Book Review – Extinction Horizon (The Extinction Cycle, volume 1) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Extinction Horizon (The Extinction Cycle, volume 1)
by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
Courtesy of the author
Release Date: December 29, 2014

extinction

Nicholas Sansbury Smith is on the fast-track to becoming one of my favorite authors. Aside from a smooth writing style, the guy has an imagination that is akin to my own. Whether the subject is aliens or disease-infected people, Smith has a knack for giving his readers a major dose of entertainment amidst fast-paced action and vivid characters. This is once again proven with his latest release, EXTINCTION HORIZON. If you enjoyed the ORBS series, then you’re in for a real treat; the first book in his new Extinction Cycle series is like a sucker-punch to your senses, and it will knock you flat out.

If you are not familiar with EXTINCTION HORIZON, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the author:

THE WORST OF NATURE AND THE WORST OF SCIENCE…WILL BRING THE HUMAN RACE TO THE BRINK…OF EXTINCTION

Master Sergeant Reed Beckham has led his Delta Force Team, codenamed Ghost, through every kind of hell imaginable and never lost a man. When a top secret Medical Corps research facility goes dark, Team Ghost is called in to face their deadliest enemy yet–a variant strain of Ebola that turns men into monsters.

After barely escaping with his life, Beckham returns to Fort Bragg in the midst of a new type of war. The virus is already spreading… As cities fall, Team Ghost is ordered to keep CDC virologist Dr. Kate Lovato alive long enough to find a cure. What she uncovers will change everything.

Total extinction is just on the horizon, but will the cure be worse than the virus?

I love the cover art for this book, almost as much as I like the story within. When you pick up the book, the image on the front just screams “READ ME!” This is an excellent example of how cover art can pique a reader’s interest and keep hold of it.

As with his previous work, EXTINCTION HORIZON is written well and flows very smoothly. Smith’s writing style has hit a new peak with this book, however. His conveyance of ideas seems to have matured since the ORBS series, which is very impressive given that it was refined to begin with. But there is a notable difference in his sentence structure and storytelling mode. I daresay this makes Smith an even bigger asset to his publishing companies, and even more importantly, an even greater joy to his readers.

Likewise, his characters pop with realism and believability. I particularly like his soldiers in this book. They are gritty and raw, but not so much as to become Rambo-like figures. And despite their edge, they also have a spark of humanity. Too many times, authors create their soldiers to come across as hardened semi-psychopaths with hair-triggers and fault-line personalities. Not so here. Smith writes people that his readers can appreciate and (in most cases) connect to.

The story within EXTINCTION HORIZON is terrifying and real, a scenario that was hinted at in news headlines just a few short months ago. The grim reality inside the book is one that could very well play out in real life, and that is a major part of what makes the plot so intense. I think this is a big part of what made the book so good for me.

EXTINCTION HORIZON is a heck of a read, and I highly recommend giving it a look. Smith is a writer evolving right before our eyes, and he is certainly worthy to keep tabs on. I can’t wait to see what else comes out of that vivid imagination of his. Hopefully, I won’t have to wait long. In the meantime, check out EXTINCTION HORIZON; it is available in a variety of formats today.

MSB

Movie Review – Tusk (2014)

Tusk
Directed by Kevin Smith
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: December 30, 2014

tusk-blu-ray-cover-20

After watching RED STATE, I consider it an honor to be able to review Kevin Smith’s work. Sure, I’m a fan of his past comedic works, but RED STATE was the film that showed the world his diverse nature, and that he could do so much more than solicit laughs. TUSK is his latest venture into the darker side of humanity, and it is just as excellent as RED STATE. I think I like TUSK more, however, because it is true horror, a disturbing jaunt into dark places of the mind. And although it’s touted as a dark comedy in some aspects, the film is also a haunting piece that will burn itself into your mind like a branding iron.

If you are not familiar with TUSK, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Lionsgate:

From writer-director Kevin Smith comes this wickedly funny modern-day monster movie that will hold you in terror as it keeps you in stitches. A podcaster (Justin Long) looking for a juicy story is plunged into a bloodcurdling nightmare after he travels to the backwoods of Canada and meets an eccentric recluse (Michael Parks) with a lifetime of adventures—-and a disturbing fondness for walruses.

I have to confess I wasn’t sure what to expect from Kevin Smith in regard to horror. He obviously can do thrillers, which was the case with RED STATE…but full-blown horror? I was hoping for the best, but yet skittish as well. My concerns were unfounded, thankfully, and Smith delivers a powerhouse of a film with TUSK. Much like I had hoped, his evolution as a filmmaker just gets better and better.

TUSK is shot well and appears to have a high production value (Smith mentions in one of the featurettes his budget was around $3 million). The film looks great from an aesthetic standpoint, as Smith once again makes much out of little; it is truly impressive what he can accomplish with minimal funding.

The acting is excellent with screen legend Michael Parks headlining a stellar cast that includes Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, and Genesis Rodriguez. Parks is always a joy to see onscreen, and I loved his performance in RED STATE as well. I’ve also liked Justin Long for quite a while now, since I saw him JEEPERS CREEPERS way back in 2001. I’m glad he returns to his horror roots every now and then.

The special effects in TUSK are great as well, with legendary FX guru Robert Kurtzman in charge of the gruesome walrus effects. Fans of Kurtzman’s work will recall seeing his creations in films like DEEPSTAR SIX, TREMORS, ARMY OF DARKNESS, and CABIN FEVER. He does not disappoint here. There’s plenty of wild imagery in this film and even some nice gore here and there.

The bizarreness of the plot is what should draw you to this film, however. It is truly a mind-snapping trip into surrealistic horror. I loved every minute of it, although I have to admit the film made me cringe in a couple of places. But that’s what horror is supposed to do, right?

TUSK is a huge win for me, and I suggest giving it a look. But brace yourself before watching this film; it’s probably not what you’re expecting. The movie hits store shelves tomorrow, so make a note.

MSB

Movie Review – Mansion of the Doomed (1976)

Mansion of the Doomed
Directed by Michael Pataki
Courtesy of Full Moon Features
Release Date: 1976

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To me and countless other fans, Charles Band is a film icon. Much like Lloyd Kaufman, Band had a vision back in the day and worked hard his whole life to bring it to fruition. As a result, we have a huge library of his works to enjoy. MANSION OF THE DOOMED is an older title in this vault, however it’s still a lot of fun. And while it is not perfect, it’s a film that will linger in your mind long after it’s over.

If you are not familiar with MANSION OF THE DOOMED, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Full Moon Features:

Dr. Chaney and his beloved daughter Nancy survive a terrible car accident which leaves Nancy blind. Chaney, guilt stricken from being responsible, turns into a mad surgeon, obsessed with finding a way to restore his daughter’s vision. But when he decides to drug victims, removing their eyes to operate on his daughter, terror unfolds and Chaney’s mansion becomes a dungeon filled with disfigured captives, rising up to take their revenge. Starring Oscar winner Gloria Grahame (The Bad and the Beautiful), Richard Basehart (Moby Dick), and Lance Henriksen (Aliens) and featuring special effects by Oscar-winning effects artist Stan Winston (Terminator 2, Jurassic Park).

Now, before you watch this film (and I recommend you give it a shot), keep in mind it is very dated. Many of the set pieces, including clothing styles, vehicles, and home decor, are definitive 70s-genre cliches. But this can be overlooked, as long as the focus is kept on the story. I didn’t have a problem at all looking past these, and in turn, I had a good movie experience.

The look of MANSION OF THE DOOMED is pretty good overall, however the cinematography does not necessarily stand out, nor does the film style itself. The acting is really good, however, with screen vets Richard Basehart and Gloria Grahame giving Grade A performances. I also have to point out this is one of Lance Henriksen’s first films, an actor who I always enjoy onscreen.

The special effects deserve a lot of merit as well. Legendary effects man Stan Winston did the effects, and they are certainly worthy of note. Gruesome in a minimalistic way, every scene involving them makes you cringe and recoil. I might go so far as to call them ghastly.

The story is not terribly original, even for that time period, although it’s nothing that detracts too much from the movie. I like how it focuses on the eyes, yet the plausibility of keeping the subjects alive in the basement almost seems far-fetched. Still, if you look past that, the film is fun overall.

MANSION OF THE DOOMED is a nice, nostalgic horror trip back to yesterday, and I have to give it a thumbs-up despite its shortcomings. I recommend giving it a look, if anything to check out Stan Winston’s handiwork. The film is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Book Review – Jackpot by David Bernstein, Adam Cesare, Shane McKenzie, and Kristopher Rufty

Jackpot
by David Bernstein, Adam Cesare, Shane McKenzie, & Kristopher Rufty
Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Release Date: September 2, 2014

jackpot

I have read and reviewed two of these four authors, and I am very impressed with both. So when I heard they were combining their talents with two other horror writers to create a book, I knew instantly I had to check it out. I am not disappointed in the least, either; JACKPOT is a sadistically fun book that horror fans will be foaming at the mouth to finish. And if you’ve never heard of any of the four gentlemen above, this book alone will give you plenty of reasons to visit their work as individuals.

If you are not familiar with JACKPOT, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Sinister Grin Press:

What if a serial killer won the lotto? Booker has been playing the Powerball for years, randomly picking victims off the street and using their ages as his lucky numbers, carving the digits into their heads. He has come up empty time and time again. But tonight? He feels lucky. And when the ping pong balls are drawn, Booker realizes he is over $200,000,000 richer. But a serial killer winning the lottery isn’t all it’s cracked up to be as Booker soon learns he’s become the one with the target on his back- from a scumbag, ambulance-chasing lawyer to a group of backwoods inbreds who believe the money is right-fully theirs. With the hunter becoming the hunted, Booker must use his skills as a killer to outkill and outwit all who come between him and his winnings.

I was expecting to like JACKPOT, but I was totally unprepared for the ride it took me on. I would even go so far as to say the book blew me away. When it was finished, I sat for a moment with a grin on my face, replaying the last scenes in my head. This is definitely a book that haunts you long after its over.

JACKPOT is written well and flows quickly. It weighs in at 137 pages, so it’s not a lengthy story, but it doesn’t need to be. The authors convey A LOT in such a short number of pages. I read the book in just two sittings.

The characters are warped and believable, and they make the reader pray such people do not actually exist. I can’t really decide if I like the main character (Booker, the serial killer) or not, probably because saying I do would mean I’m a little off. But aren’t we all? Regardless of whether or not I actually like the guy, he is written well and is interesting enough to make you turn the pages.

I don’t want to give anything else away, because JACKPOT is a book you have to read to believe. It’s a hardcore, gut-wrenching shock to the senses, and I loved every minute of it. Horror fans and gore-hounds will love this book. I recommend it, but not if you have a weak stomach. It is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – App (2014)

App
Directed by Bobby Boermans
Courtesy of Ram Releasing
Release Date: December 30, 2014

app-dvd-cover-63

When I first got the press release for APP, I was immediately struck by the concept of a ‘second screen film’. In case you’re not familiar with the term ‘second screen’, it refers to “a mobile device used while watching television, especially to access supplementary content or applications” (per dictionary.com). I’ve never heard of a movie using this technology, so I was immediately intrigued. Would it be hokey? Or would it blow me away?

I’m very happy to report the film did the latter. In addition to a solid plot and intense storyline, APP’s second screen application works great, and it adds a whole new level of immersion to the filmgoing experience.

If you are not familiar with APP, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Ram Releasing:

Anna, a student at the University of Amsterdam, lives with her best friend Sophie and balances psychology classes with supporting her brother and his recovery following a traumatic motorcycle accident. She’s never far from her cellphone, and after a night of partying in the dorms, Anna wakes up groggy and hungover only to find that a new app has been inexplicably added to it. Initially helpful and clever, IRIS soon begins behaving mysteriously, answering personal questions it shouldn’t know the answers to, and sending inappropriate images to her contacts. When it becomes clear she can’t simply delete the unwanted evil app, Anna’s efforts to confront it will set in motion a fearful series of events that will put her life, and that of her roommate and her fragile brother, in fatal danger.

APP is the first film made with the intentional inclusion of content on a second screen. The movie’s free accompanying app, IRIS, that audiences are encouraged to download, is equipped with sonic technology that triggers additional content during the movie, enhancing the viewing experience in real-time as the plot unfolds.

I can’t say enough positive things about this film. The premise is one that could potentially happen someday in the future, therefore there are no issues with realism here. The acting is top notch, the special effects look good, and there’s plenty of tension. You can’t ask for much more out of film.

APP is shot well and looks great from a technical standpoint. The cinematography is not very noticeable, however this is a good thing; the engaging plot and mystery draws the viewer in so deep, everything else takes a backseat.

The second screen application is the big winner here. It syncs itself up to the film when you start it, and then it self-activates at specific points during the movie. In addition to several extras, you also get to enjoy certain scenes from two different perspectives. This is difficult to explain, as you just have to see it to appreciate it. Needless to say, it rocks.

APP is a big win for me, and I daresay it is a groundbreaking spectacle that is a must-watch for your post-New Year’s festivities. I hope future filmmakers incorporate the second screen tech into their films as well. But for now, definitely give this one a look. It hits store shelves after Christmas, on December 30, so make a note.

MSB

Movie Review – The Devil’s Hand (2014)

The Devil’s Hand
Directed by Christian E. Christiansen
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: December 16, 2014

the devils-hand

I absolutely love the tagline for THE DEVIL’S HAND: “Forgive me Father for I am sin.” Talk about an eye-catching way to promote interest! The plot synopsis was enough to pique my curiosity, but that tagline sealed the deal in regard to watching this. And I’m certainly glad I gave it shot; this is a great film, full of mystery and intensity.

If you are not familiar with THE DEVIL’S HAND, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Lionsgate:

From Oscar-nominated filmmaker Christian E. Christiansen comes this spine-tingling story of satanic terror. In the small, devout village of New Bethlehem, six girls are born on the sixth day of the sixth month, setting in motion an ancient prophecy—on their 18th birthday, one of the girls will become The Devil’s Hand. As the day nears, the young women begin to disappear. Threatened by the town’s fiery religious leader (Colm Meaney), the remaining girls, Mary and Ruth, join with Mary’s father (Rufus Sewell) to uncover the chilling truth behind the evil that grips New Bethlehem.

This movie enthralled me from the very start. I found it so captivating that time passed without me realizing it. I love when a film can deliver that because it seems to happen so far and few between these days.

The production value of THE DEVIL’S HAND appears high. The cinematography is top-notch, and the film looks great onscreen.

The acting is impressive, with screen vets Rufus Sewell and Colm Meaney as the headliners. But special mention needs to be given to Alycia Debnam Carey, the beautiful and talented actress who portrays Mary. Carey gives an all-star performance in her role, and truly brings her character to life. I hope to see much more of her onscreen in the future.

The effects in the movie are nice as well, however it is the story that wins for me. Part mystery, part thriller, but all horror, THE DEVIL’S HAND will keep you guessing right up to the very end. I have to say the ending made me smile. I will not give anything away, but I will confess I was hoping something like it would happen.

THE DEVIL’S HAND is a big win for me, and I highly recommend it. Full of intensity and intrigue, this film will win you over in a big way. It hits store shelves next week, so make a note.

MSB

Movie Review – Dead Girls (2014)

Dead Girls
Directed by Neal Fischer & Del Harvey
Courtesy of Brain Damage Films
Release Date: November 4, 2014

dead-girls

Anthology horror films seem to be on the rise lately, thanks to the success of titles like V/H/S and THE ABC’S OF DEATH. I don’t mind this trend at all because I love anthologies, regardless of whether they are in book or movie form. DEAD GIRLS is a recent release from the fine folks at Brain Damage Films. This collection of three shorts is subject-specific, however, as each segment deals with dead girls back from the grave for revenge. And while the tales included in this anthology have their faults, they are still entertaining and fun.

If you are not familiar with DEAD GIRLS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Brain Damage Films:

Three stories of horror connected through the pages of dead girls’ diaries. In one, a ghostly apparition seeks revenge upon the man who betrayed her love and is responsible for her death. In another a mystical object helps a young woman reach out from beyond the grave to exact her revenge against the stuck up sisters of a college sorority. And in the third a young woman who has lost her way and her faith finds the answer to her prayers in the last place she would have expected. “Dead Girls” is a horror anthology similar to such classics of the genre as Tales From The Crypt, Trick ‘R Treat, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Creepshow, and many others.

I grew up watching shows like TALES FROM THE CRYPT, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, MONSTERS, and TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE. This is probably a big part of why I like anthologies so much. Each episode or short usually packs a lot of punch in just a short amount of time.

DEAD GIRLS is shot fairly well, and the production value looks decent. Each segment is made well for the most part, and each looks good onscreen. I don’t have many complaints about the film overall from an appearance standpoint.

Likewise, the acting is pretty decent as well. This is a lower budget film, so one cannot expect Oscar-quality acting. However, the whole cast does a good job in their roles here. This is really saying something, too, for there are many “main” characters throughout the film.

The special effects in DEAD GIRLS are pretty good, although I would have preferred more gore. There’s a small bit of carnage in each segment, but nothing that really stands out. This is not necessarily a negative, and most people could probably care less about it…but this is my personal opinion. I like to see limbs flying and fountains of crimson painting the walls. But that’s just me.

My main complaint with DEAD GIRLS is the lack of originality in the stories. Even though the segments are well done, they just don’t “pop” for me, mainly in part because there’s nothing that sets them aside from other back-from-the-dead-for-revenge films. Again, this is strictly from my point-of-view, so you’ll have to check the film out for yourself to see if you agree.

Still, DEAD GIRLS is fun. I particularly like the sorority sisters segment. Back in college, I knew several girls in sororities, and believe me: they acted A LOT like some of these girls. Thus, when the revenge starts to happen in this short, I broke out in a smile. I am on the fence about recommending the film as a whole, however…I think it’s one you just have to check out to see if you like or not. It’s available now on DVD and On Demand.

MSB

Movie Review – Day of the Mummy (2014)

Day of the Mummy
Directed by Johnny Tabor
Courtesy of Image Entertainment & RLJ Entertainment
Release Date: December 9, 2014

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I confess: I didn’t expect to like DAY OF THE MUMMY. When I first got the press release, I was curious. The plot was familiar, however I’m a big fan of ancient Egyptian mythology, so I thought I would give it a shot. But because of the images on the DVD cover and the actors involved with the film, I didn’t have high expectations; I was anticipating a cheap knockoff of the Brendan Frasier MUMMY franchise. I’m happy to report my skepticism was unfounded, and DAY OF THE MUMMY is a fun horror flick that offers both chills and entertainment. Sure, it’s low budget, but that’s part of what makes it so much fun.

If you are not familiar with DAY OF THE MUMMY, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Image Entertainment:

Welcome to Egypt, land of the Pharaohs. A place steeped in history and legend; Gods and spiritual guides; untold wealth – and the bone-cracking, blood-spilling guardians of its riches. Jack Wells has arrived in Egypt in search of the famous diamond known as The Codex Stone. His journey leads him to the tomb of the cursed King Neferu, cursed not by name but by nature. With his centuries-old slumber disturbed by timeless human greed, the King rises from the dead with a blood-lust that cannot be quenched and a raging fury that will shred flesh from bone, bringing terrible and tormented death to all who dare witness the Day of the Mummy.

I mentioned the DVD cover above, and I have to clarify that it’s not actually horrible…in fact, it looks rather decent. I particularly like the Mummy and how evil it looks. However, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a movie based on its awesome cover, only to be disappointed with how crappy the film itself was. I’m glad that’s not the case here.

DAY OF THE MUMMY is shot rather well, considering the method of camerawork chosen; 90 percent of the film is shot from a first-person view, while the remaining 10 percent is the traditional third-person angle. Interestingly, this really works for the film, and it helps ramp up the intensity for certain scenes.

The acting is pretty good overall. There are a couple of dry performances, but everybody else is good for the most part. I am definitely interested to see Danny Glover in this film; he plays a prick, but he seems well-suited for the role (I don’t mean that in a negative way, either).

The special effects are not too shabby, either…although a couple of aspects could have been better. I like the Mummy design and the realism of its facial features. My complaint about the effects, though, is in regard to the hieroglyphs and stone tablets. They look WAY too new and modern. I also don’t like how the tablets are just leaning up against the cave walls, all nice and proper. This really detracts from the realism of the movie for me.

But that’s about the only complaint I have with DAY OF THE MUMMY. This low budget gem is a winner for me, and I recommend giving it a chance. Just disregard the graphics on the back of the DVD cover…they have NOTHING to do with the film and are meant solely to pique your interest. DAY OF THE MUMMY releases next week, so make a note.

MSB

Movie Review – Speak No Evil (2014)

Speak No Evil
Directed by Roze
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: December 2, 2014

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As a dad, I cannot think of anything more horrific than something bad happening to one of my kids. The possibility of this haunts me sometimes during the day and has caused more than a few sleepless nights. So when I run across horror movies that deal with kids, I always try to take a look. After all, what is the point of watching a horror movie, if not to scare yourself? SPEAK NO EVIL deals not with one, but all of the children in a rural midwestern town. And although it’s not an excellent film, it still merits a look.

If you are not familiar with SPEAK NO EVIL, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Lionsgate:

When all the children in a small religious town disappear, panic spreads quickly. But when the children finally return, they begin attacking the parents, and it becomes clear that they are possessed by a demon. The town is forced into a desperate and violent campaign to eliminate the possessed children, but one mother refuses to believe that her daughter is lost to the devil and will do whatever it takes to keep her alive, and save her from the demon inside.

The first time I read the plot synopsis, I immediately thought of films like COME OUT AND PLAY and ISLAND OF THE DAMNED. Kids going crazy and killing adults is a chilling concept, and every parent probably feels like I do, in that it’s a terrifying scenario with a no-win ending. If you can’t restrain or subdue a child that is trying to murder you, then what do you do? Kill him? A reprehensible option, but it does beg the question.

SPEAK NO EVIL delves into this situation, however the film never fully fleshes it out. As a result, the story feels a bit choppy here and there. One minute the townsfolk are trying to subdue their kids, and the next, they’re shooting them down in the street or burning them alive. I scratched my head as this quick transition emerged; it just didn’t feel right.

The acting is pretty good, especially when considering the leads haven’t done much in the past (per their IMDB pages). Young Olivia Cavender, who portrays the main possessed child, Joey Girl, does a fantastic job in her role. I had no problem believing she was overtaken by demonic forces. I hope to see more of her in the future.

Likewise, the cinematography in SPEAK NO EVIL is impressive as well. There are several well-crafted surrealistic scenes that leave the viewer feeling uneasy. This helped set the dark tone for the film, especially those that featured the horse/dog-headed demonic images. THOSE were truly creepy.

But the storyline is where this film falls short for me. Several things happen that are not explained, and this immediately makes me frown while watching a film. For example, the preacher’s assistant acts homicidal from the minute he steps onscreen for the first time. He seems eager to shoot the children before any signs of demonic possession pop up. And we never see how he convinces the townspeople to kill their own kids. Like I mentioned before, it seems like one minute the parents are worried, and the next they are loading their shotguns.

Still, SPEAK NO EVIL is a truly chilling film that horror fans should enjoy. It is relatively short, clocking in at 74 minutes, but it packs enough of a punch in that small time to provide some scares and entertainment. Despite its flaws, I liked it, and I recommend giving it a try. It releases today, so make a note.

MSB

Book Review – The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

The Great Zoo of China
by Matthew Reilly
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: January 27, 2015

GREAT ZOO

When it comes to action-fiction, NOBODY does it better than Australian author Matthew Reilly. I say that for several reasons. First and foremost, the proof is in the numbers: Reilly’s books are published in over 20 languages with worldwide sales of over 7 million copies. Secondly, some of his fellow authors state the same thing. For example, Vince Flynn has said, “Nobody writes action like Matthew Reilly.” And finally, I am personally a huge fan of the guy…he is, in fact, the author who inspired me to finish my first book several years ago.

For these reasons, you can imagine my delight and surprise when the fine folks at Gallery Books offered me one of the greatest honors I’ve ever received: the chance to review Matthew Reilly’s upcoming book, THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA. This moment was literally a dream come true. And, as expected, Reilly does not disappoint. This book delivers the same adrenaline-fueled rush that has become his trademark style.

If you are not familiar with THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Gallery Books:

It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have found a species of animal no one believed even existed. It will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing discovery within the greatest zoo ever constructed. A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see its fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr. Cassandra Jane “CJ” Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles. The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that they are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong. Of course it can’t…

For those of you who have never read a Matthew Reilly novel, you are truly missing out. Reilly packs a lot of punch in every novel, and his breakneck action scenes will leave you breathless. But in addition to intensity, Reilly offers many unique and original story ideas.

THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA is written well and flows at a rapid pace with Reilly’s quicksilver writing style leading the way. Reilly does an excellent job of giving minimal description, but with enough information so as to create a clear picture in the reader’s mind. This allows for a deeper immersion into the action, which translates to a more vivid, realistic experience.

The characters in THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA are well fleshed-out and believable. I particularly like the spunky heroine, CJ. In his other novels, Reilly’s women tend to be tough-as-nails solider-types for the most part, but he detours from that here. CJ is different, in that she has a softer, more feminine aspect than most other female characters he has written. Make no mistake, though: she’s still a bad-ass!

The storyline is very well thought-out, and I like the originality it boasts. The plot does contain a couple of similarities to JURASSIC PARK, but primarily only in that Reilly’s book is set in a similar zoo/park. Everything else is pure Reilly, which means it is Grade A Excellence.

THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA is another huge win for Matthew Reilly, and it’s a perfect book for the adrenaline junkie in your life. If you’re not familiar with Reilly’s work, this is the perfect book to start with; and if you’re a veteran of his books like me, this is yet one more enthralling title to add to your library. Regardless, pick up a copy of this book ASAP, once it hits store shelves in January. It is a thrill-ride you won’t forget.

MSB