Matthew Reilly writes like a kid in an adult’s body. His latest book, THE 5 GREATEST WARRIORS, had me just a bit misty-eyed at the end, reminding me as it did of the Tom Swift Jr. adventures of my youth, wherein Tom, known as “genius boy” to his chum, Bud Barclay, would save the world in the course of a day without even taking time for a restroom break. Reilly writes the same type of book, but on a much grander scale. It’s not great literature, but it’s fun and fantastic storytelling --- which is really what it’s supposed to be all about, isn’t it?
Reilly paints on a grand canvas, so it will to take a minute to explain what is going on. THE 5 GREATEST WARRIORS is a follow-up to THE 7 DEADLY WONDERS and THE 6 SACRED STONES. Reilly’s short chapters are usually only 2-4 pages in length and are further broken up by generous amounts of diagrams and charts, so you can figure out what is going on. It nicely takes the place of tedious explanations that would be necessary otherwise. And in the front of THE 5 GREATEST WARRIORS is a summary of what has gone before in the previous two volumes.
In THE 6 SACRED STONES, Jack West Jr. was plummeting into a bottomless abyss. Before that, he was trying to save the world from a cosmic catastrophe that was foreseen by the Ancients. They thoughtfully left behind the means to prevent it, in the form of a machine, the parts of which are scattered all over the world. Whoever finds the parts and gets to the machine will have the means to save all of Mankind, but will also have the ability to run things on their say-so, if they are of such a mind. Jack, of course, is motivated only by good, but a triple alliance of countries opposes him. He has assembled a solid team to help him, but the bad guys have their own team that includes a gentleman nicknamed Wolf, who just happens to be Jack’s father and has no qualms about offing his son to get what he wants. There have been double-crosses aplenty, and Jack is outclassed and outscored by the opposition, which is well on its way to getting everything it needs. And Jack, as I may have mentioned, is in freefall.
Which brings us to THE 5 GREATEST WARRIORS. Jack pulls off an amazing self-rescue, saves a little kid in the bargain, and picks up where he left off. As they race to locate the remaining pieces of the Machine, they find an inscription, previously lost to antiquity, that contains a rhyme about five unnamed warriors, the identities of whom will unlock the Machine’s secrets. But Jack has powerful people opposing him, some of whom want to rule the world and others who wish to wreck it. Along the way there are all sorts of examples of heroism, loyalty and friendship, which remind us why humanity is worth saving. There are also multiple incidents of explosions and karate, which remind us why thrillers are worth reading.
I will never forget one scene in particular, in which a Mossad deserter is punished for his transgressions. THE 5 GREATEST WARRIORS also contains what is now one of my favorite quotes from a book of adventure fiction, which is from Jack: “Let’s just get through this, ‘cause while I’m pretty…angry with you right now, I’d rather save the world first.”’ I don’t know if Jack will succeed when this series concludes, but at least he has his priorities straight for now. And the ending? Jack isn’t in freefall down an abyss, but when you read the revelation at the book’s conclusion, you will feel like you are. It’s amazing.
Utilizing a global setting and a cosmic time-bomb that spans millennia and light-years, THE 5 GREATEST WARRIORS should be on your must-read list. And a note to the publisher: you really should have a seat belt shrink-wrapped to this book in order to keep readers in their chairs. Maybe next time.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 5, 2011