This is a new departure for me on this blog – I have done book reviews before, but this time I am looking at many books by one writer. These books form three natural categories as far as I see things, and I shall start with…
THE STAND ALONE BOOKS
I have read most of Matthew Reilly’s considerable output and there are four books in that list that are currently what I would consider to be stand alone. I consider them in increasing order of possibility of a sequel, starting with…
There is no possibility of a direct sequel to this book, which recounts the story of a badly tainted chess tournament that took place in 1546, and also features a series of grisly murders. The story is narrated by Elizabeth I, and before we get to her narration we are told of her death. It is unique among Reilly’s output in being set solely in medieval times, although the action is every bit as thick and as fast as in his other books.
This was Matthew Reilly’s first novel, and the original edition was self-published. The story, built around an intergalactic contest that takes place every thousand years and is this time happening on Earth for the first time features a great range of creatures. Although the possibility of a sequel is not so completely ruled out as in the first named book, there are obvious limitations, and certainly a sequel involving the contest that gives the novel its title could feature none of the same characters (possibly an Earth representative descended from the daughter of the guy who was Earth’s representative in this book).
This one features two story-lines separated by just over four centuries. Common to both stories is an idol made of an extra-terrestrial substance (i.e. carved out of a meteorite) and also some super-giant cats called rapas. In the modern-era of the story the idol is wanted by various people of varying degrees of unpleasantness to serve as power-source for what would be the ultimate in WMDs. While a direct sequel is again unlikely, I can see one of the main characters from this book reappearing (see later in this post).
THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA
This is the last of the stand-alone books, and I have written about it elsewhere on
this blog. I can envisage a sequel to this one – if there are dragon nests concealed beneath nickel deposits, then China is not the only place they could be found, so another story featuring dragons could easily be on the cards. Also, having created a character such as C J Cameron it would be a shame to use her in only book! This brings an end to the stand alone books, and signals the start of the second category of Matthew Reilly books…
THE SCARECROW NOVELS
These novels are linked by their central character, Shane M Schofield, a US Marine, call sign Scarecrow. There are currently four scarecrow novels and I can foresee at least one more…
The action in this book is triggered by the discovery of a metal object deep beneath the surface, initially believed to be an alien spacecraft (the truth proves rather more mundane). In addition to Scarecrow’s squad of marines there is a French group trying to seize control, a more dangerous British SAS group and most dangerous to Scarecrow, a rogue US grouping, the Intelligence Convergence Group, who have two men in Schofield’s own unit. A casualty whose importance becomes more obvious in a later scarecrow book is the french scientist Luc Champion.
This story is set in the US, and features an attempted coup by the commander of a top-secret base ultimately foiled by Scarecrow. It also features apartheid supporting South Africans with an agenda of their own who further complicate matters.
Scarecrow is one of the targets of the biggest bounty hunt in history and ifr the bounty hunt is successful the world will be plunged into complete chaos (even more chaos than the people behind the hunt intend since one of their number has gone rogue and added elements to the plan). Although he has a personal guardian angel (courtesy of someone who is determined to thwart the bounty hunt and has paid huge money to secure the services of Aloysius Knight who would otherwise be one Scarecrow’s most dangerous foes), Scarecrow sees his girlfriend (another marine, Elizabeth Gant, call sign Fox) brutally murdered, which nearly has the intended effect of destroying his spirit.
SCARECROW AND THE ARMY OF THIEVES
Scarecrow’s task in his fourth and to date last adventure is to prevent the deployment of a weapon that will ignite the earth’s atmosphere, reducing most of the northern hemisphere to ashes. In his way is the mysterious army of thieves, commanded by the man who intends to unleash the weapon. It turns out that the uber-villain is a CIA man named Marius Calderon who has worked out that using the weapon will annhiliate China while doing comparatively minor damage to the USA. In the course of this story Scarecrow meets Veronique Champion, sister of Luc Champion who featured in Ice Station, call sign Renard. She is initially intent on killing him as she believes that he killed her brother, but gradually comes to realise the truth. The reasons why I see a fifth Scarecrow book in the future are that Calderon is still alive at the end of this one, and also that the Scarecrow/ Renard relationship has much developing to do.
I have saved the best of Matthew Reilly till last…
THE JACK WEST NOVELS: A PARTIALLY COMPLETE HEPTOLOGY
Whereas the Scarecrow books are separate entities, the Jack West novels are part of a greater whole, which will eventually comprise seven volumes (hence that word heptology). So far three of the seven volumes have been published, and the fourth, Four Legendary Kingdoms, is due in October. We start this series with the first book of it, which also happens to be the first Matthew Reilly book I read…
SEVEN ANCIENT WONDERS
Jack West Jr, hero of these novels, is part of coalition of small nations who are responding to a serious threat. A race is on to find and assemble the pieces of the capstone of the Great Pyramid of Khufu in time for the appearance of the Tartarus sunspot. However, two rituals can be performed at the reassembly of the capstone, the ritual of peace and the ritual of power. The Catholic church and the United States of America are each seeking to perform the ritual of power, while the small nations seek either to perform the ritual of piece, or to prevent either ritual from being performed and endure the ensuing disasters. Although on this occasion disaster is prevented, this is just the beginning…
SIX SACRED STONES
Both this book and the next in the series are concerned with the effort to save the Earth from exposure to the dark sun by placing cleansed ‘pillars’ at the temple shrines that mark the corners of a device known only as The Machine, which can nullify the power of the dark star. Each of the six pillars has its own reward, and desire for these rewards and for power brings many besides the small nations into play. Although the USA are not officially involved, an American group are in the thick of things, Europe are also involved, and determined to do all in their power to ensure that the world is not saved are the Japanese. The book ends with West himself falling down an abyss in battle with the guy who had tried to prevent the second pillar from being placed…
FIVE GREATEST WARRIORS
This continues the story from the Six Sacred Stones, ending up with the placing of the final pillar at its vertex beneath Easter Island. In the course of these two books Jack West Sr has emerged as his son’s greatest adversary, and at the end West Sr dies, trying to secure the power of the sixth pillar, which his son has deliberately kicked into the abyss beneath the vertex, convinced that humanity cannot be trusted with this power. It would be foolhardy to attempt to guess in any detail how this series will pan out, but I will venture one prediction – the final clash at the end of the volume whose title begisn with One will be between West, seeking to the very end to keep the world turning, and the Japanese aiming for the reverse.