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Several years ago, I read a book called "Seven Ancient Wonders" by Matthew Reilly. It left me conflicted, as whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the story itself, the writing was dreadful. Reilly used too much punctuation to try and make the reader feel a sense of excitement that better writing should have been able to achieve without them. However, the story was good enough and paced well enough that when I happened to spot another of his titles available for nothing, I didn't hesitate too long before deciding to give it a go.
In "Scarecrow", there is a council of rich men, many of whom have made their fortunes by dealing in the instruments of war; ships, fighter jets and weapons. They are planning a series of major world incidents which could throw the entire planet into turmoil and increase their balance sheets as all the major nations go to war with each other. Unfortunately for them, there are a few people in the world with the knowledge or skills to stop their plan. So a list of fifteen names have been sent to a group of bounty hunters offering nearly $19 million for each confirmed kill.
One of the names on the list is Shane Schofield, the "Scarecrow" of the title. He is unaware he is a target until he and his team of Marines are attacked whilst on a seemingly routine assignment. Fortunately, there is someone desperate to keep him alive and so Scarecrow finds himself teamed up with one of the bounty hunters, known as the Black Knight, in a race to not only stay alive, but also to gather enough information to stop the plan and prevent the world descending into the anarchy this secret council are aiming at.
Once again, Reilly has provided a story with a lot of bite to it. The idea is a good one and there are enough twists and counter measures to ensure that there is enough plot to go around. But the best part is the pacing of the novel, which starts very high and ends up getting more and more frantic as the deadline looms. Reilly writes in such a way that the words fly by and the pages turn at a speed almost as fast as the bullets come out of the machine guns many of the characters are using. This is a breathless rollercoaster ride of a book in which the unexpected nearly always happens. At several points, just when the situation looks hopeless for one of our heroes, you turn the page only to discover that there has been a miraculous escape.
This is one of my main issues with the book. Too many times, Reilly uses a deus ex machina device to allow his characters to escape. Too many apparently hopeless situations are turned around and characters come back seemingly from the dead. Bullets don't seem to stop them and even a road blocked by a huge truck and a 400 foot drop can be driven down if you have the skills to pull off a stunt even Hollywood drivers couldn't manage. These escapes are rarely obvious and all too often, the sudden escapes make it look as if Reilly has realised several chapters on that he needed a character he had previously left in peril and had to go back and figure a way out of the situation he left them in.
The other annoyance is that the writing style used in "Seven Ancient Wonders" is again prevalent here. Reilly uses almost as many ellipses, exclamation marks and italics as he does words. The ultimate effect of this is that I almost feel like I'm being patronised by the author, who is essentially directing me to find something exciting or amazing, whereas I feel that I should be allowed to judge the excitement level of the content by myself. His use of the exclamation marks wasn't quite as bad as in the other novel of his I've read, where it seemed that every other sentence ended in one, but there were far more italics used to emphasis certain points, whether they needed to be emphasised or not, which mostly they didn't.
This really is a book for those who prefer film adaptations to books, as it's very visually descriptive and things keep exploding and there is barely time to pause for breath. Indeed, this is a book that would work fairly well as a film, probably with Jason Statham in the starring role. But for every success this book may have as a film treatment, there isn't enough here to make it a decent book. It may have a thrill ride of a plot, but it's an appallingly written mess of a novel for anyone who has read anything else. Reilly does the seemingly impossible here and makes James Patterson look like a literary genius by comparison.
Scarecrow. The third book in Matthew Reilly's Scarecrow series. For me, this book is almost as good as Ice Station, Reilly's first Scarecrow novel. In this instalment we follow Scarecrow as his mission to eliminate a Siberian target turns around so he becomes the target. As his mission turns into a battlezone, he realises he has been set up and he is now the target. Shane 'Scarecrow' Schofield has been placed on a multimillion dollar bounty hunt list and has to find the person responsible before he loses his head...literally! This book is incredibly fast paced and the story winds out all around the world as Schofield and his team try to stay alive. I love this book because it is pure fiction. You read this book knowing that it is far fetched and requires you to use your imagination but is that not what reading is all about? In 'Scarecrow' Reilly shows that he is not afraid to make bold decisions in his story line as one of Schofield's most respected and loved marines loses their life....i will leave it for you to discover. I would recommend this book to anybody who has enjoyed Ice Station and/or Area 7. Another masterpiece from an author not afraid to stretch your imagination and push the boundaries of realism.
I wonder when L Frank Baum created 'Oz' whether he knew the impact the work would have. Did he realise that one of the greatest musicals of all time would be adapted from his books? Did he know the influence that the books and film would have on popular culture would cause waves for decades? I cannot imagine that he did. The simple idea of having a Tin Man needing a heart, a Lion needing courage and a Scarecrow needing a brain has been in countless homage from horror films to concept albums. The idea is that although these creatures thought they lacked something important it turned out that they possessed the thing all the time within. It's a shame that Matthew Reilly did not learn from Baum's lesson and give his book 'Scarecrow' any brains at all, either on the surface or deep within.
Shane' Scarecrow' Schofield returns in his latest adventure. Having already thought in the frozen wastelands and in the desert 'Scarecrow' will prove his most arduous adventure yet as it spans the globe. It seems that a group of uber rich men have created a list of some of the top military men in the world from the UK and US all the way to al Qaeda. Scarecrow is not sure what all these men have in common except for the fact that they are being chased by several groups of bounty hunters. If the bounty hunters catch you they have been offered $18 million for every head. Can Scarecrow keep one step ahead of one of the richest manhunts ever?
Having read the earlier 'Area 7' by Reilly I knew that 'Scarecrow' was never going to be the most intelligent of fiction. It seems that Reilly specialises in brainless action fiction for people going on summer holidays. His writing style is similar to that seen in a book for 12 year olds, just with added violence and sex. I am no snob when it comes to writing and although it was poor, I did not think it ruined the book. I got some perverse pleasure in some of the more poorly written portions of the book. Reilly has a habit of adding sound effects e.g. "and then the grenades hit the wall. BOOM!" This is frankly ridiculous, but not as bad as his repeating some sentences e.g. "What came out of the water? A shark! That's right, a shark!" To me that is awful writing to the point where it is amusing to read. Reilly writes like an excited child with all the intellect you would expect from someone of that age.
Another issue that Reilly suffered from in 'Scarecrow' was the structure. The earlier 'Area 7' was set in one giant building. It seems that for his new book Reilly wanted to set it in a more open world. Therefore, this book sees us going from America, to Europe and the Middle East. There are none stop action set pieces that have the Scarecrow and company spanning the globe whilst still fighting. I actually found it a fun read that caught my attention, but the constant chase dynamic did become pretty tiresome by halfway and samey. I think that Reilly would have been better off adding some moments of quiet as a way of making the most of the intense sections.
If you leave your brain at home (likes Dorothy's friend the Scarecrow) you may just have some great fun with this book. The character of Shane Schofield is a no nonsense hero and he is joined by some amusing sidekicks. The book is very much black and white with enemies and heroes. Every now and again I like to read a simple book like this just to see some hard justice! What added some spice was Reilly's willingness to harm/kill characters. Although Scarecrow himself seems almost superhuman there is tension around the rest of the cast who could meet their maker at any time.
The only award that 'Scarecrow' may win would be for worst written novel. The characters are one dimensional, the story ham fisted and the writing itself almost acts to make you stupider as you read. However, despite this you know that with a book like this the goal is not to intellectualise, but have fun - and its fun! There are some great action set pieces that are completely fantastical, but this adds to the charm. I like to read about things blowing up and for this reason I enjoyed the book. It's a shame that it was written so amateurishly.
Author: Matthew Reilly
Price: amazon uk - £5.49
After I had read Matthew Reilly's first novel 'Contest' and enjoyed It, I decided to buy some of his other books which Included Scarecrow. The first thing that I should say about this book is that if you are going to take it seriously, just don't read it. Its fiction and that Is precisely what the author wanted readers to get out of this book, its pure fantasy and if you just go along with it you'll enjoy the ride.
So what is this novel about? Well Scarecrow rejoins the adventures of Captain Shane SchofIeld who was in a couple of his other books. It starts out with SchofIeld (call sign: Scarecrow) on a mission In Siberia which goes terribly wrong and he realises quite a lot of people would be happy to see him dead. He then goes on a mission to find out who and why people want him dead. The story revolves around SchofIeld and a bunch of characters who find out that there is a large bounty hunt going on with fifteen names on a list, all who have to be dead by noon the following day. So begins a frantic chase that takes them all around the world trying to stop people from dying, and a larger plan from being undertaken.
The story does sound fun and that is truly what this book is about, It Isn't serious and it wasn't written to win any prizes. All It Is, which it succeeds at, is taking the reader on a bit of an adventure where people get shot at millions of times and don't die. So yes It Is very unbelievable as many of the things they do in this book have you shaking your head thinking no way that could be done. But It Is still fun reading It, Imagining If someone could do the amazing things that they do in this book. In that respect I think that this is a brilliant story and Reilly Is a fantastic writer as he truly does bring out the reader's Imagination.
The Idea of a bounty hunt and a mystery surrounding it and its main reasons is an excellent concept and kept me entertained for a few hours. I liked how the novel had times where it was complete action and had cars racing along with people shooting everywhere, helicopters blasting missiles on the road. The mystery surrounding the bounty hunt and the reasons behind it are slowly ravelled together throughout the book which added to the suspense and tension of the whole book.
The writing of this book seems to have come along a lot since first reading Contest. HIs grammar and way of constructing sentences seems a lot more mature and easier to read. The pace of this book compared to his others is off the chart! Every chapter is filled with literally thousands of bullets being fired, cars being destroyed and helicopters flying around. Not for one minute did I get bored reading this book as I simply found it too hard to put down. The negatives with his writing are again that you can tell that he could never write a book that maybe had a little substance to it. He still writes as If his main audience is thirteen year old boys and not adults. The reason for this being the over use of swearing and complete paragraphs dedicated to the description of guns and their mechanisms. Also what really bugs me about his writing is that the speech of characters never seems to flow correctly. It always seems to be written as If the characters are taking an English elocution exam which I know is strange as they are swearing lots of the time. The conversations they have never seem real, it's like you know you are reading a book and therefore can never really get a proper feel for it.
The characters in this are pretty cool, SchofIeld being the hero therefore being Indestructible. I can't count how many times in the book that he should have died yet something always happens to save him at the last possible moment. I know its fiction and you should expect this but sometimes it just gets repetitive and annoying. The other characters are quite funny especially Mother who reminds me of a type of Ellen Ripley character only more beefed up. It was quite funny to read this book as you could tell that Reilly was going for some kind of character development within the book but it never truly goes right. There is a particular scene when everything was very emotional and the characters were having a heart to heart but after two pages they went back to normal, guns blazing and all. Therefore this so called development just felt forced and a little pathetic.
The length of the book is probably one of my main niggles about this novel. Scarecrow is just over 500 pages and for a good action novel this may be acceptable. However an action novel of this quality seemed to lag in the middle and I think a good 100 pages off this would have been acceptable. I wasn't necessarily bored and I did enjoy the book however having It this long, there are so many times that you can go through the exact same fight just In a different setting. SchofIeld comes in, guns fire, exits cut off, guns fire again, he finds tiny miraculous way of getting out, and guns fire and they escape only for another battle to occur a chapter later.
Overall I did enjoy this book plainly for the fact that I thought it was a fun read and distracted me for awhile. It is completely unrealistic and you cannot read it thinking that these things could actually happen. Reilly's writing has improved since earlier books yet he still has quite a way to go before his work can truly be appreciated by adults who like a good action novel. The characters are fun but there isn't much development. A lot of this book feels forced and it is a bit lengthily for the quality of the writing. However If you ever fancy a dip Into a book which can get you away from reality a little and have some pure fantasy action, then Scarecrow Is an aright read, but only If you can get It cheap!
Length: 524 pages
Price: You can get this off amazon.co.uk for £5.49
P.S. Some grammar and spelling may be wrong in this as I had a little mishap with the checker on word!
I recently had a swap request on readitswapit.co.uk and out of pure boredom randomly agreed a swap by shutting my eyes and pointing, as I had turned down the previous five requests due to a lack of choice. Two days later, Scarecrow by Matthew Reilly turned up.
"Breathless action.....Explosive stuff" the Daily Mirror comments shouted out on the back cover and coupled with the synopsis I was actually quite intrigued and looking forward to what looked a promising read.
Now I had never heard of Matthew Reilly but this was his fourth novel with them all seemingly being best sellers. Given he is an Aussie then this may mean that he reached the Sydney top 100 book list as his parents bought one each. The surprising thing is it probably kept him there for a month.
The plot itself was very promising: Fifteen targets of varying Nationalities, the finest warriors in the world and they must all be dead by 12 noon today. The term "I want his head on a plate" is taken quite literally, as the bounty hunters who set out to earn a crust must bring the heads of their victim in an ice box to a castle off the coast of France in order to earn $18m for each kill.
The first strange thing is the noon today deadline as the start time of the novel is 9pm so either the time limit has passed or the deadline is 12 noon tomorrow or maybe the wannabee assassins simply got an extension that the author forgot to tell us about. This was the first subtle error that I happened to pick up on. There was nothing subtle about the others though.
The targets are a mix of spies, terrorists or commandos one of which is Shane Schofield a simple US marine. Quite why he is on the list no one knows. The list includes the heads of Al-Qaeda, SAS, Mossad etc and then a bloke who is a marine.
His call sign is Scarecrow and hence the name of the book. Every time his name came up though I could not help but replace this with Worzel Gummidge because he is more realistic.
The book actually starts off quite well but it is a disappointment when you finish the acknowledgements page. Actually the acknowledgements page includes a little nugget that only becomes clear when you have started the book. He thanks some military advisors and then says "and mistakes were mine and made over their objections". The author is saying that he just made some of the stuff up so in that case what exactly is the point of having advisors? Lazy git.
The authors stated view (in an interview he gave in the back in which he drops other bombshells relating to "poetic license", "outrageous" and "over the top") is that he wanted to write a book that went faster than his previous novels. He achieves this as the book goes off at warp nine then increases speed. There is no build up to any part of the book - it just arrives there and then seems to stop and say to itself what the hell am I doing here so the author comes up with some more implausible garbage to try and get it back on track. This usually means some outrageous ways and means Scarecrow has of escaping from certain death. David Blaine should sound out the author for ideas on his next trick.
There is no characterization and a plot that just seems made up as it goes along. Characters just seem to turn up anywhere despite being half way round the world not five minutes ago - the author seems to forget there is a strict deadline to complete the kills but also forgets it takes up most of this deadline just traveling somewhere
Reilly also has an almost insane, adolescent fixation on going completely over the top when describing military hardware the vast majority of which I am sure don't exist in the real world.
There is a total lack of any meaningful research - Reilly just makes things up to get through a sticky plot part usually to do with a Maghook which is a magnet which sticks to things magnets normally stick to but this one sticks to anything. It's not any old Maghook though. Oh no. This is the skeleton key of the Maghook world and can do anything you want it to.
Coming back to the main character. He is a US marine. The author has him as some form of superman. Whilst no doubt US Marines are good can they all fly any aircraft, can they time travel, can they pilot subs!! If the answer is yes then they are likely to be something other than a marine.
This is really a fantasy book which with the implausible plot holes, can only be aimed at pre pubescent teens. However, given some graphic language then I can only assume it is aimed at pre pubescent teens who can't read. Which is probably why his mum and dad bought the earlier books.
Despite my comments you cannot fault the authors enthusiasm which does come through the pages but it's like an over eager puppy trying to please it's owner as it is peeing on the floor.
If this was the last book on earth I would avoid it. If Keira Knightley was having a leisurely Jacuzzi in my back room and asked me to hop in but on the proviso I read one chapter of this book then I would read it but blame it on duress.
I give this book one star and that is because the word Scarecrow is spelt correctly.
The one good thing about this book is that it has given me good ammunition for a review and the chance to earn 50 pence! With that in mind I will gladly use this to post this book, free of charge, to anyone who wants it. Drop me a message with your name and address and I will send it to you. But you have got to promise to do a review on it!
Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Pan Books (3 Sep 2004)
Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 10.4 x 3.6 cm
£4.99 Amazon/1p Amazon Marketplace or if you are really desperate you may be able to swap it on readitswapit.co.uk
From the frozen lands of Russia to the Afghan border, France's Atlantic Coast, and a lightening-speed conflict over the Suez Canal, every form of ultra-tech weaponry comes into play in this engrossing action drama unfolding within a single day.