File 3: Seven Ancient Wonders


Wait – no, wait – hang on

X

In the last chapter, West and his crew have to fight their way up a wall of –

X

No, wait – they have to climb up a wall of booby traps to get at the –

X

To get to the wonder

X

So it’s – it’s a…


shit.

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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…

Fucking clip-art Jesus pantihose. I thought this nightmare was in my past, but no. I’m not going to lie to you: this thing is clearly going to be total shit from start to finish – but it is a different quality of shit and that’s what will make reading it a little special.

Let’s get scientific about this.

First, you’ve got your Dan Brown Shit. It’s slick, efficient, you don’t have to strain at all and it passes so smoothly that you only have to wipe as a matter of routine, knowing even as you do that one sheet of paper will be enough to put your mind at ease. Many people apparently found The Da Vinci Code “incredibly satisfying”, words which, it should always be remembered, consistently represent the reported enjoyment of taking a big dump – in this case a hip-shatteringly massive one, but nothing more.

Then, by contrast, there’s your Clive Cussler Shit. Which is nutty.

Now, however, we have Matthew Reilly Shit – and this is the fun shit, you get me, this is the crazy amatuer shit, you know, this is the spread-it-on-the-walls, pick-it-up-and-throw-it-through-the-bars type shit. It’s shit, but it’s fun!

Fun, that is, for the monkey throwing it. For the monkey reading it, in this case me, the fun stopped somewhere around, oh, page 8, when I discovered what the call signs of the heroes were.

Actually, call signs generally are a bit, y’know, gay these days, aren’t they? I mean, on the one hand you have gamer-tags and internet nicknames and that’s all fine, and on the other hand you have… Top Gun. And Gladiators. Lots of gleaming six-packs, and nipple-pecs, and people calling themselves Ice Man and Maverick and… er… Lightning and Filly, or whatever.

So here we have a heroic combat team who, without blushing, DON’T run into battle calling themselves Huntsman, Witch Doctor, Archer, Bloody Mary, Saladin, Matador and Gunman – because that would be gay.

No. They VOLUNTARILY call themselves Woodsman, Fuzzy, Stretch, Princess Zoe, Pooh Bear, Noddy and Big Ears. During life-and-death struggles they do this. Because their ten-year old girl team-member says these are their new call signs.

This is all so amazingly faggotty that it goes beyond conventional sexualised insults and enters brave new territories of gayness desirous of their own label, and it has fallen upon me to chose one:

This, is gey.

And before you make any assumptions about Princess Zoe – no, that’s not the girl. She doesn’t give herself a call sign. She gives one to the other civilian, an old man with a long beard (Wizard, as if you couldn’t guess), but she doesn’t give a call sign to herself – so even if she wasn’t tagging along with an elite combat team running through a Sudanese swamp, she’d still be the least convincing ten-year old in literary history.

So, not fun anymore by only page 8. But on page 9, whoo, at least it gets funny

The chief resident of the swamp was Crocodylus niloticus, the notorious Nile crocodile. Reaching sizes of up to 6 metres, the Nile crocodile is known for its great size, its brazen cunning, and its ferocity of attack.

Are you ready?

It is the most man-eating crocodilian in the world

Aaaaaaah, pissed myself.

I’ve just got back from my holidays and I need a break. I just can’t face Cussler right now, and in any case I’ve been approaching the problem of him all wrong – the way I’m going I’ll have a text headed Valhalla Rising long enough to publish (from my padded cell), and that’s two things I don’t want to have in common with Clive for a start. So instead, I’m going to toss Dirk Pitt® in the direction of the bonfire for a while and go back to basics: just a nice, easy reading diary of some spectacular piece of crap.

So, what is it that I hold in my hand?

FROM THE WORLD’S FASTEST-PACED WRITER COMES THE GREATEST ADVENTURE OF ALL

MATTHEW REILLY

An Indiana Jones clone goes fantasy spelunking for giant hieroglyphics  (with his pet kestrel)

SEVEN
ANCIENT
WONDERS

Ahhhh – I feel refreshed already! In all honesty, this cover image is pretty restrained as these things go (if slightly out of focus, like a disaster recorded by a bystander’s camera-phone). Warning signs, though: what exactly does “the world’s fastest-paced writer” mean? The author is all nippy, but his book is steady and restrained? I’m guessing not. As for “the greatest adventure of all” – well, the bigger they come…

What else can we say about this little doorstop? Well, the top quote on the back cover (“Breathless Action . . . Explosive stuff”) is credited simply to MIRROR, which rather makes me wonder if it was dictated by the author into one. The next, attributed to GUARDIAN, means I may be picking on an orphan – though judging by the glowing comments, at least he’s a well-loved one. Alarm bells now: “Reilly’s talent for coming up with ingenious new twists on every page is awesome. So are his characters” claims this proud parent-figure. Ingenious new twists on every page? And is it ingenious new characters on every page too? I wonder what this creative gargantuan looks like.

OH MY GOD HE’S HARRY POTTER.

That was quite a scare, and unfortunately makes it very clear that, in fact, I’m picking on an unloved orphan after all. What a total prick I am. However I’m a prick who learns from his mistakes, so I’m not going to waste time checking the page total and counting the chapters, I’m just going to dive straight in.

…oh, fuck no.

Clip-art.

Take me now, lord, take me now.

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