Bringing comic book-level prose and technique to the novel form is not something I'd expect to see from a best-selling author, but that seems to be Matthew Reilly's career objective. Hitting the ground running with the fantastic Ice Station, and following up with solid efforts like Temple and Area 5, Reilly seemed destined for action-adventure greatness. If sales figures are the measure, he has certainly achieved that status. However, when he announced that he was experimenting with ways to make the pacing of his books even faster, that marked a major turning point in the quality of his writing.
The 6 Sacred Stones, like its predecessors Scarecrow and 7 Deadly Wonders, is a thrill-a-minute story, with the focus on action and improbable escapes. The plot centers around the search for six stones that must be recovered and placed into ancient "machines" of unknown origin. Doing so before a particular celestial event will stop the countdown to earth's destruction that was begun by the events in 7 Deadly Wonders.
Perhaps unintentionally, Reilly announces at the outset that suspense and mystery have no place in this story when he provides the reader with labeled drawings of all the sacred stones. No mystery there. Each time hero Jack West heads into a new location, the reader is given a schematic of the site at the beginning of the chapter in order to remove all mystery about what lies ahead. I don't know if this practice is a statement on Reilly's estimation of his own ability to write description, or his estimation of the collective intelligence of his audience.
Reilly's emphasis on action at the expense of mystery, suspense, characterization and back-story makes for a thin, cartoonish plot. Putting Jack West in mortal peril in chapter two is not suspenseful. We know he's going to be around until the end. Authors would be better served to devote the earlier portions of a book to character development and elements of mystery and suspense, and save the great escapes until later. The story further suffers from an overdose of adverbs, italics and hyperbole.
The final insult to the reader lies in the fact that the story comes to an abrupt halt just as it is getting interesting. The characters are only one-third of the way through their quest and the book… stops. Reilly provides an explanation/apology at the end of the book, explaining that he realized there was "no way" he could finish the story in one volume, so he thought he'd end with a cliffhanger instead.
Bottom line: If your idea of great prose is the script of the old Batman television show, The 6 Sacred Stones is the book for you.Powered by Sidelines