Review: The Three Secret Cities by Matthew Reilly

xthe-three-secret-cities-pagespeed-ic-6_riq43txr1The unparalleled master of the high-octane, high-body-count, mile-a-minute, explosion-filled, summer-action-blockbuster-on-paper returns with — well, another high-octane, high-body-count, mile-a-minute, explosion-filled, summer-action-blockbuster-on-paper. But as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, so Matthew Reilly is well entitled to replicate his usual winning formula. While the story requires even further suspension of disbelief, and the bad guys are a little too moustache-twirling, The Three Secret Cities delivers where it ultimately counts: the action.

The fifth Jack West Jr. thrill machine goes on at a jet-fuelled pace that doesn’t let up; it’s pedal to the metal stuff from page one, and picks up where The Four Legendary Kingdoms ended. Reilly filters enough information through to bring new readers up to speed, but it’s probably worthwhile reading West’s fourth adventure before jumping on board for this one. There are a lot of characters and continuity to be mindful of in the ‘Reilly-verse’ now that his Shane ‘Scarecrow’ Schofield series has blended into West’s world. You don’t need to know it all to enjoy The Three Secret Cities, but by design, Reilly’s books don’t pause for much recapping or thoughtful character moments; fans have fallen in love with these characters over multiple books. They began life as fairly standard hero archetypes, with thinly-sketched personalities, but as the series has continued Reilly has provided more background and colour to his cast. Readers starting with The Three Secret Cities might struggle to find much to latch onto; but assuming you’re just here for the chases, and the gun battles, and the impossible escapes, you’re going to be just fine.

The plot boils down to another end of the world scenario; only this time, Jack West Jr. is responsible for its instigation following events of the previous book. Now on a desperate hunt for the Three Secret Cities to locate three ancient weapons that hold the key to ending the threat, West and his crew are the target of several enemy forces, who will stop at nothing to see them obliterated from the face of the earth. Standout set-pieces this time around include an explosive encounter at a New York skyscraper involving a hover-capable V-22 Osprey attack plane (armed with the obligatory missile pods and cannons) and an outrageous scene in London that involves a tank. Longtime readers will rejoice when a fan-favourite character makes an appearance, and some might even shed a tear for the book’s final twist; although unfathomably Reilly undercuts much of this emotional gut-punch with an epilogue that probably wasn’t necessary.

At times, The Three Secret Cities feels a bit overcrowded, but for the most part, most of the series’ major characters gets his or her moment in the sun. The book has everything Reilly’s fans have come to expect: sensational combat sequences packed with thunderous explosions, vicious hand-to-hand combat, suspense-filled feats, and more than one unhinged, evil villain. Once again, Matthew Reilly has raised the bar for the action blockbuster novel.

ISBN: 9781743534960
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publish Date: 08-Nov-2018
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: The Four Legendary Kingdoms by Matthew Reilly

4LK.jpgI wouldn’t be such a prolific reader, and certainly wouldn’t be bookseller, if not for Matthew Reilly. Specifically, his book Ice Station, which I read at such an integral stage of my life, around the age of 13, when I was drifting away from prose, and focused almost exclusively on comics. You hear stories like this all the time from his legion of fans; how Reilly’s action-packed books proved to be a revelation for readers, demonstrating that it’s possible to transpose the incredible thrills of summer movie blockbusters to the page. Turns out books can provide the same kind of entertainment. Who knew, right? After Ice Station, Contest, and Temple, during the wait for Area 7,  I read books by Robert Ludlum, Jack Higgins, Dan Brown; the usual band of high-action thriller writers. And eventually, much (much) later, I expanded my “literary horizons” (ugh sorry, that phrase makes me queasy, but it’s for want of something better); started reading crime, then moved onto other genres, eventually dipping into literary fiction. Seems funny to say it, but there’s no way I would’ve read Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life –- probably my favourite book (as in, like, ever) — without Matthew Reilly. I owe him a lot.

The Four Legendary Kingdoms begins with Jack West Jr. waking up in an unknown location and immediately thrust into battle. We quickly learn he has been chosen, along with a dozen other elite soldiers (including a very familiar face, much to my surprise and delight), to compete in a series of spectacularly deadly challenges in order to fulfil an ancient ritual with world ending consequences. So, yeah; the stakes, as always, are astronomically high. This isn’t a game West can escape from. For the sake of his loved ones — for the sake of everyone — he’s got to compete.

Reilly delivers fantastic stunts and vehicular mayhem in incredibly creative combat arenas. The plot and characters are ludicrous, but its all stupendous fun, and it moves at the velocity of a speeding bullet. Faster, actually. Reilly rarely lets his readers — or indeed his characters — rest. There are brief interludes between all the thrills, when the unflappably indestructible West gets the chance to lick his wounds, and Reilly gets the chance to feed readers background information. Sure, it can be a little clunky at times  — only Reilly could get away with the sentence, “Vacheron grinned evilly,” and the book is entirely void of subtext — but The Four Legendary Kingdoms is a rollicking blockbuster ride and perfect weekend fodder.

When it comes right down to it, other authors can try (and have tried) to emulate him, but nobody is better at the high-octane-high-body-count thriller than Matthew Reilly. It’s his domain, exclusively. Fans will delight in Jack West Jr.’s return, and of course, plenty of thread is left dangling for the inevitable sequels. Bring ’em on, I say! Perfect beach reading.

Source: Purchased
ISBN: 9781743534953
Format: Hardback (233mm x 154mm x mm)
Pages: 448
Imprint: Macmillan Australia
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publish Date: 18-Oct-2016
Country of Publication: Australia