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Book Review: Seven Ancient Wonders - Matthew Reilly

"It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away." - lyrics by the BeeGees that I live by and strive to inculcate in life


There is a recurring theme in most Hollywood movies that you can count on. It seems to be very popular for some reason and they also seem to attract the big names in the industry with all the big money. I’ve tried to understand why it is so, but so far it’s a toss-up between, ‘that’s-just-what-we-have-take-it-or-leave-it’ and ‘big-bangs-make-big-bucks’. I don’t watch too many of them but when you have friends, you are inevitably going to sit through a few. And personally, I sat through a few extra ones just so I can have further proof that I shouldn’t sit through them and that staring at an empty wall is a better use of my time.

Lets see if I can get the main plot points right:

  • An ‘impossible’ task is set for our protagonist - bonus points is it’s on a global scale.
  • The protagonist is somehow a crazy expert who is usually a maverik with a special skill set
  • The protagonist is going to be helped by a group of other experts who mostly serve as plot-points/ cannon fodder so that the protagonist can use that to power through whatever troubles them for now.
  • A mandatory tragic backstory
  • A mandatory mortal enemy who is related to the tragic backstory
  • The story is mostly presented in the action/adventure genre so that global-scale/ life-altering events take place over span of a few days
  • It is usually a race against time to stop a ‘thing-that-shouldn’t-happen-which-will-signify-the-end-of-the-world-if-it-happens’
  • Bonus points if there are children involved.
  • Extra bonus points if the children play a major role in the plot
  • Extra extra bonus points if the child involved is female as a counterpoint to the male protagonist and can be used to show that the male protagonist has a ‘soft-side’.
  • The children usually survive everything they should not have survived either by happy hapstance or because the protagonist risked life and limb to save them or because someone else died in their place.
  • Token solitary female character who helps the protagonist and usually survives.
  • At least one scene where the female character’s body is sexualised even though they may be in combat tactical gear.
  • Mentor character who was previously disregarded who is devoted to protagonist and has unhealthy amounts of faith in them.
  • The odds are always against our protagonist
  • The aforementioned mortal enemy is always ahead in this race and always manages to outsmart the protagonist.
  • A mandatory chase (vehicle type is not important)
  • There is usually a heist.
  • There is usually a scene where someone is broken out of jail
  • The ‘thing-that-shouldn’t-happen-which-will-signify-the-end-of-the-world-if-it-happens’ will happen because the protagonist was just-too-late to stop it after engaging in an epic battle.
  • But then there will be ‘something’ that gives the protagonist the advantage.
  • Then there will be a classic ‘good wins against evil’ conclusion to the final battle ending with the protagonist heavily injured and taking drastic measures to stop the ‘thing-that-shouldn’t-happen-which-will-signify-the-end-of-the-world-if-it-happens’.
  • Mentor figure will come to the forefront to explain the protagonist's actions and paint them as righteous if needed.
  • The protagonist has partially gone off the radar so that they can keep the ‘thing-that-shouldn’t-happen-which-will-signify-the-end-of-the-world-if-it-happens’ a secret for the ‘good of the world’ and because no-one should have ‘that much power at their disposal’.
  • The story usually ends with the surviving characters congregating on some nondescript location and reminiscence about ‘what-could-have-happened-if-they-hadn’t-saved-the-day’.

If someone has seen any such movies then you have read this book already.

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But if you are like me, who have an obsession to read the books that they have already brought then there are also some redeeming points:

  • The description of the ancient wonders is very good to help you imagine them
  • There are associated maps and diagrams for each wonder and any other artefact that might need a visual representation
  • Fight scenes are written in a manner that makes them easier to follow if you use your imagination and read them over a few times.
  • The different scenes flow into each other pretty seamlessly
  • Good use of cliffhangers
  • The amount of research needed to write the book is appreciable
  • The history is given some respect
  • Attempts have been made to be racially diverse.

Personally, it took me about six months to finish this book - and that’s the longest it has ever taken me to finish any book, including my unfortunate encounter with the classic ‘Great Expectations’ which led me to the conclusion that I should stay away from classics altogether. It made me want to just abandon it because the story was so dry and kind of predictable. But then it did pick up when the description of the wonders were involved. I procrastinated to a great extent while reading it and instead managed to go through 2 other books and 40 fan-fictions while doing my other life activities. At one point I had to bribe myself to get through a section because I knew that if I didn’t finish this book then it was just going to haunt me till I do.

So honestly, I would not recommend it because we already have too many books that we could be reading instead. There are a lot of other things that we could be doing rather than reading this book (like reading this review so that it saves you the time of reading the book *self-promotion*)

I have nothing against the writing style because it’s one of the aspects that kept me going through the book and the author. I am also someone who believes that there are good books and bad books in the same series and off course an author should not be judged on the basis of one (1) book that someone reads. So in the future I might brave another book from that universe but for now, I would much rather leave this book to gather dust on my shelves and be pretty (after all, it does have an eye-catching title and cover)

© 2021 Sanjana Mahanta

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