It’s becoming more than a little drag to open the covers of 7AW and read so much as a single page these days. Partly it’s because there are so many genuinely good things to read – I’ve just spent a small fortune on a set of actual classics, bound in Penguin-leather (or something) and designed by Bunbury. Or someone. To be honest I can’t remember his name and, as I don’t dare take them out of their wrappers in case some passing PETA shit-head throws pig blood over both me and them, I can’t read his name off the bookmark. Anyway, figuratively speaking they are bloody beautiful, or at least the photographs on the boxes are.

The other reason it’s a drag is, you know, just because of what it is. For example, with every page being annoying as all hell, you’re constantly on the look out for the end of the current chapter so you can at least feel like you’re tangibly closing in on the end; unfortunately every single page looks like the end of a chapter, since not a single one of them has text all the way down to the bottom. To test this theory I’ve been drawing a flip-art movie in one corner featuring a tiny despairing stickman throwing himself out of a sky-scraper and I’ve not had to skip a single floor. The detail is astonishing.

Eeeeeeyeah, where was I? West and his team think they know where the next piece of the jigsaw cliché is, so off they trot. In their jet black 747 with missile and gun turrets. They arrive on the Tunisian coast confidently expecting a not-previously rediscovered great wonder just hanging around waiting for them, but it’s not – so they have to look for an inlet near two rocky tridents emerging from the sea. Forgetting they are all inside a jet aircraft, Pooh Bear complains that it will take ages for them to search 100 miles of coastline by boat. At which prompting West, forgetting they are all in a jet aircraft, cunningly jumps out – “fortunately” while attached to a glorified hang-glider. So, presumably while the Jumbo Jet blasts past him at several times the speed, he spends a few hours scouting the cliff faces until he finds the tridents – but, mysteriously, not the inlet. Satisfied that this is close enough, they all land there.

But where is there? Or rather, where is the Lighthouse at Alexandria, since judging by the chapter heading that is their apparent objective? Well, apparently they aren’t looking for that at all, but instead are after “Hamilcar’s Refuge”, which they understand has a bit of the lighthouse in it. However that’s not to be seen either (Hamilcar was, we learned earlier, the father of Hannibal – the elephant one, not the Clarissssse one. Employing his deft touch with dialogue, Reilly had his hero utter a fresh contender for silliest line of dialogue ever: “I didn’t know he had a refuge, let alone a forgotten one“). The always ready Wizard whips out his (quiet at the back) sonic-resonance imager –

– erecting hush now the tripod on the sand. He then aimed it downward

– and that’s important to emphasise, Matt, isn’t it, because if the unseen object was above the ground, y’know, they’d all be able to see it. At first it shows what you’d expect, solid ground all the way down – but then Wizard aims it a few yards to the west and –

…actually, I need to interrupt.

Reilly named his protagonist “West”. You’d think he’d have the sense NOT to make every compass direction casually mentioned in the text be west as well. People keep looking westward, turning to face west, and so on. I’d change his fucking name. And start standing him south of people. Anyway, Wizard aims it a few yards to the west and –

Ping-ping-ping-ping-ping-ping-ping

The imager’s pinging went bananas.

West turned to Wizard, probably in revenge. “Explain?”

The old man looked at his display. It read:

TOTAL DEPTH: 8.0 m.
SUBSTANCE ANALYSIS: SILICON OVERLAY 5.5 m;
GRANITE UNDERLAY 2.5 m.

Get it? Get it?

“Oh, no way . . .” West said, understanding.

“Yes way . . .” Wizard said, also seeing it.

“Fuck no . . .” Cliff muttered, cringing at the dialogue.

The claim being made, and shortly being followed through on via a chapter-long trap-filled assault course race to the prize that rivals It’s A Knockout for sheer quality, is that an ancient Egyptian slave workforce built a granite roof over the top of a fifty metre wide ocean inlet with 130 metre deep cliff-walls, covered it with desert, bricked up the front and disguised it seamlessly with the rest of the coastline. That’s the claim.

MATHS TIME!

Judging by the reams of clip-art, the whole thing is at least 300 metres long – so this means a minimum 300 x 50 x 2.5 metres of granite (flat ceiling too, conveniently: “massive beams of granite–each the size of a California redwood–laid horizontally side-by-side across the width of the inlet”) which comes to… 37,500 cubic metres. Granite weighs, I understand, 2,691 kilograms per cubic metre, so… carry the two

ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND, NINE HUNDRED AND TWELVE METRIC TONS.

And a half.

Plus there’s that 5.5m layer of sand on top. Let’s say “dry sand” this being Tunisia; that means the granite is supporting an extra 132,165 tons as well as its own weight. Now, I’m sure that the Great Pyramid weighs more than that, but the Great Pyramid is all piled up in a big heap – not stretched like cling film over a toilet seat. Maybe I’m wrong and a passing architect can explain how granite is more than up to the task (and how these redwood-sized granite toothpicks were moved into place as well), but…

AND I’m generously overlooking the fact, in all the pictures, the inlet branches into a vast Y-shape at the back and just heads off the page, which implies that both branches also needed covering with a granite-and-sand lid until they close up naturally somewhere else – otherwise you could just walk half a mile down the way, straight past all those lovely traps, and drop in on the goodies without all the hassle.

Not to mention that a few millennia of sea-action has apparently failed to erode the sandstone cover of the 4m thick fake wall on the front, which might make it a little easier to spot. “Not Well Thought Out”, is what I’m getting at.

Sigh.

Look, as usual I’m running off at the mouth, and badly. All that covers only the first 18 pages of a chapter that totals 95. Yet, if this was the Indiana Jones movie Reilly wishes it was, it couldn’t warrant more than fifteen minutes of screen time, twenty at most. Even s t r e t c h i n g Xh i s Xt e x t Xo u t Xa s Xm u c h Xa s XR e i l l y Xa l w a y s Xd o e s , how can he manage to make so little go so far? He should advertise Fairy Liquid. So in those 95 pages, what do they do? Find the inlet, get chased in by the Evil Americans, run through a handful of traps, discover not just one but two Pieces of Capstone, lose them, then just manage to escape without getting shot to pieces by…

THE VILLAIN

…and I think the phrase is “sheesh”.

At their head stood a man of about 50, with steely back eyes and, gruesomely, no nose. It had been cut off sometime in the distant past, leaving this fellow with a grotesque misshapen stump where his nose should have been. He should check himself in for a boob job. Plastic surgery isn’t that expensive these days, and it would do wonders for his self-esteem.

Yet even with this glaring facial disfigurement, it was the man’s clothing that was his most striking feature right now. This seems rather unlikely.

He wore steel-soled boots just like West did.

He wore a canvas jacket just like West did.

He wore a belt equipped with pony bottles, pitons and X-bars, just like West did.

He came with Action Grip and Eagle-Eye features, just like West did. And if you bought them both at the same time, you got West’s Super Action Trike for free and a discount coupon for Skeletor’s Cave Mountain playhouse. COLLECT THEM ALL ! ! !

Yes, I know. I’m being very subtle with this.

The only difference was his helmet–he wore a lightweight caver’s helmet, as opposed to West’s fireman’s helmet. #Huh, let’s-go-and-stay-at-the —

A few pages on, this brilliantly brought-to-life character says “West, West, West … You always were good. Perhaps the best pupil I ever had.” I suspect that sooner or later he will suggest they kill the Emperor and rule the universe together as father and son. Then West will get his nose cut off, have it replaced with a robot one, and in the third film will save the day with a band of midget chimps, and conveniently overlook the filthy, satisfying but unwittingly incestuous off-screen sex he’s been having with his sister for years and years. Nope. They will never mention that.

Want to guess what this guy’s fucking stupid name is?

He was Colonel Marshall Judah.

Christening your offspring with a rank has always been a bad choice – but with two?