2 out of 4 stars
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Science-fiction isn’t the genre I gravitate towards, but Zona: The Forbidden Land lured me. Fred G. Baker wrote an interesting piece about scientific discovery, human vulnerability and an unlikely bond between man and beast. However, despite the interesting concept, I had many gripes with the book.
Anyone who adores science-fiction will enjoy this environment. The world of Zona is full of dark mystery and grand beasts with intricate societies, but be very careful of the sweet air. I love the detail placed in this entire ecosystem, and the author even shows how the specific atmosphere can affect visitors. This created bond between Grant and Shadow was honestly my favourite pairing in the entire book. Shadow is a good boy. That’s all I need to say. The mountain lions, Sheba and Solomon, were also just downright terrifying in the most amazing way possible. I don’t want to spoil much of the world, but Zona is truly the selling point of this story. It is the title, after all.
However, we need to address the numerous problems I had with this book. Zona, as a world, can shift a reader’s mind about the story. Except you need to go through ten snail-like chapters until Grant even gets on the helicopter. I understand science-fiction and fantasy need patient building but trust me, nothing happens in the first ten chapters.
You have Grant waking up and running around, sleeping with Irina and rinse and repeat. I wish the introduction could’ve wrapped up the first few chapters quicker and had Grant meet Boris at dinner. If Grant knew Anya to begin with, their interactions would be more concise. Anything to make that introduction brief would’ve saved the reader so much time.
I also really hated Irina’s character arc. There was immense potential to develop her character into someone antagonistic towards Grant. It would’ve made her so much more intriguing and invigorated the tension between the Zona team. The way her story ended feels like the author tried a little too hard to keep her as a romantic interest.
One final problem I had was the writing style. Sometimes I felt the writing was lacklustre when describing discoveries and emotions. The story has strong themes of extreme human emotions. However, the descriptions were not able to capture the essence of it. This book is not trying to be family-friendly, and I wanted that channelled in the actual writing style, not just the events themselves. In saying that, the term bodily fluids are not sensual, just a reminder.
I rate this book a 2 out of 4. I loved the world of Zona, but the pacing, character building and writing style weren’t to my liking. There was so much potential to make this an amazing science-fiction, but I feel it missed the mark. For that reason, you should read something else.
Zona: The Forbidden Land
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