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Scarecrow by Matthew Reilly
== Plot ==
This is the third novel in the Shane Schofield series. I have reviewed the first two novels, Ice Station and Area 7 on here already. Basically, Schofield is a cool headed, sunglass wearing, Marine soldier who ends up destroying things and killing lots of bad guys wherever he goes.
In this novel, U.S. Marine captain Shane Schofield aka Scarecrow is put on a hit list of 15 men from all around the world including soldiers, spies and terrorists. A bounty of $18.6 million is offered for each persons head (literally), on the list. Put up by a secretive organisation made up of the world's richest men, it is the greatest bounty hunt in history.
Scarecrow along with his friends, zooms around the world trying to piece together what is going on while at the same time fending off foes from all sides . . .
== My thoughts ==
I liked the bounty hunt element of the plot. It is set up like a game as each of the 15 heads have to be taken to a castle in France so their identity can be verified and for the bounty hunters to get their money. This allows for action sequences at each stage of the process, when a head is chopped off, in transit and then at the castle in France.
There are a diverse range of bounty hunters who make an appearance including mercenary companies, individuals and rogue Special Forces units. My favourite bounty hunter has to be the Black Knight. He is an alter-ego of the Scarecrow. He is a former Delta soldier turned bounty hunter. He wears wrap around sunglasses like the Scarecrow due to problems with his eyes, and has a preferred weapon which in his case is a pair of pump action shotguns. I thought he was cooler than the Scarecrow. I would like to see him and Scofield appear in more novels in the future.
Scarecrow's usual friends also appear in this like Mother, a 6ft 4ins bold headed lady who has an artificial leg.
The action sequences in this are expertly choreographed. One I especially liked was one right at the start, inside a submarine. Another one I liked is one where Scarecrow and the Black Night, storm a RAF Hercules cargo plane while it is refuelling in mid-air.
I liked the bounty hunt element of the plot, but the rest of it is preposterous and unbelievable even for the kind of novels Matthew Reilly writes. I would say his earlier novels in this series are better in that department.
The reason why the 15 men on the bounty list are to be killed is plain stupid. The bad guys could have easily mitigated against any problems the fifteen may have posed if they had wished. I couldn't get over this, even though I knew this wasn't a serious novel. I still like the story to make some semblance of sense.
Saying that, the novel is paced at a breakneck speed. You never get chance to be bored or distracted. The story takes place over fifteen hours as a time-limit has been set on the bounty hunt. During this time, there is pretty much non-stop action all the way through.
It is written in a simple style with words such as, 'suddenly', 'shocking' and 'his eyes opened wide' being used frequently. It makes it easier to read, and get into it straight away. I also like the way he uses words like 'splat', 'whoomp' and 'boom' to emphasise explosions. While listening to the audio book, I thought it added something extra like having sound effects. I would think this series of books would be a good way to get teenagers into reading.
The author uses countdowns and time limits frequently, to create suspense for example, a bomb may be set to detonate and the Scarecrow has to escape the bad guys and make sure he gets away before the bomb explodes. He has used this device in earlier novels but in this he overdoes it. I found it irritating.
There is the use of cliff-hangers again which works well. You have a character fall off a speeding car and the next moment they manage to survive through quick thinking or luck. The scenes are written like a movie, so this helps to enforce that.
== Audio narration ==
The audio book I have is read by a different person than the one Doo Yoo have listed. My audio book version is produced by Balinda Audio and the guy reading it is the same one that narrated the previous two novels, Sean Mangan. I'm not sure about his accent. I think it is American. He does have quite a deep voice and he doesn't add much colour / variety to the different characters voices and story, by changing his tone or inflection when speaking. The only reason I kept listening to him was because I enjoyed the novel and I could ignore his annoying voice. I don't manage to do that normally if I don't like the voice of the narrator.
This was unabridged and the runtime of this is 12 hours and 51 mins.
== Summary and recommendation ==
Even though I found part of the plot stupid, I still ended up enjoying it. The bounty hunt element made for some great action sequences and I liked the characters including the Black Knight. I give this four stars.
Lieutenant 'Scarecrow' Schofield first burst across international consciousness with Reilly's second novel "Ice Station", an extraordinary tour-de-force from a young Australian author still in his mid-twenties. He is now a best-seller in every continent. A keen movie-goer, this author aims for filmic speed of pace, a rip-roaringly original story, non-stop action and thrills and adventure, with all of these in exotic settings. His ongoing ambition is to reinvent what he already does so brilliantly - and take the action thriller up to the next level.