“Nobody writes action like Matthew Reilly.”
– Vince Flynn.
To say Matthew Reilly is the king of action would be an injustice to a few dozen writers capable of doing the same around the world. But to put in a more slighted way, Reilly really can make you turn pages. If you desire action on a scale never seen before, but still realistically possible, if not downright imaginable, then he’s your man. If you want bouts of quirkiness and humor in a few sentences amidst the carnage, then he’s your man. In fact, if you want something that you are able to finish in one sitting and regret finishing it in one go – so as to come out to a boring, banal world – then Reilly’s your man. You pick up a Matthew Reilly book because it offers you a mental shiatsu-like massage: just sit back and for the few hours you are in it, you get a boatload of action thrown at you, mind-numbingly fast-paced bits and instances of thrilling experience- delivered in a prose so brilliantly put, you’ll wonder whether God is walking among us and writing books.
A little history won’t do any harm here. Born in Sydney in 1974, Reilly was not always a big fan of reading. He actually disliked reading in his early high school years and was given very dry classics till year 7. It was only when he read To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies in his tenth year that he realized the magic of reading that could transport one to another world. Following this revelation, Matthew soon began creating stories of his own and set about writing his first novel, Contest, while still at university studying, of all things, law. And boy, are we glad for those two inspirational books!
The author’s rise to the literary kingdom is a tale that is as wondrous as any of his books. Having borrowed heavily from his parents to self-publish his debut novel, ‘Contest’, Matthew Reilly began to publicize his own work in any small way he could, for that was the most he could manage. Fortunately for him and us, his book caught the attention of a local publishing house, Pan Macmillan – which got him a two-book contract. The first one, Ice Station came along and the rest, as they say, is history.
Indeed, it all began with ‘Ice Station’ where we first encountered the reserved character of Shane ‘Scarecrow’ Schofield. With a call-sign that failed to add on to his appearance, we saw the story pick up its pace from the word go and stop only when there had been enough bloodshed to make even the Taliban crumble with sadness. If one thing is certain, it is that Ice Station will never go out of date. It was a direct response to Hollywood action movies – you didn’t have to go to the theatres or even order popcorn and coke. A simple hammock and some sweet sunshine did the job alright. As Reilly puts it perfectly, “The only limit is the limit of your imagination!” ‘Area 7’ followed suit, but the author managed to lose his focus in too many a characters present during the narrative. And then came the formidable sequel of ‘Scarecrow’, where we saw the marine face immeasurable loss in the form of the death of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Gant. Throughout all this, one thing is crystal clear: When Reilly states that death has to be something that has to be feared, that it has to be horrible, grisly and well, violent, you can be assured that he will deliver likewise. Reilly says he writes to entertain and with ‘The Army of Thieves’, the author deserves the fucking Pulitzer for imagining action on a scale so large that even now- after so many years- production houses in Hollywood are still searching for the appropriate names and funds to gather for the film editions of his novels.
For he has done more than entertain. Making action an art form is a talent not to be belittled Add in a bit of profanity to all of that, some nail-biting last-instance sequences and movements that induce claustrophobia in the readers- and you have this novel. In a smart move, Reilly has managed to pull off the entire book’s activities- the word ‘activity’ does it no justice, trust me – in one day. Mayhem on speed is promised and delivered.
An abandoned old base that belonged to the Soviet Union is brought to life again by a rogue group of terrorists, who call themselves The Army of Thieves, on the Dragon Island. Their sole mission is to set the world on fire, literally, and bring down anarchy upon everything and everyone. They plan to do this by igniting the atmosphere, especially bringing down acid rain on most of the Northern hemisphere. It is up to Scarecrow, and his band of misfits – three marines, three civilians – to save the world. Also, the fact that the author chose to add more civilians than the usual bunch of hardened marines in this one makes for more interesting possibilities and experiments in the future.
The fact that he wrote this novel and parts of ‘Tournament’ while battling with his severe problems in the form of his deranged wife at home is nothing short of extraordinary. While people might quip about pain being the ultimate experience, I beg to differ, for his wife passed away a year after the novel released and from then on till today, the only novel he has written is coming out next year. It’s called ‘The Great Zoo of China’, a stand-alone novel, and that is where we shall hope to see the literary lion shine like never before! Sometimes at night, when sleep evades me, I still wonder when the world rises up to the name of Matthew Reilly. The day comes near when the NY Times or the Guardian picks up either this novel or any other- maybe Temple – and becomes spoilt for choice and biased over their reviews, for that is the magic of Matthew Reilly. Really.
If you find the book interesting, buy from Amazon or Flipkart here: