7 Deadly Wonders... written by Matthew Reilly... published by Simon & Schuster... 2006.
I had never heard of Matthew Reilly before. Honestly, I took a suggestion from the back of the Reading Genre Fiction book by Sarick in the "5 book challenge" section. It seems that with a lot of adventure books there is a strong military presence. I don't mind that to some degree, but I really wanted something with more of an "Indiana Jones" kind of feel. That is pretty much what Reilly delivers here in this book.
Reilly gives the reader a hero, Jack West, Jr., who is reminiscent of Indiana Jones, but clearly different. West is not a professor or an archaeologist, he is a military man... although, he has tried to leave that life somewhat behind him. Also, while the military is present in this story, it does not seem overwhelming, so the book can easily be enjoyed by a reader (like me) who did not want a largely military based story. Another thing that separates this story from the Indiana Jones stories are the somewhat fantastical elements. For instance, Jack West has a mechanical arm... the left arm, from the elbow down. The story of how this came to be is given to the reader in a "flashback." West's plane has the ability to hover, as the plane has been modified by West's former professor and present friend Max Epper. The professor serves as West's "Q" (from the James Bond series), and also a sort of "Gandolf" figure... he is even code-named "Wizard" by another character. Also, West has a pair of wings... graphite wings that is, which enable him to zoom down into situations somewhat undetected... somewhat undetected.
Oh yeah... one other thing that makes this story different from the Indiana Jones stories: the Americans are the villains. I suppose it depends on perspective really, but from the point of view of our hero, the Americans who are active characters in this book are definitely not the good guys. There is also another group of "bad guys;" a certain group of Europeans. Essentially, the story is about chasing power... and really, in this kind of a situation, most people are just in it for themselves... and anyone else is the "bad guy." I should probably mention at this point that not only is Jack West an Australian, but so is the author. I don't think there is any great agenda at work here though. Apparently, Reilly has had American heroes in his other books, and simply decided to make the hero of this book Australian. ...fine by me... it keeps it fresh and interesting to see things from another perspective.
Okay, with all of that being said, what is this story really about (other than chasing power)? Apparenly, Reilly reads a lot of non-fiction, and he happened to be reading about Egypt. He found that the Great Pyramid at Giza once had a capstone that is now lost... this became the focus of the story at hand. According to this book (7 Deadly Wonders), every 4500 years a specific sunspot comes into perfect alignment with the apex of the Great Pyramid. With the capstone in place, if a certain ritual is performed at exactly the time of the alignment, the nation of the person who performed the ritual will have supreme power for 1000 years. If something goes wrong, well... great destruction. The capstone is gone from the pyramid and it was separated into 7 pieces and hidden with each of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, on order of Alexander the Great.
Fast forward to 1996: there is a birth of a new Oracle, who can read the ancient language which will lead to the 7 pieces. Jack West tries to cut off the European group from finding the child, but he is too late... or is he? He goes down to help the mother (who the Europeans have captured and then stranded upon the birth of her son), only to find that there is another child waiting to be born! It is too late to save the mother, but West delivers the child by "c-section." This child is a girl who will also be an Oracle, and therefore able to read the ancient Word of Thoth.
The story of the capstone is known by certain people of certain power all around the world. There is of course the group of Europeans, the Americans, and West and his team (and later another group). West, representing the Australians, has gotten together with representatives from several other nations in Ireland to discuss a way to stop the Americans and the European group from gathering the capstone pieces and performing the ritual of power. They intend to either get just one piece to stop the ritual from being performed entirely, or to perform the ritual of peace at the appropriate time on the Great Pyramid. Agreements are made in Ireland, and West and his multi-national team take the baby girl to a secret location (in Kenya... shh!) to raise her until the time of the Tartarus! They raise her for ten years; to the time when the bulk of the story takes place.
I won't give away much more of the story, but I will say that it was interesting to read this type of book. I have seen many adventure movies, but I think this is the first real Indiana Jones-style adventure that I've read. It's one thing to see all of the action and the booby-traps that an action hero has to face in a movie, but it is somewhat different to read about it. I mean, in a movie you just see it all, but in a book the author has to take time to explain it all. It took me a bit of time to get used to this, but not long. Also, as is apparently common among adventure books, there were many maps and illustrations. They were a little cheap looking in this book... I guess I'd say a little "cartoony," but not too bad. Overall, I would definitely suggest this book to someone looking for an interesting adventure tale... with some Indiana Jones-style action.