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In a way, I'm a typical male: I love a good action story that dispenses with flowing descriptions and just gives a good bunch of action, non stop, in a way that makes you not really want to put the book down. Here, Matthew Reilly, who is a bit like Tom Clancy in his writing material, manages to give us 110 pages or so of easy reading action, with a decent plot, good characters, and a whole load of action.
Captain Shane M Schofield is the leader of one of four teams dropped in on a secret island to find out what has happened to the previous teams sent there. Once on the island, the teams attempt to converge and explore, needing to be on guard and ready to defend themsleves against any would be attackers. However, what unfolds doesn't just require them to defend themselves. It needs them to run....for their lives!
Reilly's story has all the elements of a typical marine action tale: characters with funky nicknames, a history with some of them, some awesome and powerful enemies, and a shedload of gunfire, fighting, and general death. As I have already said, Reilly dispenses with long, flowing descriptions, choosing instead to adopt a short and easy to read style that reminds me of James Patterson's books. However, while Patterson's books are over 300 or 400 pages long, this short story is part of the Quick Reads series, and is only just over 100 pages.
There are many different things going on here in the tale, and one thing that Reilly manages to do is develop the characters as the story unfolds, inserting snippets of information about them whenever there is a chance, and showing us what sort of people they are by their actions and the spoken parts. While the majority of the book is action, told int he third person, there is some dialogue, and this does help to speed things along and keep a personal element ot the tale. Reilly does manage to balance everything quite well, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
However, there were holes. Explanations towards the end of the book were a little anticlimactic. This was softened by the fact that the action didn't really stop, but once you realise what's going on, it does seem over with a little quickly, with no real suspense being released. It's all taken in stride, and revealed as if it were just another gun being fired, which happens page after page. This did spoil it a little bit, and I do wish that the suspense had been built up a bit more before revealing the truth behind everything. There is even a twist which is revealed in the flow of things as well, nullifying its potential shock effect on the story.
That having been said, I still really recommend reading this. It has an ease to it that will not appeal to many, as the writing style could easily be targeted at people who don't want much of a story, just an opportunity to read about loads of fighting. There is a decent plot, but it's very subject specific (military action) and glosses over some of the moments that could provide you with a bit more of a mental image. The book contains a few maps and diagrams as the story progresses, so you're able to see the shape of the island and various things that are found upon landing on the island. I liked this element.
So, overall, a recommended short story read, but don't expect anything other than 110 pages of action with little description. This is all about a mysterious foe and a lot of fighting - nothing more, really. There is a bit of a twist, but nothing that makes it special. Hell Island, as with all Quick Reads, is available for £2.99, a decent price for a decent read.