I hope you’re ready for my victorious revenge. But first, news.

Within days of the historic meeting, the team was in Kenya–living and working and training–at a remote farm-station near the Tanzanian border. On a clear day, to the south they could see the mighty cone of Kilimanjaro peeking above the horizon.

Far from the Western world.

Far from their enemies.

The farm–very deliberately–had wide flat treeless pastures stretching for two miles in every direction from the central farmhouse.

There would be no unexpected visitors to this place.

Political naïveté on Reilly’s part? Cultural ignöránce? Not sure, but if you’re wanting to avoid “unexpected visitors” you can do quite a lot better than hiding on a white-owned farm in Central Eastern Africa. Fair enough, he didn’t pick Zimbabwe, but still. Two minutes of Googling tells me that Kenyans feel more than a little sympathy towards Mugabe’s reclamation proclamation administration. Good thing they only have to hang around until 2006, when Lily finally gets her prophetic act together.

In the ten years of meantime, the entire team have – as we noted previously – agreed to hang around on this farm in order to protect, bond with and generally help raise their globally vital infant. For example, Fuzzy – and I use that gey-sign only under protest – teaches Lily to move silently; seeing Saladin pray towards Mecca prompts an awkward conversation about why “why some Islamic women wore head-covering burqas”, apparently providing breakfast-time entertainment for everyone else. Matador/Noddy/soon-to-be-headless-Ricky Martin shows her how to be a weight for him to bench press. As for West, he reveals a lavender side to his personality and takes her to the ballet.

But two of the team deserve special note: the Irish brother and sister team of Liam and Zoe, AKA’d as Gunman and Princess Zoe. Gunman is a giant wing-nuted skin head who Lily bonds especially closely with because – and Reiily says it himself – she equals his intellectual capacities before her age reaches double-figures. “He wasn’t all that smart, but he was a great commando” he tells us, along with other gem-nuggets of empathetic characterisation, such as them watching films and reading books together, their love of dual-player Splinter Cell tournaments, playing with real plastic explosives, and…

…no-one would ever forget the famous tea party held on the front lawn one summer, with, presumably, call-sign Mister Bear, Little Dog, Big Dog, Barbie, Lilly and Gunman–huge Gunman, all 6 feet of him, hunched over on a tiny plastic chair, sipping from a plastic teacup, allowing Lily to pour him another cup of imaginary tea.

Everyone in the team saw it–watching from inside the farmhouse, alerted by a whisper from Doris. The thing was, no-one ever–ever–teased Gunman about the incident. Although, calling it an “incident”, my guess is that someone discretely asked Lily if she would point to parts of Barbie at least once over those ten long years…

Notice “Doris” slipping in there? Wondering who that is? Well, conveniently she leads me towards my next point, so I’ll tell you: she is Max/Epper/Wizard’s spouse, “a much-needed grandmotherly figure on the farm”.

Seriousness for a moment: once, in my distant past, I used to work for the army.  Don’t ask me in what capacity. I’d have to… do something to you. As a result I consider myself to be quite familiar with the exploits of yer average soldiery while at ease and, not to put too fine a point on it, I think there is another “much-needed presence” when you throw a platoon together and then expect them to spend a decade on an isolated farm.

Although she wasn’t a very girly girl, Zoe taught Lily some necessary girly things–like brushing her hair, filing her nails and now to make boys do her bidding.

Mmm-hmm. I bet she could. I bet, after ten years as the only eligible bachelorette in their inviolate two-mile radius, Zoe could teach us all a few things about making boys jump how high. In fact, I think Lily missed a trick when she labelled everyone’s special friend Princess Zoe. Princess Raleigh sounds more accurate, since I’ll bet the farm she’s been ridden round it by everyone bar Gunman since week one – and the only reason he didn’t is that he’s a bloody great man-child and doesn’t reilly know what his tinkle’s for.

Anyway, a quick update on the plot: Nothing much happens that I haven’t already summed up above (using the exact same number of words but only about 1/10th the space Reilly did) apart from the arrival of one Benjamin Cohen, call-sign Leonar– no, sorry, Archer, shortly to be changed to Stretch, a Mossad sniper and yet another passing pal of West, who has been sent by his America-and-Europe opposing superiors to help out or, if refused access, shop them all to the Yanks.

How the Israelis had discovered them, they didn’t know–but then Mossad is the most ruthless and efficient intelligence service in the world. It knows everything. Apart from… er… actually, I think I’ll leave this one alone. Just in case.

West decides to let him stay, despite insisting on no communications with the outside world on pain of blowing his brains out – which sort of suggests he could just do that anyway and save three portions of food every day for their last couple of years on the farm. But he doesn’t, leaving this so-likely-it’s-unlikely betrayer in their midst and pointedly not spending much quality time with the Arabic Saladin – another example of Reilly’s gentle touch with characterisation, motivation and international relations.

Then, when she’s almost ten, Lily – who has spent the years learning at the knee of Wizard ( oh God, the anticipation is so delicious! ) proving herself a linguistic prodigy of tongue-twisting proportions – finally finds she can read the mysterious clip-art message that has been pinned to the fridge door all this time (I’m giving Reilly and my tags a clip-art break today, there were only two in the whole chapter). She quickly spits out the very instructions that lead the team to the trapundated Sudanese temple from chapter one, and three days later – well, the rest is history.

That same day the Sun (sic) rotated on its axis and the small sunspot that the Egyptians called Ra’s Prophet appeared on its surface.

In seven days, on March 20, the Tartarus Rotation would occur.

Honestly, he does make it sound as if the sun spins like a plate on a stick, doesn’t he?

The chapter ends there – but I don’t. Oh no. There’s one last thing I have to do before I go and light up this fat stoogie and blow smoke-rings at my enormous out-of-court settlement. Let’s wind the clock back five years:

Epper was a wonderful teacher.

Lily just adored him–loved his wise old face, his kind blue eyes, and the gentle yet clever way he taught.

And so she renamed him Wizard.

Can you see where I’m going? Let’s wind it back another five years (and to Reilly’s best ever paragraph…):

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.

Thirty seconds later,

Wizard

XXX lifts a second child from the

woman’s slit-open womb.

It is a girl.

It gives me great pleasure to TAKE BACK my retraction, and award this beautiful Absolute Failure Award (Internal Logic) to Seven Ancient Wonders, by Matthew Reilly.

Ahhh.

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Look, be reasonable. I can’t be expected to reproduce the whole damn book for you, page by page; but, equally, I know I can’t run the risk of missing out a single excellent John Hancock nor priceless example of character illustration. So, for your delectation, I will pause on occasion to offer up some of the choicest cuts. For our first diversionary outing, let’s meet those with rank. Only one really juicy name and we’ve already encountered him, so we’ll start with that; but the descriptions – well, I know I pluralised there, but…

Captain Kermit Burch

Kermit Burch came almost immediately, wearing only a pair of polka-dot shorts. I’m not above a bit of quote mining to fake a smutty moment. Oh no.

Admiral James Sandecker

…the flaming red hair with all trace of grey tinted away, the matching Vandyke beard, trimmed to a sharp point, the blue eyes that had to be flashing like neon signs from heartfelt satisfaction. I wonder if they make that little tic-tic noise every time he blinks.

Captain Malcolm Nevins (surprised it’s not “Ben”, actually)

Nevin’s ruddy features, usually humorous and pleated, excuse me? were set in concentration; his limpid “Transparent”? “Peaceful”? grey eyes squinting and uneasy. Er. Transparent then. I guess…

– and his ship, the Earl of Wattlesfield

After this day, she would be as famous as the Carpathia who the what now?, the ship that had rescued the Titanic survivors. Oh yeah. It got a big mention in that film with Di Caprio in, didn’t it. You know the one, what’s it called – “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”

Captain Jock McDermott

A sandy-haired Scotsman do tell with a narrow beaklike nose and hazy green eyes, he had spent twenty years in oceangoing tugs. But for the jutting jaw, and eyes that seemed to focus like light beams that’s pretty poor right there, he might have passed for Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s bookkeeper. Not too sure it’s legit to use other characters from literature, particularly much better literature, to describe your own. Anyone have the slightest idea what Bob Cratchit does look like ? Blind and chinless, perhaps.

– and his ship, the tugboat Audacious

…like an overweight greyhound after the rabbit…

Captain Morris Baldwin

Captain Morris Baldwin was a man who walked a straight line and never deviated sounds like the recipe for a lifetime of bruised shins … His only home was the ship he served. If he had a wife, which he did not, or a home, which he found a waste of time, he would have been an oyster without a shell. Nope. To that I can think of nothing to say. This sentence thus receives the Dan Brown Award for Absolute Failure.

His face was a stern mask, red, ruddy and never cheerful. He gazed through beady dark walnut eyes under heavy lids that were set and grim. Only the magnificent silver mane gave him an air of sophisticated authority amongst the park-bench crowd. Who all call him “Captain Oyster”. And make him dance sea jigs for gin.

– and his vessel, the… [rolls] …Golden Marlin. FUCK IT.

Chief Warrant Officer Mack McKirdy and, I wonder, where exactly is the blue-eyed, ruddy, bearded-boyo that is First Mate Llewellyn “Taffie” Jones-the-Waves hiding himself then? (He’s Welsh, btw)

…a grey-haired, grizzled sea dog for pity’s sake with a beard like that of a sailor on an old clipper ship. He acknowledged Giordino’s presence with a curt nod and a wink of one blue eye and a yarr-hah-harrr and a song about rum and then they took turns rogering the ruddy cabin boy until he split down the middle. A sailor’s life for meeeeee.

Captain Jimmy Flett

He was short and burly, with a face turned ruddy from long years of a love affair with scotch whisky, but his blue eyes had somehow managed to remain clear and bright. HOW AMAZINGLY DISTINCTIVE OF HIM.

Sod this for a lark, they’re all exactly the fucking same. I’m going to bed.

“Hi, ev’ybody!”

“Hi, Doctor Nick!”

Rest, weary traveller, breathe easy again, for the end is nigh. But I fear it may be a rather sombre affair… I truly wanted to go down shooting, but in the end The Da Vinci Code has beaten me. Dan Brown has won. Because I don’t think I have it in me to be funny about it any more.

I want to try. I kept folding page-corners as I rushed headlong into the final third, or t’ird as the Irish might accurately put it, so looking back there are things that must have struck me as comment worthy, back when my sense of humour hadn’t shrivelled up and morphed into an ever expanding brain-tumour, but these seeming gems hardly raise a smile now. So when Brown employs a metaphor and imbues it with more reality, though chronically misplaced, than he does his actual story –

If a “line of reason” had ever existed, she had just crossed it. At almost the speed of sound.

– because she is in an aeroplane, do you see, or –

Aringarosa leaned across the table, sharpening his tone to a point.

– I want to poke fun, but it just isn’t in me. When not one but two different characters casually bribe their pilots to change their planned destination, in mid-air, and on both occasions the pilots just agree, in total denial not just of common sense but of common sense plotting, I want to rant – but I can’t. I’m too tired.

I ought to wax humorous about Robert Langdon’s status as little more than the ghostly personification of Dan-Brown-as-author himself, flitting ethereally through a story that is in truth nothing to do with him at all; the ludicrous lack of awareness that inspires Brown to have his cryptographer be the one all the clues have to be explained to; the psychotic splitting of personality which his villain, and his villain’s manservant, both exhibit – unless it is a psychosis of the text and not the characters, which is highly possible; ultimately, about the fact that the near total emotional absenteeism on display makes you wonder if everyone involved is autistic – only for their inconsistently good pattern-recognition skills to make that unlikely. All these things and more deserve ridicule… but my apathy is too great.

The Da Vinci Code fails in every way. Brown is unable to convincingly present foreground action, unable to create back-story unless it’s as unconvincing foreground action, can’t structure his story logically, can’t characterise his cast of ciphers and doesn’t trust his reader to bring anything to the mix whatsoever – there is nothing to interpret beyond a handful of pathetically obvious “codes” which, like the entire book, have almost nothing to do with Leonardo Da Vinci at all. Not content with being unoriginal in its basic premise, it strives for unoriginality of plot – forget about the tried and tested thriller format, he even steals Return Of The Jedi’s “Luke-Leia” twist, but is too inept to use it as anything but a tacked on coda to the least dramatic finale I’ve ever read. Oh, and then there’s another, even less dramatic and entirely arbitrary sub-the-Butler-did-it final-finale still to come – I mean, for fuck’s sake.

By my opening quote I hope to suggest that Mister Dan Brown is only a writer of literature in the same sense that Doctor Nick Riviera is a potential saver of lives. Which is of course to say, he isn’t – if anything, he’s a destroyer. Brown “tells” a “story” which is set in the worlds of high art and high thought and with his book happily crushes both with all the conscious foresight of a mudslide. How many millions have read this? How many more than will ever likely read the bible front-to-back, or an accurate analysis of Da Vinci’s life and work, or anything even remotely approaching a book worth reading? With this one stroke Brown lessens the quality of art and debate, thus thought, effectively making a mockery of the very things he ostensibly holds up as “to be cherished”, and he’s written three or four other novels too. Jesus, Mary, Sarah, Sophie – Sophie’s brothersomeone, save us.

Brown’s won twice actually, because if I hadn’t had the crutch of mockery I would have left this stinker considerably unfinished – and now I’ve lost even that. It really is… the worst piece of shit I’ve ever read.

So. Here I am. Left with the contents of Dan Brown’s toilet forever a part of my head-mash. If the few remaining innocents out there can take anything from my experience, make it the decision never to read The Da Vinci Code – not to find out if I’m right, not out of some morbid desire to hurt yourself – please. Then maybe my suffering won’t have been in vain. It’s just not worth it.

There’s really only one thing left for me to do. You know what South Park says is the last thing that happens after you top yourself?

Rattle.
Click.
Bang.

Uuurgh

—–

Editor’s Note: Speculation is rife that, if Dan Brown were to commit suicide, his loosening bowel might produce another sequel. Distressing as this would be, it could be worth it.