James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge’s SF potboiler Zoo was published three years ago, and, like virtually everything that rolls off the Patterson production line, told its story in very short chapters.
Which are comprised of very short paragraphs.
Sometimes this short.
Which makes the books look a lot longer than they really are.
Zoo bears the distinction of being the first Patterson standalone that I gave up on in a couple of decades, not finding the central characters or the way the situation was presented worth sticking with. So therefore when I heard that it was the basis of this year’s CBS “summer series”, my hopes weren’t high.
Things seemed more positive when Patterson himself said that the series was better than the book, and judging on this first episode, I’d say he got it right. It’s too early to say whether the show will have the sort of success that Under the Dome did (or whether it will as completely lose traction in the way that particular Stephen King series has done) but the addition of new characters – particularly given they’re played by Kristen Connolly and Billy Burke – has made it more watchable than a straight version of the book would have been.
The plotline set in Africa, with James Wolk and Nora Arnezeder as a zoologist and a woman on safari who’s rescued from a lion attack, has a sense of tension to it, and the unusual animal behaviour is noticeable before it’s pointed out to us by the characters. There’s a rather implausible escape (anyone else that far down an escarpment would at the very least have a sprained ankle or two!) and a nice tag scene.
The concurrent LA scenes feel a little bit clichéd (reporter out on her own for a story…) but Connolly and Burke, as a veterinary pathologist, have a good rapport, and the revelation at the end of the episode is suitably creepy.
With a theme by John Carpenter (er… get him behind the camera for an instalment of this, I’d suggest!), Zoo is more gripping than you might expect – and certainly worth a couple more episodes to see where it goes.
Verdict: An intriguing premise given a better treatment on screen than in print. 7/10