Matthew Reilly’s Jack West Septet

A look at a remarkable series of novels by Matthew Reilly.

It has been a while since I last blogged. I hope to return with a bang. Five and a half years ago I wrote a post covering the whole of Matthew Reilly’s oeuvre as it then stood. Two days ago my copy of The One Impossible Labyrinth (pre-ordered so I got as soon after publication as possible) arrived, and by the end of yesterday I had finished reading it for the first time. This book completes the Jack West series to which this post is dedicated.


This is where it all started, with Jack West’s small crack team, made up of individuals from minor nations up against much larger and better armed opposition forces from the USA and Europe. An event called the Tartarus Rotation was due, and to prevent it the golden capstone of the Great Pyramid of Khufu had to be re-erected and a special ceremony conducted. West’s team had two aims: either to ensure that the ritual of peace rather than the ritual of power was performed or to prevent the ceremony altogether.

In the event it did not work as planned, and the ritual of power was performed by a notorious Saudi terrorist, Mullah Mustapha Zaeed. However, West had substituted soil from his native land for that of Zaeed’s, so Australia had the power, and West planned to keep that as secret as possible. The story could have been left there with no cause for complaint…


A group of Japanese fanatics who want the world to end undo the Tartarus ceremony, and now the world is in a high stakes race against time to save itself from the Dark Sun, to do which six pillars need to be placed at six different temple shrines around the world at specific times. All the pillars need to be cleansed before they can be set in place, and some are in unknown locations.

By the end of The Six Sacred Stones two of the pillars have been placed, and West is plunging down an effectively bottomless pit locked in battle with a traitor whose Japanese heritage had counted for more than his American heritage.

The Five Greatest Warriors features a multi-faceted struggle between Old Europe (The Deus Rex), The Caldwell Group (USA, but no longer on the same wavelength as their government), Japan, and West’s team. Old Europe and the Caldwell Group are both hunting for absolute power, Japan want the world to end and West’s team are trying to keep the world turning and prevent anyone from gaining absolute power. In addition to these major players, China is also involved, as are Saudi Arabia. Jack West’s adopted daughter Lily, a Siwan Oracle, places the final pillar at its site underneath Easter Island, and at the very end Jack West then kicks the charged pillar into the abyss to ensure that his wicked father, Jack West senior cannot use it to rule the world as a dictator. West the elder dies in the final scene. This, like the end of the first book could have been the end of the story, and for some years it seemed like it would, but after a lapse of eight years the series changed course in a big way, starting with…


This book, and with it the second half of the series, starts with West being abducted and forced to take part in the Great Games of the Hydra, which will decide the fate of the universe. This book reveals the existence of four ‘shadow Kingdoms’ which in reality rule the entire world. West is fighting on behalf of the Kingdom of Land, with the other three being the Kingdom of the Sea, the Kingdom of the Sky and the Underworld. At the semi-final of the games West finds himself in a duel to the death with Shane Schofield, also known as The Scarecrow. Scarecrow, knowing that West is more important than him, and also remembering the circumstances of Caesar Russell in one of his own previous adventures puts on a show but has every intention of being seen to be killed by West, and is. West duly wins, then wins the final as well, and finally correctly works out how to handle Cerberus to win the Great Games. West then manages to save Scarecrow as well. Also West sets the scene for the events of the last three novels by refusing to countenance one person ruling the world as dictator.


These two books build up for the finale. Aloysius Knight rescues West from incarceration in the world’s most secure jail, Erebus. Also escaping at the same time is Rastor, a Serbian general who wants the world to end, while various groupings associated with the shadow kingdoms and with the catholic church are also still very much involved. By the end of The Two Lost Mountains we are entering the final labyrinth, and four major players with differing goals are all still very much in the game.


The final installment begins with West’s team in three parts, one in quest of the bell which will reawaken those sent to sleep by the siren bells (very large numbers, part of Hardin Lancaster’s scheme to remake the world with himself in sole power), one keeping tabs on those shadow royals not directly involved in the quest, and one in the labyrinth. At times it seems like most of West’s team have been killed, but they survive somehow. The book and the series ends with a lengthy epilogue which takes things to a point from which everyone can be expected to live happily after. This is a fantastic series, and I have enjoyed seeing it change and develop, one from one book, to three, to a final seven.

All Time XIs – Scientists v Novelists

My latest variation on the all time XI cricket theme pits a team of cricketers who share names with famous scientists against a team who share names with famous writers of fiction.


Another day sees another variation on the all time XI cricket theme. Today we pit a team of cricketers who share names with famous scientists against a team of cricketers who share names with famous novelists. In all bar two cases the shared name is a surname. As per usual I have not selected anyone purely because their name fits. I am well aware that some very eminent scientists also wrote novels – Carl Sagan’s “Contact” is on my shelves to name but one.


  1. John Rutherford – right handed opening batter. He was the first Western Australian to be selected for his country, being picked for the 1956 tour of England. Although he failed, in common with most of his team mates, on that tour he had a very respectable first class record, and probably should have been given the opportunity to perform on home soil. His scientific namesake is Ernest Rutherford, born on the other side of the Tasman, and justly famous for his work on the atomic nucleus, and having the element Rutherfordium named in his honour.
  2. Navjot Singh Sidhu – right handed opening batter. At a time when his country found it hard to find anyone to go in against the new ball Sidhu did so and recorded a very respectable average. Although he was better against the quicks he could give mediocre spin and absolute walloping, as John Emburey and Ian Salisbury discovered to their cost on the 1992-3 tour of India. The scientist with whom he shares a name is Simon Singh, author of books that include “Fermat’s Last Theorem”  and “Big Bang”.
  3. Geoff Marsh – right handed batter. A first class triple centurion, and a fine test record as well. Among the many humiliations the 1989 Aussies inflicted on the disorganized and inadequate rabble masquerading as “England” that year Marsh and his left handed partner Taylor became only the second opening pair in Ashes history (after Hobbs and Sutcliffe who did so at Melbourne in 1924 in response to a total of 600) to bat through a whole day’s play – by tea on day 2 England had captured precisely two wickets in five uninterrupted sessions of bowling, before Australia did lose some wickets after that interval as they hustled to a declaration at 602-6, enough to win by an innings and plenty. Two sons, Shaun and Mitchell Marsh have also represented Australia with some success, although neither have a record to place them in the very top bracket. The scientist to whom Geoff owes his selection in this XI is palaeontologist Othniel Charles Marsh, who identified and catalogued a vast number of fossil species in the course of his long and distinguished career.
  4. Derek Randall – right handed batter, brilliant fielder. The heavy scoring Nottinghamshire batter was often made to bat right up at the top of the order for England, a role to which he was not best suited, though he did deliver one Ashes winning innings at no3, a nine and a half hour 150 in scorching heat at Sydney in the 1978-9 series. His speed around the field earned him the nickname ‘Arkle’ in honour of one the most famous racehorses of the time. His scientific namesake is cosmologist Lisa Randall, who I first came across in a wonderful little book by another cosmologist, Janna Levin, titled “How The Universe Got Its Spots”.
  5. Ian Bell – right handed batter. A superb timer of the ball, it often did not look like he had really hit the ball until one saw it speeding to the boundary. He overcame an early reputation for being somewhat soft to become for a period one of the most respected middle order batters in world cricket. His matching scientist is Jocelyn Bell, later Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered the first pulsar. She was scandalously deprived of the Nobel Prize this warranted as the committee decided to give sole credit to her supervisor Anthony Hewish, when at best he deserved a share of the award, though I personally would have limited him to an honourable mention in the citation.
  6. +John Hubble – wicket keeper, right handed batter. One of a succession of top drawer keepers that Kent have had down the years, he initially got into the side as a batter, while Fred Huish retained the gloves, but after World War 1 and before the rise of Ames who continued the sequence (which runs on through Evans and Alan Knott to Oliver Graham Robinson of today) he was keeper as of right. His scientific alter ego is of course Edwin Powell Hubble, discoverer of the red shift phenomenon and prover that ours is not the only galaxy in the universe, after whom the Hubble constant and the Hubble space telescope are named. Hubble was able to achieve what he did in no small part due to the hard and largely unheralded work of human ‘computer’ Henrietta Swan Leavitt.
  7. James Franklin – left handed batter, left arm medium fast bowler. The Kiwi who played for Middlesex for a number of years, fully merits his place as all rounder – at his best he was a very fine cricketer indeed. As befits the all rounder of the side he has two eminent scientific namesakes – Rosalind Franklin whose x-ray diffraction photographs helped to reveal the structure of DNA, though she got none of the credit, as her work was shown to Francis Crick and James Watson without her even being consulted and neither of those two saw fit to even mention her in connection with their claimed discovery and Benjamin Franklin, late 18th century polymath.
  8. Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. The Northamptonshire and England man destroyed Australia in their own backyard in the 1954-5 Ashes. A shooting star in cricket’s skies, his brief spell at the top left him with a test bowling average of 18.56. His scientific alter ego is Neil De Grasse Tyson, astrophysicist, cosmologist and planetary scientist.
  9. Srinivas Venkataraghavan – off spinner. The Indian, one of four specialist spinners who flourished for that country in the 1970s, was an off spinner more noted for accuracy than big turn. After his playing days were finished he went on to a very distinguished career as an umpire. His scientific namesake, slightly sneakily, is Srinivasa Ramanujan, the great Indian mathematician. Ramanujan was brought to England by the eminent Cambridge mathematician Godfrey Harold Hardy, and made serious waves in the few years he had before health problems overcame him. Hardy, in “A Mathematician’s Apology” tells a story of Ramanujan in his final illness: Hardy attempting to make conversation mentioned the number of the cab that had brought him there, 1729, and expressed the opinion that it was a rather dull number, to which Ramanujan said: “No Hardy, it is the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.”
  10. Jeff Thomson – right arm fast bowler. Terrifyingly fast in his prime, when he teamed up with Dennis Lillee to lay waste to opposition batting orders. One of the things that gave Clive Lloyd the idea for the ‘four fast bowlers’ strategy he used to such devastating effect for the West Indies was the experience the men from the Caribbean suffered when beaten 5-1 in Australia in 1975, and they struggled badly against Lillee and Thomson, backed up by left arm pace bowler Gary Gilmour and right arm fast medium swing specialist Max Walker. His scientist alter ego is William Thomson, first Baron Kelvin, after whom the absolute temperature scale, and Marcus Chown’s book “We Need To Talk About Kelvin” are both named. There used to be a pub called the Lord Kelvin near King’s Lynn bus station, but it closed a while back, and the building has been slowly but visibly decaying ever since.
  11. *Bhagwath Chandrasakehar – leg spinner. One of the most individual bowlers in cricket’s long history, his right arm was withered from polio suffered as a child, and that was the arm he bowled with. He managed with the aid of the whippy, withered limb to be quick through the air and achieve sharp turn. He is second in the list of first class wicket takers who did not ever bowl in the County Championship behind another very different leg spinner, Clarrie Grimmett. I have gambled by naming him as captain, a role actually performed IRL by his fellow specialist spinner Bishan Bedi.  His scientific namesake is Subrahmanyan Chandrasakehar, a physicist and cosmologist who shared a Nobel Prize with Willy Fowler for work that explained the later evolutionary stages of massive stars. The Chandrasakehar limit, which relates to the collapse of stars after they have gone supernova (it is the greatest mass that a white dwarf can reach before it in it’s own turn collapses further to become a neutron star) is named in his honour.

The ‘scientists XI’ has a respectable top five, a good wicket keeper who can bat at six, an all rounder and four varied specialist bowlers. The bowling, with Tyson, Thomson, Franklin as third seamer, Chandrasakehar and Venkataraghavan should not struggle to take 20 wickets in a match either.


  1. Charlie Harris – right handed opening batter. Like his great Nottinghamshire predecessor George Gunn, Harris was an eccentric. Once when chided for slow scoring by a spectator he pointed his bat handle first towards the culprit and mimed shooting! His fiction writing alter ego for my purposes is Robert Harris, a writer of historical novels, including a trilogy about the life of Marcus Tullius Cicero, “Imperium”, “Lustrum” and “Dictator” and a novel about the selection of a new Pope, “Conclave”.
  2. MJK Smith – right handed opening batter. The Warwickshire and England man was a big scorer who never quite established himself at test level, partly because when he was in his prime Boycott and Edrich were normally first choice openers. He has two namesakes I choose to mention: Denis O Smith, a writer of new Sherlock Holmes stories, and Dodie Smith, author of “101 Dalmatians” and “Starlight Barking”, both of which I read and enjoyed as a child.
  3. *WG Grace – right handed batter, right arm bowler of various types. Cricket’s first superstar, used in my “CLR James Trophy” post to introduce the man he was named after, royal physician to Elizabeth I William Gilbert. This time he gets in to highlight action/ adventure novelist Tom Grace.
  4. Adrian Rollins – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. The Derbyshire man who could not have been far short of an England call up at his best gets in on account of the novels of James Rollins. The first Rollins novel that I read was “The Judas Strain”, which was set largely in the Angkor temple complex in Cambodia, and featured a bacteria that turned all the bacteria in the human body against their host. It is an excellent read, and I have found that to apply to many other Rollins books.
  5. Stanley Jackson – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. A Yorkshire stalwart whose England appearances were limited to home matches against Australia (he scored five test centuries nevertheless). His fiction writing analogue is Douglas Jackson, a writer of historical fiction whose first book was “Caligula”, and who then moved forwards in time through the reigns of Claudius and Nero. This is a popular period with novelists, with Robert Graves’ classics “I, Claudius” and “Claudius The God” overlapping it, along with Roberto Fabbri’s “Vespasian” series and Simon Scarrow’s “Eagles” series.
  6. Dai Davies – right handed batter, right arm medium pacer, right arm off spin. Glamorgan’s first great home grown talent of their first class period (they became a first class county in 1921, he made his debut in 1923, retiring in 1939). He was umpiring in the game at Bournemouth in which Glamorgan sealed their first County Championship in 1948, and is alleged to have responded to the final appeal with “that’s out and we’ve won.”. His fiction writing analogue is David Stuart Davies, a highly skilled Holmesian writer whose credits include “Sherlock Holmes and The Ripper Legacy”, “The Veiled Detective” and many others.
  7. Ellyse Perry – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. Her colossal list of cricketing credits include a test double century and a seven-for in an ODI. Her fiction writing namesake is Anne Perry, author of historical detective novels. Her two main series feature lead characters named Thomas Pitt and William Monk respectively.
  8. +Kycia Knight – wicket keeper, left handed batter. An excellent keeper with a very respectable batting record. Her sister Kyshona also plays for the West Indies. Her fiction writing alter ego is Bernard Knight, creator of the “Crowner John” series of historical detective novels.
  9. Bill O’Reilly – leg spinner. Rated by many as the best bowler of any type to play in the inter-war years, his achievements include topping 25 wickets in each of four successive series. His fiction writing counterpart is Matthew Reilly, a bit of a stretch, but worth it for his extraordinary action adventure novels. Whether it be his Jack West series, the Scarecrow series (these two were effectively amalgamated by “The Four Legendary Kingdoms”, which has been followed by “The Three Secret Cities”, leaving two volumes, the last of which I suspect will be titled “The Omega Event”, to complete that series, or his various stand alone efforts, such as “Temple”, “Tournament” and “The Great Zoo of China” the books are universally excellent. I put up a post about his novels a while back, and recommend you visit it by clicking here.
  10. Craig McDermott – right arm fast bowler. The red headed Queenslander was an excellent fast bowler in his day, though a trifle injury prone. His literary alter ego is Andy McDermott, author of a series of adventure novels featuring archaeologist Nina Wilde and her ex-SAS husband Eddie Chase. The most recent novel in the series is “The Spear of Atlantis”, but you will not be disappointed whichever of these novels you happen to pick up.
  11. Matthew Dunn – right arm fast bowler. At one stage, before injuries started to take their toll he seemed destined for an England call up. As it is he only gets in because he has two literary alter egos: Carola Dunn, author of two excellent series of detective novels, the “Daisy Dalrymple” series and the “Cornish Mysteries”, which feature DS Megan Pencarrow, and Suzannah Dunn, author of historical novels including “Confessions of Katherine Howard” and “Sixth Wife”.

This team has great batting depth, with everyone down to Knight at no8 recognized in that department, and the bowling is well stocked, with Dunn, McDermott and O’Reilly the specialists, and Perry, Grace, Davies and Jackson as more than handy back up options. The spin department is a little light, but even so it looks a good bowling unit.


The contest for what I have decided to call the ‘CP Snow Trophy’ looks an absolute cracker. The ‘scientists’ have a somewhat less strong batting line up, but a quite awesome bowling attack, while the ‘novelists’ have a better batting line up, but are less formidable as a bowling unit. It will probably come down to the contributions of WG Grace and Ellyse Perry, and it is hard not to see those two each producing a match winning performance somewhere, so in a five match series the ‘novelists’ are not faring any worse than a 3-2 defeat. Equally it is hard to see Tyson and Thomson not being match winners, so we arrive at 2-2 for four of the five matches – it will go down to the wire.


Here, linking both of today’s XIs, is a mathematical problem involving a bit of detective work, courtesy of

Angle Detective

The original question was officially a multiple choice one, but I solved it in seconds and without reference to the available choices, so I am not making it multiple choice here.


The two sides contending for the ‘CP Snow Trophy’ have been introduced, and I have offered up a mathematical teaser for your attention. I offer one solitary link before my usual sign off: to a piece at gazetteseries calling for an ambitious approach to the reintroduction of beavers to the UK.

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P1320686 (2)
The nest five pictures are all the same shot edited in different ways.

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Scientists v Novelists
The teams in tabulated form.

The Four Legendary Kingdoms – Book Review

A review of Matthew Reilly’s latest masterpiece.


Welcome to my review of Matthew Reilly’s latest thriller. The book is a continuation of the Jack West series, which started with The Seven Ancient Wonders, The Six Sacred Stones and The Five Greatest Warriors.



Previously in this series we have seen the re-erection of the capstone of the Great Pyramid of Khufu and the rebuilding of a great machine which saved the world from the Dark sun. In the first adventure West and his team faced two sets of foes, a catholic church led group and a US led group. Having been beaten in the first quest, the catholic church played no role in the second, but a new set of foes in the Japanese, determined to end the world, appeared.

Now, eight years on the world faces another threat – a potential collision between the Hydra Galaxy and the Milky Way. The four kingdoms of the title are four shadow kingdoms who rule the world between them, Land, Sea, Sky and The Underworld.

The first stage of the process to save the world from the Hydra Galaxy is the staging of the Great Games of the Hydra, for the fourth time in history (the three previous champions being Osiris, Gilgamesh and Hercules). West is kidnapped so that he has to compete in these games on behalf of the Kingdom of Land.

This means that he faces a series of challenges (along with 15 other competitors) that passed into legend as the Labours of Hercules. It transpires that among the other challengers is Captain Shane Schofield of the US Marines, aka the Scarecrow, whose participation is also not voluntary.

Eventually West and the Scarecrow face each other in a fight to the death (West wins, but Schofield has taken the same drug that Caesar Russell used to cheat death in Area 7…). West then has to take on the younger son of the king of The Underworld plus Mephisto, Fear and Chaos all fighting on behalf of their king’s son. He emerges victorious from this fight, and then faces the final challenge of delivering Cerberus to the king of The Underworld, which he accomplishes by dint of asking permission to so.

He then prevents his own king from receiving hidden wisdom that will make him all-powerful. To save the world and prevent it from being in the grip of a tyranny West mus now find the three hidden cities (there is the title of the next book in this series ready made) and extract their wisdom. I did not see any pointers to the the title starting with two, but I would be fairly confident in reckoning that the last book in the series will be titled The Omega Event.

Given that Scarecrow has put in an appearance in this book what of other Reilly leads? Well I could see roles for William Race and possibly C J Cameron somewhere along the line. Another possibility would be a now grown-up Kirstie Hensleigh (from Ice Station) playing a role somewhere along the line.

This is a fabulous book, which I heartily recommend to everyone.

Before showing some internal illustrations a final speculation: I reckon the Japanese still have a final intervention in them before this series is done. For more on Matthew Reilly’s books check out this post.


The Novels of Matthew Reilly

An introduction the novels of Matthew Reilly.


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…


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).


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…


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’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…


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…


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…


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…


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.


A Vote and A Day at Work

An account of a vote, a bus journey anbd a day at work.


I am going to cover today’s events in chronological order…


The easy way to make sure that you get something done is to do it early. Therefore I set off early from my flat so as to call in at the polling station before heading to catch my bus. My vote duly cast (Remain just in case anyone did not already know my intentions) I had more time than I needed to get to the bus station so I walked by a scenic route bagging a few photos along the way…


The bus arrived in good time, and the journey went without a hitch, helped along from my perspective by the non-stop action taking place in “The Great Zoo of China” (I borrowed the hardback earlier, see here for more details).


Just over two full pages which give an idea as to just how things are going to go horrifically wrong!


Not many photos from today as not much stuff was actually ready to be imaged, so I brought the database up to date. Here are images of the few lots that were ready for me…


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!

Electrodes and Esoteric Maps

An account of my latest visit to the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge, with a mention of my website, and plenty of photographs from today.


Today I paid a visit to the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge to participate in a study entitled “VISUAL AND SOCIAL RESPONSES IN PEOPLE WITH ASC”. Just in case anyone failed to work it out, ASC is shorthand for Autistic Spectrum Conditions. If you have an ASC, can get to Cambridge, and would be interested in participating you could email Jan Freyberg for more details.


I decided, in keeping my usual rule for such situations, to take the earlier of two possible trains and be certain barring a major incident of being able to be there in time. I was therefore at Cambridge train station before nine, the train having run like clockwork on this occasion. I took a slightly longer than necessary route to the Autism Research Centre, getting some interesting photos along the way…

The first of four pictures from the Roman Catholic Church.
The first of four pictures from the Roman Catholic Church.

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Three pictures from this building, the Scott Polar Research Institute
Three pictures from this building, the Scott Polar Research Institute

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The first of four pictures from the Chemical Laboratories. This stonework reminded me of a Matthew Reilly novel - probably a Jack West adventure with Lily decoding the symbols.
The first of four pictures from the Chemical Laboratories. This stonework reminded me of a Matthew Reilly novel – probably a Jack West adventure with Lily decoding the symbols.

Following on from the previous caption, the next book in the Jack West series should feature the number four in its title!
Following on from the previous caption, the next book in the Jack West series should feature the number four in its title!


The device on the left as you look at this picture could a be the framework for "The Machine" in the Jack West novels.
The device on the left as you look at this picture could a be the framework for “The Machine” in the Jack West novels.

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The river alongside Trumpington Road (the Autism Research Centre in based  in Douglas House, a.k.a 18 Trumpington Road) .
The river alongside Trumpington Road (the Autism Research Centre in based in Douglas House, a.k.a 18 Trumpington Road) .

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Ironwork on a bridge over the river.
Ironwork on a bridge over the river.



This study was monitoring electrical activity in the brain, which meant me wearing what was effectively a bathing cap with connections for 64 electrodes. After a preliminary which involved keeping the eyes open for a minute and then closed for a minute and repeating that process, the proper tests began. The first featured white and grey lines flashing across the centre of the screen while I kept my eye on a cross right at the heart of the screen. There was then a sequence of trials in which real pictures flashed up on the screen very fast, for a minute at a time. The final trial involved grey and white “gratings” once again, but this time the box in which they would appear had a solid black border.

There were also of course various bits of paperwork to fill out and sign.

Once I had finished everything, Jan showed be back into the main building and I headed to the exit, making a single stop en route due to something I had noticed on the way to the testing room…


On the way to the testing room I had noticed an intriguing poster, which on closer inspection was entitled “Tastes of London” and was a very interesting variation on the classic London Underground Map. I photographed it, and made it the centrepiece of this post on


The journey back was uneventful, save for a small delay between Littleport and Downham Market. I conclude withe the photographs from the return journey…

The first of two picttures showing some of Douglas  House's external decor.
The first of two picttures showing some of Douglas House’s external decor.

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A new development near the train station in Cambridge, still not complete.
A new development near the train station in Cambridge, still not complete.

Three pictures of silver plaques with ink faces on them that are set into the pavements at the bus station that adjoins Cambridge station.
Three pictures of silver plaques with ink faces on them that are set into the pavements at the bus station that adjoins Cambridge station.

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Two samles (this and the next of deocrations at the train station).
Two samles (this and the next of deocrations at the train station).


Pictures taking through train windows are always difficult, but these last four all came out OK.
Pictures taking through train windows are always difficult, but these last four all came out OK.

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