There are no words to describe SCARECROW. So I'll just say read it. I'm gonna go watch some DVDs of Season One of "The Shield" or something.
Oh. You're still here? Thank you for your patience. Let me try again.
SCARECROW is the code name for Shane Schofield. Schofield's a Marine, one of the good guys. He has supernatural reflexes, is combat ready, and makes James Bond looks like he's sleepwalking. If you've read Matthew Reilly's novels before, novels like AREA 7 and ICE STATION, you've already met Schofield. But you don't really get to know him until SCARECROW. In an interview that Reilly thoughtfully appended to SCARECROW, he notes that SCARECROW introduces Schofield 2.0. Amen.
Drive-in movies in the 1950s would occasionally advertise films that were "so frightening, so shocking, we'll have a physician on duty to treat anyone overcome by what they see!!!!" or something like that. In that spirit, SCARECROW should come with a blood pressure cuff shrink-wrapped to it. Maybe an assumption of risk waiver that you'd have to e-mail back to the publisher before reading would be appropriate. Experiencing SCARECROW is like reading a video game, except Resident Evil is tame by comparison. Like action movies? Reading SCARECROW makes "Cradle 2 The Grave" look like "Howard's End." It's unrelenting. It never stops. You can't read SCARECROW at one sitting. You've got to come up for air once in awhile.
One of the plot devices in any number of novels is the ticking clock. The writer has to set up a scenario whereby resolution of a problem has to be obtained within a certain amount of time or adverse consequences will occur. Reilly scatters a couple of hundred clocks through SCARECROW and sets them go off within a few seconds of each other. The big clock, if you will, involves a shadowy group of powerful folks who want to get another cold war going. In order to effectuate this, they need to eliminate fifteen individuals --- and they're paying a bounty of 18.5 million dollars a head. Literally.
Schofield is on the list, and there are bad guys literally dropping out of the sky to get at him. Fortunately, there is someone willing to pay $20 million dollars to keep Schofield alive. Schofield thus has the help of a bounty hunter known as the Black Knight, a man who has a price on his own head and whose skills seem to be the equal of Schofield's. It seems as if it's the two of them against the world, as they fight to stay alive while seeking to uncover, and thwart, a nefarious plot to plunge the world into war. And on top of all of this, one of the bad guys has a plan of his own that's even worse than what his buddies are planning. Schofield and company find themselves literally racing from one end of the world to the other with death and danger a heartbeat away. Naturally, SCARECROW is full of danger, carnage, explosions --- and more excitement per page than most books contain cover to cover. Oh, and gadgets. Did I mention gadgets? I have enough ideas for my Christmas wish list after reading SCARECROW to keep Santa hopping for the next ten years.
Nonstop action, adventure, and a HUGE surprise for fans of Reilly's other Schofield novels --- what more could you ask for from a novel? You'll give up television forever after reading SCARECROW.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011