Seven Deadly Wonders (titled Seven Ancient Wonders outside the US – what does that say about what sells in our culture?) is Matthew Reilly's sixth novel if you count Contest, which he initially self-published, and was later re-released commercially. The plot centers around the search for the capstone of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the pieces of which were hidden with the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The person who finds the capstone and uses it at the proper place and time will gain a thousand years of world domination for his or her native country.
Several groups are competing to find the capstone, including the US, a European contingent (including the obligatory Vatican connection), a group of Islamic terrorists and a coalition of small nations led by Australian Jack West. West's group does not harbor hopes of gaining all the pieces of the capstone, but wants to foil the larger nations by gaining even one piece.
Like all of Reilly's novels, the plot is lightning-fast. The ancient wonders are presented in creative ways. The Hanging Gardens was my absolute favorite.
Characters are sketched thin. Jack West is somewhat fleshed out. My sole objection to his character is that he wears a fireman's helmet on his missions. Some might find it unique and creative, but to me it was pointless and distracting. I made a point to mentally edit it out of my consciousness as I read. The other characters vary in depth, but there is no secondary character as well-rendered as "Mother" in the Scarecrow novels.
In order to keep the story moving, Reilly sacrifices a great deal of his narrative voice. Back-story, especially on the wonders, is delivered at the beginning of the pertinent section, in a straightforward, lecture format. He does a fair job of describing the wonders, but his descriptions are supplemented with illustrations, some of which spoil the suspense. I like to be kept waiting, if only for the time it takes to turn the page.
If you're a fan of language and well-crafted sentences, you won't get much out of this book. Lots of short sentences and one-sentence paragraphs. I don't read Reilly for his flowery prose, so I didn't consider it a problem. The book reads and is structured very much like a movie script, which I suspect Reilly has in the back of his mind. (It would translate well to the screen.)
Unlike many Reilly fans, I was disappointed in Scarecrow, his previous effort. I was distracted by the constant use of "AND AT THAT VERY MOMENT" and "JUST IN TIME TO…" Also, many of the action sequences required suspension of belief on a Roadrunner-Coyote level. The annoying comments in the narrative are still there, but the action sequences are awesome without being absurd. There's some cool technology, but nothing too far-fetched (at least to the novice).
Overall, Seven Deadly Wonders is a fun, fast story that is well worth reading if you love action thrillers. I recommend buying the hardback if you're a Reilly fan, and waiting for the paperback if you're an action-adventure buff.
Overall rating- 7.5/10
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