Marine captain Shane Schofield, call-sign Scarecrow, is called back into action when a terrorist organisation known as the Army of Thieves takes over Dragon Island, a long forgotten Cold War weapons base in the Arctic, with the intent of using one of the weapons there to wipe out the entire Northern Hemisphere.
The literary equivalent of Hollywood blockbuster action movies, Matthew Reilly’s adventure thrillers may be hated by the Australian literary establishment for being far too commercial, but they are certainly loved by just about everyone else. One of Australia’s best-selling writers, Reilly does not write books with deep themes or messages or anything likely to ever be set for study in Year 12 English. What he does write, however, are huge scale, hyper-kinetic, over-the-top adventure stories that may not get you to think too hard, but will keep you turning the pages from beginning to end.
Not as grand in scale as Reilly’s previous effort (the two-part story made up of The Six Sacred Stones and The Five Greatest Warriors, which saw Jack West Jr. racing around the world to avert the apocalypse), Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves is still up to the same high standard as the previous Scarecrow books and has the added bonus of a great new character, the scenery-chewing, larger than life French soldier Baba, who is effectively the male equivalent of Scarecrow’s loyal second in command, Mother. The Arctic setting does feel reminiscent of the Antarctic setting of Reilly’s earlier Ice Station (I guess there’s a limit to the number of places Reilly’s novels can be set) and there is one very unpleasant, 1984-inspired torture scene that I could have done without, but on the whole, this is still a better book than the majority of novels I read each year - and the majority of movies I watch, too, for that matter.
Purportedly aimed at adults (I’m still not convinced), Matthew Reilly’s novels read like the sorts of movies that have teenagers cheering in the cinemas and are among those rare few books that genuinely appeal to readers of all ages. If you’re new to Reilly’s works, Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves is not a bad place to start (although you may prefer to start with Ice Station, the novel in which Scarecrow first appeared) and if you’re a returning reader, you definitely won’t be disappointed.
Verdict: Another hit from best-selling author Matthew Reilly, a writer who makes me proud to be an Australian.