then we have a main character as likeable as diarrhea and about as believable as the special effects in 60s television. Even though he speaks like a fifth-grade boy, the novel still tries to convince you that he was, in fact, a student at Columbia. Oh, also, he has little to no character development or redeeming qualities that make his story worth anything. What makes this ingenious, of course, is that if someone were to write a character with the exact opposite approach, they’ll end up with a multi-dimensional, interesting, tolerable character who gives meaning to his story and makes the reader want to read the book.

A huge aspect of Zoo – probably the biggest aspect, in fact – is that it targets only one specific group of people as its audience – sterotypical straight males. There are so many elements that stereotypical straight males love that it’s almost impossible to name them all – a lot of shooting, explosions, wild sex, bacon, lesbians, rescuing hot French girls in the middle of the African savannah by shooting alligators with a gun, dirty apartments, disrupting political meanings by climbing a tree and then getting tasered…the list goes on and on. If you write your story with multiple groups of people in mind, you will appeal to a universal audience and make your book more accessible.

Zoo also offers invaluable advice on how to write sentences. There are many lines in Zoo which warrant recognition for their unbelievable use of the English language, but for time’s sake I’ll only mention a few:

“Before I get ahead of myself, my name’s Oz. My first name is Jackson, but with a last name like mine, no one uses it. Unfortunately, my father is also known as Oz, as are my mother, my three sisters, my uncles, and all my paternal cousins. Which gets confusing at family reunions, but that’s neither here nor there.”

“I threw down my pen. I was pissed, pissed, pissed. Skin itching, heart going like a hammer. Was everyone asleep? Under hypnosis? High? Was everybody frigging stoned?”

“The enemy was us. You and me. People. Man, man.”

“Or, to put it in other terms, something was driving animals to go haywire, and the time to do something about it was running out quicker than the plastic wand supply at a Harry Potter convention.”

“Take off your shirt, leave the pants. I want to undo the belt with my teeth.”

And that is only from the first seven chapters!

And then we move on to the brilliant glob of vacuity that is the plot –

Okay, ENOUGH. I can’t do this any more.

To conclude, I’ll just say this: I was not familiar with James Patterson before reading this book. I guessed I missed that phase. Actually, it was probably because I’d heard he was a complete sellout of an author, slapping his name on books he has very little to do with but mentioning every product from Oreos to Red Bull so that his books can be properly positioned in their place at your local Kroger. He is the summer action movie of books, except that his horrible tree-destroying lack of talent plagues us year round. Not convinced? Check out this little gem from Wikipedia:

Patterson has written 95 novels since 1976. He has had 19 consecutive No. 1 New York Times bestselling novels, and holds The New York Times record for most bestselling hardcover fiction titles by a single author, a total of 76, which is also a Guinness World Record. His novels account for one in 17 of all hardcover novels sold in the United States; in recent years his novels have sold more copies than those of Stephen King, John Grisham and Dan Brown combined. His books have sold approximately 300 million copies worldwide.

Yeah. James Patterson? Here’s what I have to say to you.

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