Jack West. Six consonants, two vowels. It’s the kind of name Clive Cussler would slap manfully on the ass, maybe before allowing his palm to rest and cup just a little too long before breaking contact – but enough of that old sailor! Jack West is a creation of Matthew Reilly, and he’s so pathetically keen to tell us all about him he blurts out all the good stuff straight away. Onto our blouse, if you like.

For example: Jack West is the fourth best soldier in the world – they had a vote, it looks like, and he almost won, so there. And he’s got a pet falcon called Horus.  He’s got two arms – and one of them is made of a robot! He’s way more interesting than any other fast-paced hero I’ve ever read about, no question. And he’s got two call signs, although that’s hardly an unique quality. The first was Huntsman and the new one is Woodsman, which is a pity, because it’s the only replacement call sign forced onto his team that is not cripplingly shameful and no-one remembers to use it after page 8. As for the person responsible for all that, allow me to introduce Lily. She’s, ah, well, er, she’s a, hum, er, she’s a ten-year old, uh, girl. Wow, barely an hour since I finished the first chapter and that’s all I can remember about her.

I’m going to have real difficulties with this book. For a start, if my use of blog tags was to fairly represent the frequency of limp-wristed characterisation and crappy images on display, the words gey and clip-art would stand eight storeys high while all the others lie squashed down to the size of your average sex phone line legal disclaimer (oh, and anyone who thinks about suggesting that the words one, hit and wonder describe my blog more accurately than they do Matthew Reilly’s career – I know it, and I got in there before you did, so kiss it).

Seriously, is this a novel or a copy of Computer Aided Design For Dummies? Aside from a handful of photographs so poorly rendered they could be depicting someone’s missing pets, the pictures look like MS Paint doodles at best. Worse still, so far as I can tell every single significant one (and there are plenty that don’t even achieve that status) appears directly before and completely reveals any potential surprises lying in wait in the text. Imagine you were going to write a scene in which your heroes enter an unknown room filled with traps; you might wish your readership to feel trepidation too; you might try to be a writer, and describe this exciting environment using words; and, if so, you might think a drawing of the room with prominent labels reading “direction of travel” and “spike-holes” could, possibly, reduce the impact a touch. Yep, not only are the pictures all really amateurish looking, they make the text of the book utterly redunde-

Hmm.

On reflection I’m feeling a bit more affectionate towards the pictures. However, to salvage what I can of my tag balance I’m going to tally up the number of clip-art spoilers and not bother mentioning the subject ever again (in your dreams)… talk amongst yourselves… well, yourself

Fifty.

That’s not including the repeating chapter icon, or the little bondage hieroglyph that pops up every now and then, so it could be over sixty easily. Some of the others are repeats too, occasionally with minor changes, but really – reilly – is this necessary? The thing’s practically a comic strip.

Many of these pictures take up entire pages. I think there’s a reason for this. I think it’s

the same reason why the entire text of the novel is about this fucking big on the page.

The same reason why, for maximum impact, some words get a whole line practically to themselves.

Themselves.

For impact.

With Italics.

Yeah, there’s quite a lot of italics too, but that’s another issue which I promise I’ll get to. As well as the massive, creatively formatted text and frequent pictorial interruptions, there is also the dazzling expanse of empty paper leading into every new subsection and, even more emptily, often ending them too. Time for some vital mathematics: the “story” part of this hardback novel incorporates 462 pages, and by an incredible coincidence I’ve just calculated that only 46.2% of them have any writing on.

Yes. Now it becomes clear. The novel Seven Ancient Wonders is in fact only comprised of Seven Actual Paragraphs, drawn out to extraordinary lengths in a cunning and, apparently, successful attempt to fool a publishing house that they’re actually holding more than the synopsis for a novel which Reilly has no intention of really writing.

Reilly writing.

Sorry, got distracted there for a second. Anyway, having finished chapter one, I can safely reveal a few things. It details the fast-paced assault on an ancient Egyptian tomb-like structure in the Sudan containing a lost body part of an ancient wonder, upon which resides one of seven golden parts of another ancient wonder, the collection of said parts being desired by West’s team, referred to as the Nine (until someone gets left behind, at which point they become the Eight for a bit), but also two evil groups: first, a shoot-first, blow-things-up-laughing-later evil American military force; and second, a pan-European evil military force, lead by an evil Jesuit priest named after an Italian footballer and his diminutive protégé, a seemingly evil ten-year old boy who is “exactly Lily’s age”, as Reilly and West tell us, preferring to just pour transparent piss over a potential plot point on its first appearance rather than letting us… wonder.

None of this matters, though. The heroes break in, get the treasure and a clue, escape from under the Evil Europeans’ noses, then are captured by the Evil Americans and have to surrender the treasure to them – quite like what happens in the first bit of Raiders of the Lost Arc, actually. Clearly this is a family adventure more or less suitable for all the family, with just a tiny bit of inappropriate family swearing and one of the family of heroes having his head blown apart by snipers… oh.

Funny that, because the reading level is probably suitable for my nephew and he hasn’t even been conceived yet. Not just the reading level either, because in order for the team to escape the evil clutches of one of West’s arch-nememises (the story has hardly started and he’s already got at least three, don’t be surprised if there’s an arch-Rameses before too long) their getaway Boeing 747 with mounted machine-gun turrets pulls an amazingly infantile-reality-satisfying rescue and spirits them all away just in the nick of time.

Now they are all safe, and can plan their next move. Lily has a jolly good cry over the untimely head-exploding of Noddy (whoever he reilly was) while West gets his head down for some kip – and dreams of lava… and booby-traps… and stone altars…

…in the present indicative…

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