Z. Rex

Z Rex

Author: Steve Cole

Publication: Philomel, 2009

Pages: 256

Overall Rating: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]                        

Rating for Action: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]

Age Category: 9-12

Brief Summary: Adam’s dad is a video game developer who has created the ultimate video game.  It’s called ultra-reality and brings you inside the game using thought commands to control your character in a virtual reality world.  He’s dragged Adam to New Mexico, where a company is funding the development of the game.  While there, his dad gets a call from another company that wants to pay him for information on part of the technology he used to create the game.  He tells Adam he’ll only be gone a couple of days, but nine days later he’s still not back.

And that’s when Adam’s world falls apart.  Armed men show up at his door, only to be attacked by a monstrous, invisible something that quickly lays waste to the entire apartment building.  Adam barely escapes with his life.

He soon finds he’s been accused of a crime he didn’t commit and is wanted by the police.  He flees into a state park, where he chances on more of the mysterious gunmen.  Once again they’re attacked, and this time Adam sees exactly what he’s dealing with: A real live Tyrannosaurus Rex.  But when the T. Rex begins to speak, things really get interesting.

Age of Main Character: 13

What I Liked the Most: Cole actually got us into the T. Rex’s personality.  Its name is Zed, and through its behaviors and the few words it speaks Zed actually developed into a full-fledged and complex character, not just a mindless killing machine.   There are large chunks of the book with very little dialogue, where Adam is simply interacting with Zed, who communicates mostly through action and body language.  But despite the minimal dialogue, the story never felt slow.

I also liked the way that Adam and Zed begin developing their friendship.  At first, Adam feels nothing but fear towards Zed.  He believes Zed wants to use him to kill his father.  But over time that changes, the two grow close, and by the end they’re almost like brothers, fighting to save one another.  I like that their relationship wasn’t love at first sight, nor was it nothing but fear and struggle.  It was a bond that had to be forged over time, and that made their ultimate friendship all the more real.

What I Liked the Least: Adam does have to handle some of the dangers himself – escaping his apartment while Zed tears it apart, escaping from gunmen on his bike, and trying to stop the scientists who created Zed – but more often than not it’s Zed who handles the trouble.  Zed’s fun to watch when he goes into action, but I would have liked a few more situations Adam had to handle on his own.

The science behind Zed – which we only really learn about near the end of the book – felt rather shaky.  That didn’t distract too much from the story, but it was an issue.  The science just felt too thin, and way too far-fetched and futuristic to be happening right now.

Frankie Batemen, Adam’s main nemesis in the story, felt somewhat underdeveloped.  He was too stereotypical – the violent mercenary who enjoys causing pain to others.  There was nothing redeeming about him.  It also felt like there were too many times when Zed almost killed him – and in fact did kill all the men he brought with him – but just didn’t hit him quite as hard as the rest of his men.  The fact that Zed kept stopping him like that simply made him less terrifying.

How Good was the Action?  Excellent.  This really is a non-stop thrill ride from beginning to end.  Cole does provide enough breaks in the action for us to catch our breath, get to know the characters, and figure out what’s going on, but he never lets the breaks last too long before we’re back into the seat for another chase or battle.  And the fights are all well done, with Zed showing considerable ingenuity in various ways that he stops his opponents.

How Engaging was the Story?  I enjoyed getting to know Zed over the course of the book, discovering his talents and emotions.  And Adam’s struggle to stay alive, find his dad, and figure out what’s going on was quite engaging.  His emotional ups and downs as each success ran into failure kept me reading.  There were many times when I didn’t know what he’d do next, but I always wanted to find out.

This is an action-oriented book, but Cole doesn’t overlook character development.  With the exception of Frankie Bateman most of the major characters are reasonably well done, and Adam and Zed are excellent.  I really felt Adam’s struggle to survive, to find his dad, and to understand Zed.

Overall Assessment: This is a tense, action-packed read with a seriously intriguing character in the form of Zed.  If you’re looking for page turning action, great fight scenes, and the coolest sidekick since Saphira, then this is a great choice.

Profanity: None

Sex: None

Violence: Yes, and it actually gets rather gory at times.  There’s a huge battle between two T. Rex’s towards the end of the book, each gouging bloody chunks out of the other.  Over the course of the book the dinosaurs also eat people and stomp on them – though the blood is rarely flying and the descriptions are generally not overly graphic.


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