The Great Zoo of China – Book Review

A review of Matthew Reilly’s latest, “The Great Zoo of China”


Matthew Reilly is one of my favourite contemporary novelists. He writes action adventure stories in which the pace of said action is never in any circumstances below greased lightening. His latest novel, The Great Zoo of China, has all the usual features and a few more besides.


Dragon myths are a global phenomenon, and pretty well every where dragons are described the descriptions are very similar. All have four legs and a pair of wings. Although the book describes this as being hexapods it is not necessarily so, since the Malaysian Flying Lizard has four legs and a pair of wings, the latter being supported by an extended ribcage. Other reptiles which have evolved an extended rib cage for structural support purposes are turtles whose carapaces are supported by their ribcages.

The back story is that the reason for dragon myths being global is that dragons really exist, and each myth documents an appearance of a dragon who hatched out from the egg and came to the surface to see if the planet was warm enough for them to survive. Behind even this is the survival of the dragons, winged archosaurs who survived the great extinction at the end of the cretaceous because their nests were protected by being beneath nickel deposits. The Chinese located a nest beneath their second largest nickel deposit, and captured each dragon as they hatched. This gave them 88 dragons. A breeding program using female saltwater crocodiles as incubators for dragon eggs boosted this tally to 232.

The Chinese believed they were ready to unveil their great creation and arranged for a two select groups of important visitors to be shown the zoo. One of these groups was made up of Americans, including the hero the story, Cassandra Jane “CJ” Cameron, an expert on large reptiles. The other consisted of high-ranking politburo officials, who were being shown the hunting area of the zoo.

The dragons were being kept confined by means of electromagnetic shields, so it looked as though they were moving freely, while the humans were supposedly protected by ultrasonic shields that the dragons could not approach closely because of their sensitive hearing.

It turns out that some of the red-bellied black dragons (there are four groups of true dragons and one group of hybrid dragons produced from the crocodile experiment’s early days) have torn out their own ears so that the ultrasonic shields don’t bother them, and that the dragons have worked out how to bring down the inner of two electromagnetic domes, and have decided that this day, when there are two groups of guests is the day to attempt a break out.

Additionally for the human visitors, the Chinese are determined that no word of the disaster can be allowed to spread and that therefore no independent witnesses can be allowed to live.


To conclude this post here are some pictures to give you a better idea of the book:

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The book is divided into seven sections called "evolutions" - something Reilly frequently does - in Ice Station they are "incursions", while in The Seven Ancient Wonders they are "Missions" etc.
The book is divided into seven sections called “evolutions” – something Reilly frequently does – in Ice Station they are “incursions”, while in The Seven Ancient Wonders they are “Missions” etc.

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This is an excellent story, and although the notion of a species surviving in deep hibernation for 65 million years seems a trifle far fetched there is very little in the back story about the dragons that is actually flat out impossible – a further plus mark as far as I am concerned. If you get an opportunity to read this or indeed anything else with Mr Reilly’s name on the cover make sure you take it!

Autism Related Meeting in Norwich

An account of an autism related meeting in Norwich, loads of links, some quality dragon pictures, some infographics and some other pictures.


Although this post is based around my attending a meeting to do with Autism at the Charing Cross Centre in Norwich I have lots of other stuff to share as well, in the form of photos, infographics from various sources and a plentiful supply of links.


The purpose of the meeting was to contribute towards a wide scale report on improving Mental Health services across the board. The speaker, who has been travelling around the country listening to ideas from people emphasized that one of the things his report would contain was a statement that it must be shared with contributors.

One of the (many) disastrous things that has been happening over the last few years has been a removal of investment from preventative care in favour of crisis management.

One of the commissioners for the Norfolk and Suffolk PCT actually told the manager of Asperger East Anglia that she should tell staff “to stop working with people after three months”, which demonstrates a scandalous lack of understanding of Autistic Spectrum Conditions.

As the only person in attendance to be actually autistic rather than either a professional working in the field or a parent/ carer of someone with an Autistic Spectrum Condition I made several contributions.

The final report should be complete by the start of October, and if we have not heard anything by the start of November we have been given a green light to contact Jane Sayer at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.


I have already dedicated a whole blog post to the dragons that can be seen in and around Norwich at the moment, but yesterday I was in parts of Norwich not covered in that post, so I have some more dragons for you…

The first four pictures are of McFly, who sits just outside the City Hall
The first four pictures are of McFly, who sits just outside the City Hall

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An educational dragon "The rise and demise of the dinosaurs"
An educational dragon “The rise and demise of the dinosaurs”

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This is Mr Wing, who resides just outside The Forum
This is Mr Wing, who resides just outside The Forum

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"Dragofly", one of two full size dragons (plus a clutch of babies) to be found inside The Forum
“Dragofly”, one of two full size dragons (plus a clutch of babies) to be found inside The Forum

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Luda, the other dragon to found inside the forum.
Luda, the other dragon to found inside the forum.

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GoGo King Tut, the Egyptian dragon
GoGo King Tut, the Egyptian dragon

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Norwich Twilight, looking out over the marketplace.
Norwich Twilight, looking out over the marketplace.
Morgan, in one of the streets that feeds into the marketplace.
Morgan, in one of the streets that feeds into the marketplace.

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"Eye Spy Cecil", near Castle Mall.
“Eye Spy Cecil”, near Castle Mall.

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Skipper, in the arcade.
Skipper, in the arcade.


Double Decker, Castle Meadow.
Double Decker, Castle Meadow.

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I did not get this one's name, but s/he guards the castle itself
I did not get this one’s name, but s/he guards the castle itself

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My first two links are both related and come courtesy of Dr Marquis Grant. They are both to do with a survey for autistic people:

1)A blog post advertising the survey

2)A link to the survey itself


.Firstly, two links relating to the campaign to get Jason Rezaians released:

1)The current state of play according to petition hosts

2)An article about this campaign in the Washington Post.

A petition that I have referred to several times previously in this blog is Fiona Paddon’s petition calling on the NHS to provide free tests from Group B Strep, which now has over 180,000 signatures. The next step is to pile on the pressure bby writing to MPs, to which end I have two links for you…

1)The site for locating MPs to write to.

2)A short cut for those of you who are like me) in Mr Bellingham’s constituency.

Finally in this subsection, a petition calling for the mayor of London to get dangerous lorries off the roads (so far this year lorries are responsible for the deaths of eight cyclists in the capital).


In this subsection are links to the some of the best blogs and blogposts I have found recently…

First up, Caroline Lucas standing up for the welfare state.

Next, the website and blog of one of my recent twitter followers, Mr Nobody:



A recent wordpress acquaintance is fargaregardsanna whose offerings include this on the work of Max Tegmark.

Having just mentioned the extraordinary Max Tegmark, this seemed a natural place to mention a book devoted to the strangest aspects of science, which it so happens that I read on the bus to Norwich yesterday.
Having just mentioned the extraordinary Max Tegmark, this seemed a natural place to mention a book devoted to the strangest aspects of science, which it so happens that I read on the bus to Norwich yesterday.

Faraday’s Candle are regular producers of marvellous science and nature related stuff, and this piece on The Arches National Park is comfortably up to their usual high standard.


Four infographics to share today. First, by way of Abby Tomlinson on twitter this on abstaining in the face of oppression:

AT on Labour

Next up, this on Austerity:


This on energy is probably the most important of the four:


Finally, this on the Great Gathering for Voting Reform:



I hope that you enjoy this blog post as much as I have enjoyed creating it, and that some at least of you will be inspired to share it. I finish with some non-dragon related photos from Norwich…

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A Day Out in Norwich 5: The Cathedral Close


Welcome to my concluding post about a day out in Norwich that i enjoyed on Thursday. Previous posts about the day are as follows:

1)Introductory Post

2)Enter the Dragons

3)Lunch at the Belgian Monk

4)The River Wensum

I hope that you will enjoy this post and will be encouraged to share it.


It is unusual in the 21st century to find a Cathedral Close, but Norwich still has one, and there were many splendid things to photograph. The first of two dragons (note the title of the second post referred to above) was Biggles, the RAF dragon…

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There are also two statues of famous warriors, Nelson and Wellington…

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There were also many birds around…

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Of course, in a place of this nature one would expect plenty of interesting old architecture, and such expectation was met…

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This iron sculpture also appealed, as did this chance to include a dragon and a blackbird in the same shot…

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My survey of the Cathedral Close began with one dragon and its with another, Norwich Serafina, the Norwich School Dragon…

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A Day Out In Norwich 2: Enter The Dragons


Welcome to this, my second post about a family day out in Norwich which happened on Thursday. You may wish to check out the first post before proceeding. I hope you will enjoy this post and will be inspired to share it.


Norwich has an affinity for large brightly coloured model animals. There have been elephants and monkeys/apes on display at various times. The latest thing is dragons, which will be sold off at auction to raise funds for Break, the children’s charity. There are apparently 84 full size dragons and over 120 baby dragons around Norwich.

I cannot pretend that we actually spotted that many, but we did see quite a few, starting with Flambeau, just after we had left the car

Flambeau the Dragon
Flambeau the Dragon

Our next sighting was while we were in Jarrold’s, the Norwich department store, who are sponsors of the project…

The Jarrold's dragon
The Jarrold’s dragon

We saw one more before lunch, just outside a shop I will not name but which sells clothing and is run by people without consciences…


Post lunch, the dragon count really picked up, starting with Gogohoratio, a dragon with the head of a well known admiral who was born at Burnham Thorpe in Norfolk (although they gave him a full complement of eyes – which he famously did not have)…


Next up was Steam the Clockwork Dragon of whom I got several shots…

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Our next encounter with a dragon was with Mosaic, whose name becomes understandable as soon as you get a close look…

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There were two dragons in the Cathedral Close, Biggles the RAF dragon and Serafina, the Norwich School dragon, made from pupil’s fingerprints, but I will be covering the Cathedral Close in a separate post, so the next dragon you will see is Daisy, the first we saw after leaving the Cathedral Close…

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Down by the Wensum, the river that flows through Norwich, was Raptorsfire…

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Our next dragon was glimpsed on the other side of the Wensum…


Then came this one…


The next dragon was this red-golden one…


That was followed by a black dragon…


The penultimate dragon we saw was this flint patterned chappy…

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Finally, the last dragon we managed to spot was this one…