The Five Greatest Warriors (book, Matthew Reilly, 2009)

From SFX 192. In the original review I got the author’s name wrong. It’s corrected here. Sorry about that.


Michael Reilly/Orion/459 pages/£14.99

ISBN: 978-1-4091-1093-4

Ace Aussie Action Man Jack West Jr. has his back to the wall, but that won’t stop him and his buddies from saving the world, strewth!

Self-publishing sometimes works, as Reilly’s techno-thriller assault on the book charts shows. His Ice Station was repeatedly rejected, until Reilly had a few hundred copies printed up and they sold out. Success swooped on him like a hawk, a hawk with wings made of money.

A fine example of why perhaps we need arbiters of taste to protect us from ourselves.

The Five Greatest Warriors reads like a fanboy script for a Tomb Raider game, ripped off the Fifth Element, researched by Dan Brown and written by the monkeys behind the GI Joe Movie with consultation from Andy McNab. It’s part two of this particular Jack West adventure, where the mighty Aussie and his crew have to uncover six sacred stones, take them to six hidden temples and save the world from a dark sun. Various others oppose them for the powers the stones bring. That the chief bad man is Jack West Sr. tells you a lot about the depth of the story.

Reilly is not a good writer. His storytelling relies on presenting us with an unlikely event (a rescue against the odds, say), then telling us in leaden past perfect prose how said event came to pass. He also relies on the one-line paragraph.

Like this.

To deliver his punchlines. He has a conspiracy theorist’s flair for spurious connections, so the greatest victim here is poor, bloodied history, the ‘truths’ of which are unveiled by Jack and co in effortless fashion before they dash off in their hi-tech vehicles to save the day.

That Reilly’s successful comes down to a sugar-coating of mythological resonance and ceaseless action, but he is no contender for Michael Crichton’s empty throne.

Did you know?

Reilly has sold 3.2 million books. You can get an idea why from the interview at the end of the book. It’s the best bit, as Reilly’s really quite clued up.


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