The images of West’s dreams:

West running desperately down an ancient stone passageway with Wizard at his side, towards the sounds of booming drums, chanting and a woman’s terrified screams.

It’s hot.

Hot as Hell.

And since it’s inside a volcano, it even looks like Hell.

Now. One of the following three versions is correctly emphasised – can you tell which?

“It even looks like Hell.” x “It even looks like Hell.” x “It even looks like Hell.”

Hope you enjoyed the little quiz. No answer sheets, but there’s a pretty good chance that you just scored better than Matthew Reilly would have, since – and you can confirm for yourself by reading his last sentence aloud – he has no idea of how the English language works. You may think it a little unfair of me to pull him up for using italics like this; after all I fairly pepper my commentaries with them. I suspect Matt and I both do it for the same reason: to make written English look a bit like how spoken English sounds. The problem is, Matt apparently doesn’t know how spoken English sounds.

The problem is, Matt apparently doesn’t know how spoken English sounds. Clarification

The problem is, Matt apparently doesn’t know how spoken English sounds. Methodological

The problem is, Matt apparently doesn’t know how spoken English sounds. Clarification

The problem is, Matt apparently doesn’t know how spoken English sounds. Uninformed

The problem is, Matt apparently doesn’t know how spoken English sounds. Clarification

The problem is, Matt apparently doesn’t know how spoken English sounds. Contradictory

The problem is, Matt apparently doesn’t know how spoken English sounds. Clarification

The problem is, Matt apparently doesn’t know how spoken English sounds. Exasperation

The problem is, there are very approximately a Marillion ways of emphasising spoken English and yet this professional novelist consistently manages to find ones that don’t work. There is a strong lobby group which would argue that the casual use of italics is bad form in literature generally, even in actual dialogue and certainly not polluting the narrative text itself – but I’m going to cry nay to their ayes. I say if it makes you happy, then do it – AS LONG AS YOU DO IT PROPERLY. If you can’t do it properly, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it at all.

Now there’s a thought. Matthew Reilly could save a lot of trees following that philosophy.

Okay. Enough with the italics.

Boom go the drums. I meant “enough from me“. And clearly, I was lying about that too.

The evil chanting is close now.

The woman’s frenzied screams are like nothing he has ever heard: pained, desperate, primal. Rockin’…

West shoots a look to Wizard. Oh, please. If you can’t distinguish between prepositions in your first tongue, you are NOT allowed to be a writer. Your are out of the club. Go on, fuck off.

The older man waves him on. “Go! Jack! Go! Get to her! I’ll catch up! And I’d like to thank the academy – and Ed Wood Jnr. – for this Best Supporting Diction award…

West jumps feet-first into the pipe-shaft and slides fast.

Five traps later, he emerges from the bottom of the long stone pipe on . . .

. . . a balcony of some kind. Shouldn’t that pause been during the slide and not after it?

A balcony which overlooks a large ceremonial cavern. He peers out from the balcony’s railing and beholds the horrifying sight. Is it this action sequence?

“Five traps later”? It says a lot when a self-proclaimed king of booby-trap porn, at the start of only the second chapter of his trap-festooned flagship work, so loses interest in his core subject that he can barely even be bothered to mention them in passing – and I’m going to generously overlook the phrase “pipe-shaft” as much as possible. As for the formatting, have a look at this:

Boom go the drums. The evil chanting is close now. The woman’s frenzied screams are like nothing he has ever heard: pained, desperate, primal. West shoots a look to Wizard. The older man waves him on.

“Go! Jack! Go! Get to her! I’ll catch up!” Well, there’s no saving this bit.

West jumps feet-first into the pipe-shaft and slides fast. Five traps later, he emerges from the bottom of the long stone pipe on . . . a balcony of some kind. A balcony which overlooks a large ceremonial cavern. He peers out from the balcony’s railing and beholds the horrifying sight.

Now that actually looks like it might be the content of a novel. It only takes a moment’s work to turn an obvious padding exercise into proper-looking text. What could Reilly be trying to achieve, if not the obvious book stretching alluded to earlier?

Sod it. This is a short chapter, so let’s get it behind us. West witnesses a cluster of hooded priests of the ancient Egyptian variety, a platoon of French paratroopers, and the evil Juventus – excuse me, Jesuit priest del Piero stand around waiting to steal something from the still screaming and heavily pregnant woman lying utterly helpless on an alter. West heroically does nothing as, in a prophetic shaft of sunlight from above, she gives birth to a bouncing baby boy and promptly drops dead. del Piero and his cronies (definitely the word to use) march out in victory, triggering a lowering ceiling and fountains of molten lava from the pipes marked in the clip-art – oops, fuck, sorry, now I’ll have to use the tag – at the start of the chapter, just as Wizard arrives OF West’s side.

After claiming he could do nothing, West announces he’s not going to abandon Malena to be crushed (proving in the process that he knew this woman and, in my opinion, is by his inaction massively complicit in her death) so he swings down to her side. He goes into an apparent trance, rests a hand on her belly for some reason and feels the kick of… another baby! Quelle surprise. He calls “Max” to join him and – well, read it for yourself.

A gruesome yet urgent image: flanked by the encroaching lava and the steadily lowering ceiling, the two men perform a Caesarean delivery on the dead woman’s body using West’s Leatherman knife.

Well shit, I guess I’ll be throwing away my Leatherman in the morning. I’m just holding out hope that before I pass the halfway mark here West will be using Swarfega as a sexual lubricant, preferably with Wizard pitching. My DIY hobby will take a rough hit, but hell, so will West.

With a little girl in hand – and note I say hand, singular – West and Max have to flee, but there is lava everywhere and no way to stop it; or so it seems, but West’s eagle-eyes spot an off switch, hidden in a dark hole, behind a lava fall – suggesting perhaps that, for Reilly at least, there is no difference in opacity between molten rock and weak Ribena. With dazzling bravery – and Wizard’s promise that he’ll build him a robot arm that will be even better than the real one he’s about to lose – they run across a pool of lava, hang about while West pokes his unprotected arm through super-heated liquid rock and somehow turns an ancient stone switch (without snapping what’s left of his arm off until after the traps are disconnected), then run through the exit to freedom. Leaving, by the way, Malena’s body on the alter. A man of his word, is West. If his word is… er, thingie… what was it now? You know… starts with an f… damn, it was on the tip of my… whotsit…

Well, whatever. After bandaging West’s stump, Wizard contemplates the baby girl that I certainly wasn’t expecting him to find, awe-fully declaiming that “twin oracles” are “unprecedented” and that it is important that “del Piero doesn’t know” about what happened. Then he tells West that they must call the member states (of what, he doesn’t mention) and prepare for “perhaps the most important meeting of the modern age”.

A Meeting. Ooooh. I’ll take suggestions for what the previous top five vital meetings before this one were from any interested participants, and I’ll also leave you with this question to ponder:

If (in this dream that West has been having) the date reilly is 1996, and if that means this oracular baby girl reilly is Lily, and if Lily reilly was the one who gave everyone moronic novelty call-signs… then how-the-fuck-come Wizard is already called Wizard?

How do you like those italics?

Advertisements