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Old 3rd Mar 2006, 11:03   #1
Stewart
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Default Re: The best crap reviews in Amazon

Didn't want to start a new thread so I thought I'd post to this. The reviews of Matthew Reilly's Seven Ancient Wonders features some excellent reviews from his disillusioned fans:

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the book is aimed at adults yet here is a list of some of the character names
Wizard
Big Ears
Noddy
Stretch
Pooh Bear
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Bam! Kapow! Ping! Crack! Zing!


Every now and then an astonishing book is published. This is one of those. For all the wrong reasons unfortunately as this monstrosity of a book proves beyond all doubt that it is possible to insult the intelligence of a six-year old.

I saw this book in the bestseller lists and the blurb sounded interesting - treasure, religious societies, adventure... Good stuff thought I. I didn't expect it to be deep or meaningful or anything. Just readable. A good thriller - a bit farfetched but believable.

I was disappointed on all counts.

Luckily I didn't buy it full price but saw a copy at a charity shop whilst it was still in the bestseller list, hardly touched for £2.99!!!

Wow!!!

Bargain!!!

I was wrong.

With a writing style that is reminiscent of the "What I did during summer" essay's you had to write at school, this is without doubt the poorest book I have ever, ever read.

The author is incredibly lazy, choosing not to describe anything in depth, but allow onomatapeia or a few single words to take over. (Describing an explosion he uses these words "Fireball. Explosion. Dustcloud"). He has not constructed a story, but evidently as a kid drew some treasure maps with traps on them and based his story around them. Poorly.

His prediliction for having exotic pieces of equipment but poorly described is laughable. "It was an M-113 TBV-MV". What?!!! (Oh, and by the way Mr. Reilly, merely putting a word or sentence in italics and adding exclamation marks does not build tension. Oh sorry. !!!!!!.

In all Roger Hargreaves' Mr. Bump offers more in the way of plot AND character development than this. What am I saying? Development? The characters are so cardboard that if it rained they would dissolve.

Poorly researched, beyond fantasy (a sniper continually shooting down in flight RPG's is just downright insulting) this book is the funniest thing I have read since the reviews on the back of the book. But not as insulting as the line [he was] "Very Irish, hence very Catholic". I'm sure the troubles in Northern Ireland were all a laugh then.
The publishers should be ashamed that this even reached their desks. The proof-reading obviously worked.
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It is truly awful drivel which would appeal mostly to fairly literate 13 year old boys with a gun fetish.
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how do you expect anyone to believe all of a sudden we can find all of the seven wonders, that traps set by ancient Egyptians still function after thousands of years, that wooden parapets made over two thousand years ago are still usable and the most insulting of all, that a Boeing 747 can be made to behave like a Harrier jet or helicopter and fly around the world undetected?
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I cannot remember ever reading such utter dirge. It got to the point where I had to continue reading in the hope that there was some hidden joke behind it all, but sadly not - it really is that bad!


With almost no characterisation whatsoever and a plot so insane that you find it hard to believe what you are reading, you have to think that the publisher is taking the Mickey.
That said, it is generally harmless enough stuff, and if you have a twelve year old you don't mind exposing to the odd swear word, then this book is pitched at exactly that level. If you are over that age though, for pity's sake, save your money!
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The action feels either bland and repetitive, with repeated running through ancient traps that are sub-Indiana Jones, or so over the top, such as rolling a Parisian double decker bus, that it defies belief
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The science ... oh boy ... the science, and the engineering. Blimey, if Boeing could actually make a 747 do what one does here ... never mind the ultra-drivel about suspots, or about 'warbler' technology that 'magnetically' diverts bullets ... and there's more. Much more.
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This book Makes Clive Cussler look like a literary genius!


Then, of course, are the ones for which this thread was intended - the five star reviews:

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Unless you are a die-hard realism fan, you will NOT be let down.
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I know that this book has taken a slating from some people, but their complaints about lack of character development and unbelievable storylines/weapons/technologies are just silly. Since when has the writer ever produced those things before? I have read every book of his since they came out, and the whole point of his books is to provide blistering action, imaginative plots and storylines, and allow yourself to immerse into the book without having to concentrate on whether it is 'believable'. The added element of Indiana Jones-style traps and twists in the plot-line only add to its brilliance. Great book definately recommend buying it, if you prefer the usual Riley blockbuster!
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This book does indeed have a few farfetched ideas within it, but it is action packed, an easy read and fun. The book answers any questions that you may have as they are all explained within it. Some of the book is based on fact but it is the very bottom base line of the story. I would recommend this book to anyone who is willing to read something fun and original. The basic story is that there are a two big rivil groups trying to find a golden capstone and there is one other group trying to stop them. They travel to the location of the Seven Ancient Wonders Of The World and escape traps,quick sand and many other things. A GREAT READ!!!
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If you want a book packed full of action, a book that is fast-paced, has an abundance of nail-biting situations, all sorts of historical traps and is an easy to read no brainer, then this is the book for you. Just like all of his previous novels, Matthew Reilly has the ability to drag you right into the action and immerse you in his writing. I have never been disappointed with any of his books and would highly recommend this to anyone who wants to read but not have to concentrate to hard! Great stuff!
And, last but not least:

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I had never even heard of Matthew Reilly (I'm British, just moved to NZ, where he's huge), before my cousin in Australia got this book for Christmas. I read the blurb, and thought WOW! Then she read it in 2 days. So when I got back, I got it. I thought that I'd never be able to read it in 2 days. I read it in less than 24 hours. Why?

Everything about this book is incredible. It has an amazing plot. A brave, tough, Non- American (Half, and forsaking them anyway) hero. Dastardly villains. Subtle hints to other things, and whats more, some of it's actually believable (Unlike the Da Vinci Code).

If this was to be done as a film, then Indiana Jones had better watch out.
Words can't show how cool this book is, so buy it, if you loved conspiracy theories that are believable, and love Andy McNab or Dan Brown.
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Old 3rd Mar 2006, 14:00   #2
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Default Re: The best crap reviews in Amazon

Matthew Reilly was on Simon Mayo's R5 show yesterday.
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Old 3rd Mar 2006, 16:07   #3
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Default Re: The best crap reviews in Amazon

Blimey Blixa, I thought you'd deliberately filleted the very worst reviews of Seven Ancient Wonders. But looking at the Amazon page, they aren't the half of it!

5 star reviews: 7
4 star reviews: 1
3 star reviews: 0 (hm, a bit like Robert Stanek)
2 star reviews: 3
1 star reviews: 11

Harsh but fair to point out that the five star reviews have either spelling mistakes or an alarm-bell-ringingly defensive tone ("an easy to read no brainer," "would highly recommend this to anyone who wants to read but not have to concentrate to hard!", "only small breaks [in the action] ... no more than about 30 pages each"), or show us just how rich a novel this is by mentioning that they finished this 480 page novel in 4 hours...

Average 2.5 out of 5 stars. Which, as has been discussed before, is not equivalent to 50%, as the lowest score is 1 rather than 0. So in fact this is really 1.5 out of 4, or 37.5% score overall. And that's from his fans...

I picked up a copy of his previous novel Scarecrow in a freebie giveaway by his publishers recently (thanks - I think - Blixa!), out of curiosity. I feel almost compelled to read it now.

EDIT: Sorry Blixa, I'm going to move this to a dedicated Reilly thread, which will at least enable anyone who's read him to defend him against our (my) ill-informed jibes...
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Old 3rd Mar 2006, 16:26   #4
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Default Re: Matthew Reilly

But more jibing first (well, it is Friday afternoon). I see on Matthew Reilly's website news this month, he comments on a new story which has been published, in the Quick Reads series (which has been launched to encourage adults with poor literacy to 'get into' books, so there are short books by popular authors like Joanna Trollope, Maeve Binchy etc. A worthwhile aim, though as I've only seem them so far in bookshops, I wonder how much success they will have).

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The UK edition of Hell Island is a special version of the novella (called “Quick Reads”). This means the entire books was rewritten by educators so that it would be accessible to readers of very low literacy levels. This is a wonderful program and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. It might even entail a visit by me to London in March for the launch. But it means the book has been greatly simplified.

So, UK readers, please don't buy the book and email me and say, “It was kinda basic…” This is very deliberate. The book is for those people who don't read very much, and indeed, might be intimidated by the density of novels generally.
Feel free to make up your own jokes, not least about how dense Reilly's novels seem to be.

Thinking about my prejudiced comments above, I did take the opportunity to read one of his stories on his website, "Altitude Rush." Now I know there are profound differences between readers on what makes a book good or bad, and I know that tastes differ ... but there are some basic requirements for good writing: and some prominent features of bad writing. Reilly's story has all of the latter: tautology ("pointed peak"), feeble descriptions ("fashionable Fifth Avenue"), clichés ("blasted the window to smithereens," "small and wiry and compact"), Dan Brown-style clunking explication - ("Grauss pressure cases are all but impossible to break open. They are protected by four pressure-sealed locks which can only be opened using a high-pressure air-valve release unit - a machine the size of a small refrigerator. Such machines are rare and very expensive" - yeah, tell don't show, that's the spirit!), laughable strainings for effect and subtlety ("Their cases are known to be used by the US and British governments, nearly every major office at the UN, and not a few billionaires who like to accumulate socially ... unacceptable ... collectibles"), not to mention attention-deficit style (most paragraphs only a line or two long) and no concept of narrative integrity (one minute speaking in the protagonist's internal monologue, next addressing the reader omnisciently - "You see..."). The plot itself is a pointlessly contrived Speed-style race, and the backstory a frankly repellent libel against a dead man who can't answer back.

The question is: is Reilly doing the best he can? Or is he deliberately writing at a uniquely low level? Either is a pretty unattractive prospect.

I also read his short story The Mine - it won't take long - I know I shouldn't have, but it was a sort of literary equivalent of picking at a scab. You can read it on his website under Extras or Exclusives or something like that. I have to say it was genuinely I think the worst piece of prose fiction by a professional writer I have ever seen. The flaws that Amazon reviewers identify in Seven Ancient Wonders were all there, not least the peppering of italics, in the mistaken belief that this enhances emphasis rather than detracts from it. As well as this, he also developed an addiction to exclamation marks - the last refuge, in literary terms, of the scoundrel. And I don't mean in his dialogue - exclamation marks in his third person narrative, fer chrissakes! Like that! The story has forty chapters (each with a separate title) in seventeen pages. And when he uses italics in dialogue, he doesn't even do it right:

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"Oh Christ! My legs! Look at my goddam legs!"
Either legs rather than goddam should be italicised, or both, or neither. It just doesn't read right with goddam emphasised and legs not.

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The man's legs had been completely and totally flattened.
Double marks off here, for italics in the main narrative and for use of the word totally - not just because it's redundant but because the only people who say totally are American teenage girls and Dave Spart type agitprop wankers.

Here's his idea of characterisation:

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In front of her sat her diminutive dig partner, Kenneth W. Georgeopolous. Kenny was all of five-foot-two, with hair brushed up into an Elvis Presley pompadour. He was known about the site as 'Little Kenny G.'
Give me strength. Anyone who uses the word diminutive should be shot. Another piece of deft characterisation is "eccentric billionaire chairman." Wow, he's just come to life, hasn't he?

And so on and so on. Oh yes and he uses 'nanosecond' as a realistic description of time. Could Reilly be the worst author since Sean Wright?
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Old 3rd Mar 2006, 16:29   #5
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Default Re: Matthew Reilly

How about the worst author ever to have met a Prime Minister? He met TB at the Quick Reads launch yesterday.
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Old 3rd Mar 2006, 16:48   #6
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Default Re: Matthew Reilly

Ah, hence the Simon Mayo appearance. Anyway, Reilly's website is full of wonders, not least this bitter diatribe, which I reprint with annotations...

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4. WHEN LOSERS CLAIM TO BE WINNERS: THE TERM 'POPULAR FICTION'

Finally, a short word on a term that I really dislike: 'POPULAR FICTION.' In fact, it is one of the few things in the publishing industry that really makes me angry.

The term 'popular fiction' (which is often used in relation to my novels) must have been coined by some really bitter author who wrote some serious book which just didn't sell.
'Must have been'? Any evidence for this, Matto?

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The only way to justify this failure
Sorry, what failure? Oh yes, the imaginary bitter author with the made-up serious book which hypothetically didn't sell. I'm with you.

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was to say that the book was too good, that the masses were just too stupid to appreciate it. And so the term 'popular fiction' was used to describe, in a negative sense, those books that do succeed
In a negative sense? Or could it in fact be a neutral term meaning 'popular' (defn: er, popular, widely read, selling in large numbers) 'fiction' (defn: invented stories)?

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- to degrade books that have mass appeal, and thus justify the failures of those who write material that, frankly, the greater public doesn't want to read. It is the mediocre asserting some kind of superiority over the successful (by insulting the intelligence of the general public!).
Jeez Louise, Matto, what's eating you? We're still on your imaginary derivation for the phrase 'popular fiction', right? Or is this actually a cover for some bitterness that's been eating away at you over some accolade you didn't win because people thought your books weren't good enough? And I take it by 'mediocre' and 'successful' you're using those terms in the sense of not popular and popular - because those are the only things that matter in literature, right? That's what makes the News of the World the world's finest newspaper, I guess.

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As someone who reads ALL kinds of books (from Grisham to Ondaatje to the noted biographer A. Scott Berg), I find it a terrible shame that this distinction exists.
What, the one you just made up? OK, carry on.

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We have a broadsheet newspaper here in Sydney that has pretensions of literary credibility, and every year it puts out a 'Best Young Australian Novelists' list, and every year they dismiss the so-called 'popular fiction' authors and decry the state of publishing generally.
Ah! Now we get to the crux of the matter. You didn't make the list, did you, Matto?

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Ultimately, it seems, this newspaper's judges are impressed by authors who use similes ('I am like the raven...') and personification ('the cliffs reach for the sky, yearning, outstretched...'), as if that is the only form of writing worthy of praise.
Forgive my derisive laughter. This exemplifies perfectly Matto's stunted sense of what 'good' writing is about, and why he will never be a good writer himself. Similes, personification? What is he on? Good writing cannot be prescribed - if it could, everyone would be doing it by formula. No, the reason your books are not respected by these people are because you don't care about the writing, just the pace and the action and the story.

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It is okay to have an opinion on what is good - that is everyone's right - it is another thing entirely to say that your opinion is the only correct one.
Sorry, did they say that in the newspaper article? That their opinion was the only correct one? But let's not forget that not all opinions are worth equal attention.

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There is no shame in reading for enjoyment. After all, that's what 90% of the population do.
Is this a typo? Surely 100% of the (reading) population read for enjoyment?

For the avoidance of doubt, let it be known that the Sydney Morning Herald announces its Best Young Novelists Award in May of each year - and this piece dates from May 2001 on Reilly's site. Still: as his website says

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Matthew continues to have fun both experimenting and testing his limits when it comes to word-smithing.
"I am like the raven," eh?
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Old 3rd Mar 2006, 16:50   #7
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Default Re: Matthew Reilly

Now, when reading an Amazon review who 'looks away now' when they see the word SPOILER? No, thought not. In that case, how do you think the featured review will go down with Mr Reilly?:


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SPOILER AHEAD - YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!
the story is about a group of gorillas that have been enhanced via microchips to be ultimate fighters (a little bit like in the film Universal soldier). Shane schofield and his team have to investigate what has happened to everybody on the island and they spend much time defeating these animals (and uncovering the truth)
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Old 8th Mar 2006, 15:53   #8
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Default Re: Matthew Reilly

Quite Mr Self, an interesting selection of quotes. Couldn't help thinking of Martin Amis when reading the whole 'the book was too good' argument. I actually think Reilly has a point there. I recall Amis in an interview post-Yellow Dog claiming that the reason for its poor reviews and less-than-remarkable sales was that the reading public were not intelligent enough to understand it. I think most people exposed to that book would agree that, at the very least, it was not his best work and, if biased like me, that it was more of a Yellow Turd.

I have met Reilly and he is quite an interesting character. I am not a fan of his books but I am not really into that genre at all. Nonetheless he has an interesting take on how to be a successful writer and he had clearly achieved that goal. He gets a bit too upset about not being taken seriously but his basic premise on many of his arguments is pretty sound.
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Old 8th Mar 2006, 16:26   #9
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Default Re: Matthew Reilly

Ah but I know for a fact that the only exposure you had to Yellow Dog was the opening paragraph...

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Originally Posted by wildsheep
I am not a fan of his books but I am not really into that genre at all.
But this is the problem. Reilly justifies the fact that he can't write decent English by saying that it's not needed for his 'genre' and looking at even the positive reviews extracted by Blixa above, that's something his fans buy into as well. I believe it's a cop-out. No 'genre' entitles the writer to use multiple exclamation marks in a third person narrative or justifies clumsy, crappy sentences.

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Nonetheless he has an interesting take on how to be a successful writer and he had clearly achieved that goal.
Indeed. If only he had a take on how to be a good writer.

All this has persuaded me to make my next read the freebie copy of Reilly's Scarecrow I got to see how far my prejudices (and judgements on his stories) stand up.
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Old 8th Mar 2006, 16:36   #10
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One paragraph? You are correct, but that was only because I was so eager to send my proof to you!
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