One of my main concerns with action movies is that they are too concerned with set pieces and CGI, rather than the excitement of the characters in high pressure situations. Those situations are certainly not lacking in the books of Australian author Matthew Reilly.
The series that really grabbed my attention first was the Shane Schofield series – revolving around the central character of Shane “Scarecrow” Schofield, a member of the United States Marine Corps.
The first of Reilly’s Schofield books I read was Ice Station, based in Antarctica. The combination of mysterious technology trapped in ancient ice sheets, evil French and British military forces and some really sea mammals pretty much had me hooked. What I really enjoy about Reilly’s work is that there is never just one thing happening at once. Keeping track of events in a submerged cavern, in the research station where much of the action takes place and also in the States made it such a hard book to put down, because there are never any breaks from important things happening. A willingness to kill off likeable characters also really keeps the reader on their toes.
This high paced style and complex plot continues into the rest of the Schofield series. Area 7 sees Schofield and the survivors of his team on presidential protection duty while visiting military bases in the Utah. On arrival at the top-secret Area 7 base, they are trapped by former General, Charles “Caesar” Russell, and challenged to keep the President’s heart beating, since if it stops a signal will be sent to several nuclear warheads hidden in cities across America. Not only are they pursued by Russell’s personal army, there are also the criminals kept below the base in the chemical weapons testing facility – volunteers who would never see the outside of prison, given the heinous nature of their crimes. International and race relations, politics and the morality of chemical weapons are all tied into the fighting, running and tension.
The third book in the series (my personal favourite), and the last one that I have been able to read, is Scarecrow. A shady group of the richest men in the world, Majestic-12, issue a list of 15 bounties that need to be collected by October 26th. On that list is Shane Schofield, who, along with his team, is chased all over the world by a variety of dangerous and inventive bounty hunters. While trying to find out why he is on the list, as well as attempting to save any of the other 14 names, Schofield is helped by the mysterious Aloysius Knight – who, it is revealed has been hired to keep the Marine alive. For fans of conspiracy theories about business magnates taking over the world or a new world order, this is an excellent book. It also keeps up the Reilly staple of having many of the bad guys being French.
Each of my copies of this series also contains a small interview with the author at the end of the book, and I would also recommend giving these a read – though not until after finishing the action: Spoilers!
I have yet to get hold of a copy of Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves, but it is on my list of must reads. I would also recommend the Jack West Jr series. There will be a Good Reads post about those books coming up in the future.