So let’s get started, shall we? Out first ever hate-fuelled Showcase is for Seven Deadly Wonders by Matthew Reilly. Now I want to make it clear from the get-go that I have absolutely no problem with big dumb action movies or big dumb action books. We all need to switch off now and then and just admire mindless explosions like a fireworks display. The trouble arises when, rather than treating the audience as people who are just seeking shelter after a hard day at work who just want some fun, instead treats them as idiots who are as dumb as the story itself, then that is where things instantly fall apart. And Seven Ancient Wonders positively patronizes its readers to the point of being offensive. A perfect example: the narration has the line “Very Irish, hence very catholic,” in it.
But my friends, that is just the beginning. That is merely the first sin that Seven Ancient Wonders commits.
Let’s talk about the plot, shall we? Think The Da Vinci Code meets Indiana Jones, written by Michael Bay after he’s had about twenty cans of Red Bull. Jack West Jr. leads an Alliance that are representatives of the small, pure countries of the world, who have never done anything wrong in history ever (so that’s New Zealand, Jamaica, Ireland, Spain and err, Israel), led by West who is from the purest and most wonderful country of all: Australia. Seriously, the constant exalting of how great Australia is and how all the ‘big’ countries like America and the UK are hateful and evil is sickening, and it doesn’t take three guesses to figure out where Reilly is from.
Where was I? Oh, the plot! Well, the idea is that there is an artefact hidden within each of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the world, placed there by Alexander the Great, and the pieces must be reunited in order to stop an impending catastrophe befalling the world. Or something. Honestly, my memory on the plot is a bit vague and I’d like to keep it that way.
How with that, you might think, “Okay, that sounds really dumb and convoluted, but hey, it might be a fun read, a least.” Well, that’s what I thought. Until you get to your first diagram.
Yes, diagrams. To spell out for you what these booby-trapped rooms look like because hey reader, you’re clearly too thick to imagine things for yourself! See what I mean by patronising? And the writing itself is unreadably bad. It reads like a teenager's half-baked fantasy of an Indiana Jones book, only even this is unfair to teenagers and Indiana Jones, and indeed books, as this binding of pages with words inside it is far below any of them.
The characters are less-than-one-dimensional, and there are too many of them. To add to the confusion, each character has at least three names: their real name, their codename, and bizarrely the nicknames a child gave them who so happens to tag along with the crew into danger. There’s are kiddy names like Sky Monster, Wizard, Big Ears and Pooh Bear. So not only does this triple the confusion with who’s who, but you get wording that is so laughably ridiculous sentences, such as: “As Stretch kept the incoming RPGs at bay, Pooh Bear fired a grappling hook at the high ceiling.”
Oh, And Jack West Jr. has a bionic arm, wanna know how he got that? He lost his real arm when he plunged it through lava to press a button on the other side. Now, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief quite far, further than most people actually, but that…I’m sorry, but by no stretch of the imagination do arms or lava work like that.
No, rather than characters, the emphasis being placed instead on big action scenes. This, you would think, is fair enough, but they are vacuous, bloated and riddled with adjectives and too-much-description. Reilly is a prime example of what happens if you don’t follow the rule of ‘Show don’t tell.’ To compensate, he litters his writing with capitalised sentences and italicised sentences, trying desperately to inflate a sense of tension that isn’t there. You can almost imagine him wishing he could just scribble `JUST LOOK AT HOW INTENSE THESE SCENES ARE!' on every page. But it isn’t. The ludicrous actions (such as shooting missiles out of the air), empty characters and the cynical, patronising vibe Reilly gives off in his writing and is frickin’ diagrams combines by completely switching the reader off. You just don’t care. A major character can die, and you really won't blink an eye. Altogether it reads like a collection of notes for a possible video-game, reluctantly hashed together by a frustrated man who couldn’t care less for what makes an actual book.
It's so bad, I can almost recommend this book as an example of what a book shouldn't be. It's hilarious, but for all the wrong reasons, made all the worse by an author with an over-inflated ego and a total contempt for his readers. Except I don’t want to anyone to line his pockets with more than they already are. Maybe one day he’ll draw a diagram that summarizes the whole thing and share it for free. And it’ll be shaped like a toilet.