Review: The Four Legendary Kingdoms by Matthew Reilly

SAW print.inddThe Four Legendary Kingdoms begins with Jack West Jr. waking up in an unknown location and immediately thrust into battle. We quickly learn he has been chosen, along with a dozen other elite soldiers (including a very familiar face, much to my surprise and delight), to compete in a series of spectacularly deadly challenges in order to fulfil an ancient ritual with world ending consequences. So, yeah; the stakes, as always, are astronomically high. This isn’t a game West can escape from. For the sake of his loved ones — for the sake of everyone — he’s got to compete.

Reilly delivers fantastic stunts and vehicular mayhem in incredibly creative combat arenas. The plot and characters are ludicrous, but its all stupendous fun, and it moves at the velocity of a speeding bullet. Faster, actually. Reilly rarely lets his readers — or indeed his characters — rest. There are brief interludes between all the thrills, when the unflappably indestructible West gets the chance to lick his wounds, and Reilly gets the chance to feed readers background information. Sure, it can be a little clunky at times  — only Reilly could get away with the sentence, “Vacheron grinned evilly,” and the book is entirely void of subtext — but The Four Legendary Kingdoms is a rollicking blockbuster ride and perfect weekend fodder.

When it comes right down to it, other authors can try (and have tried) to emulate him, but nobody is better at the high-octane-high-body-count thriller than Matthew Reilly. It’s his domain, exclusively. Fans will delight in Jack West Jr.’s return, and of course, plenty of thread is left dangling for the inevitable sequels.

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Aussie New Releases To Look Forward To

There are several books by Australian authors being published in the last six months of the year that I’m really looking forward to, so I thought I’d share them with you.

The first is already out, and it’s Kate Forsyth‘s Dancing With Knives.  Set on a farm outside Narooma in NSW, Dancing With Knives is a rural murder mystery and a story about love and family secrets.

Rebecca James (author of Beautiful Malice and Sweet Damage) is gearing up for the launch of Cooper Bartholomew is Dead in early October.  Cooper Bartholomew is Dead is a psychological thriller centred around the death of Cooper Bartholomew, and his group of friends, one of which is keeping a dangerous secret.

Kate Morton (author of The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper) is releasing her fifth novel in October this year and I’m so excited about it.  Untitled and simply called Book 5 for now, we don’t know what’s it’s about yet, but given she’s one of my favourite Australian authors, I’m sure it’s going to be a delicious page-turner.Matthew Reilly book cover The Great Zoo of China

Matthew Reilly is releasing a block-buster action monster-movie of a novel (his words) called The Great Zoo of China on 10 November.  China has discovered a new species of animal and is preparing to unveil their amazing find in the form of the largest zoo in human history.  The Chinese re-assure a media contingent invited to tour the zoo that it’s perfectly safe; however if Matthew Reilly is involved, you know that nothing’s ever safe.  You can click here to watch a short video of Matthew Reilly telling us about The Great Zoo of China, or pre-order it now and receive 30% off.

Candice Fox (author of Hades) featured here on the blog in January this year, and her latest book in the Bennett/Archer series Eden, is due out later this year.  Click here to read the Player Profile with Candice conducted by Jon Page.

Australian music personality Molly Meldrum has written a memoir called The Never Ever Ending Story, and is said to contain plenty of stories about some of the many rock and pop stars he interviewed throughout his career.  The Never Ever Ending Story is due to be released in November.

Another iconic member of the Australian music industry has to be John Williamson.  In the aptly named Hey, True Blue, John Williamson takes readers through his life story and his success as a singer.

So, that’s it from me, but what new Australian books are you looking forward to?

Stephen Michael King’s Baker’s Dozen – Classics you’ve read to your kids

Every now and then it’s nice to reflect and remember the golden moments of yesterday. And nothing conjures up warm, snugly memories better than a magic word or two, shared and cherished with those you love.

Stephen Michael KingWhen I asked children’s illustrator author, Stephen Michael King, what his reading list looked like, he trumped the idea with a list of classics reads, dredged up from his recollection of days spent reading them with his children.

Have a look. Do you recognise any of your favourites? Perhaps you’ve shared one or two of them yourself…

One dozen classic stories I’ve (Stephen Michael King) read with my children.

It was going to be ten but I had to add two more. Whoops three more . . . the title should read thirteen classic books I’ve read with my children. Here’s his baker’s dozen.

The Terrible underpants The Terrible Underpants – (with voices) You can’t say the name Wanda Linda without doing a silly voice. Kaz Cooke – Penguin Books

Green Eggs and Ham – I had to read every page in one breath. It’s lots of fun as the text grows and my face turns blue. Dr Seuss – HarperCollins

 Mr Magnolia – I love it, so my children had to love it too. Simple problem/perfect solution! I’ve read it easily three hundred times. It didn’t worry me if my children were already asleep. Quentin Blake – Random House UK

My Uncle is a Hunkle – My daughter asked me to read this at her preschool. I used my best ever cowboy voice. We must have read this book together about a hundred times. I feel like crying when I imagine her laughing in my arms. Lauren Child – Hachett Children’s Books

Where the Wild Things Are – I read this hundreds of times too. Its story and art are timeless but its design is what hypnotises me every time. Maurice Sendak – Harper Collins Inc.

The Hobbit – I read this to my son when he was in primary school and we were both so proud we read it together before the movie was released. My daughter read it to herself a few months before the movie’s release. She’s equally satisfied. JRR Tolkien – HarperCollins

Peter Pan – I read this with my daughter and we both loved how Peter killed pirates and yelled “Cock a Doodle Doo”. We love the movies but the book is an earthy adventure not to be missed. J M Barrie – Vintage

hover-car-racerHover Car Racer – My brilliant wife suggested I read this. If you want to introduce your son to books and you need to twist his dad’s arm to read . . . then this is the book. I had a lot of work on at the time but this book kept me connected. I read it once to my son, then to my daughter, and then my son asked me to read it again. Matthew Reilly – Pan Macmillan Australia

The Importance of Being Ernest – (with voices) Who would have guessed! What an experience! Father and daughter magic! I had a different voice for every character. Occasionally I would use the wrong voice or say a random stupid word. It was so much fun. Oscar Wilde – Penguin Group

Danny the Champion of the World – What can I say? I own an autographed copy. When I first read this book I wished I lived like Danny in a caravan with my dad. A Message to Children Who Have Read This Book – When you grow up and have children of your own, do please remember something important: a stodgy parent is no fun at all. What a child wants and deserves is a parent who is SPARKY. Roald Dahl. Roald Dahl– Random House UK

Midnite Midnite – (with illustration by Ralph Steadman). My Mum gave me this book. I read it when I was eight, nine or ten. Can’t remember exactly when! It was a joy to dust off the old copy and read it again. Over forty years after it was written, father and son had a rollicking good time! Randolph Stow – Penguin Books

Nicabobinus – I read this in a dusty corner when I worked in a children’s library and had to contain my laughter. Both my children read this book on their own steam. I heard waves of freeform laughter coming from their rooms. Terry Jones– Penguin Books

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – I first read this because I admired the old ink illustration. I then chose to read it to my daughter because it has a great girl character and wolves. Joan Aiken – Vintage Children’s Classics

Thanks to SMK for this beautiful list, and Roald Dahl for his sage advice as always.

In future Classic Reads with your Kids posts, we’ll try to feature even more ‘classic Aussie reads’ too! Keep on reading.

 

Scarecrow and the book trailer

The new Matthew Reilly novel Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves gets released today! Have you seen the book trailer, yet? It’s a pulse-pounding, exciting little vid, created by Paul Murphy from BookTease. Paul has created lots of book trailers, including one for Five Greatest Warriors (watch the trailer), also by Matthew Reilly, and the rather chilling and intense trailer for Mo Hayder’s Gone (watch the trailer).

Today, Paul is paying a visit to Literary Clutter to tell us a little about the new trailer and how he went about creating it. But first, let’s watch the trailer…

And now, take it away Paul…

Finding the hook
By Paul Murphy

With every book trailer I make, the first thing I try to figure out is the hook. What is it about this novel that will grab people? It could be a plot point, a character, an image on the cover – anything. In my experience, the best hooks always come from a gut reaction. It’s the one thing about a book that makes me think, “I want to know more about that…”

With Scarecrow And The Army of Thieves, it was the title that grabbed me. The idea of an army of thieves really captured my imagination. This is the fifth Scarecrow novel, so everyone already knows who the hero is. What I wanted to do with the trailer was set up this new threat – show them growing in numbers and becoming more powerful, while also dropping a few subtle clues about the actual plot. What better way to hail the return of a hero than by introducing his next enemy?

Once I had my hook, I knew that the music needed to be the battle theme of the Army of Thieves. I’m really particular when it comes to selecting music for a project – I think it’s one of the most important decisions because it can communicate story and genre on a level that words and pictures can’t. I chose a military march that was dark and relentless, but also anarchic and off-kilter.

For the visual style, I wanted something that almost had the look and feel of a computer game. I’m not much of a gamer myself, but my brother is, and he helped me research the visual style of a lot of games in the thriller/action genre to find the style I was after. I was blown away by some of the game trailers out there – some of them are works of art on their own, and became a real source of inspiration for this trailer.

I’m really proud of how the Army of Thieves trailer turned out, but I also think it’s a good example of the unique role book trailers can play in book marketing. Matt’s books are aimed at an audience who are traditionally reluctant readers, so it doesn’t make sense to market to them in the usual places, e.g. bookstores. And with the closing of some major bookstores in Australia, it’s no surprise that more and more publishers are looking to the web and social media as a new way to communicate with readers.

George’s bit at the end

To find out more about Paul and the other trailers he’s made, check out the BookTease website.

And if you’d like to know a little more about Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves here’s a vid of Matthew Reilly talking about it.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.

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Value Added: Is Traditional Publishing Obsolete?

A staggering 764,448 titles were produced in 2009 by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers, according to statistics released this morning by R.R. Bowker. The number of “nontraditional” titles dwarfed that of traditional books whose output slipped to 288,355 last year from 289,729 in 2008. Taken together, total book output rose 87% last year, to over 1 million books.

– Publishers Weekly

The internet and print-on-demand technology has made possible a gigantic leap forward in self-publishing in the last couple of years. Services like Lulu.com produce thousands of books per year by budding authors. In this environment, where anybody with the patience to sit down and write 70,000 words can get ‘published’, it begs the question – what value does the traditional publishing industry add to books?

This is especially pertinent with the rise in ebooks, as publishers defend the value of their intellectual property over their access to print and distribution services. If the author writes the material, and the publisher is no longer printing or distributing it – then what is it they actually do?

Matthew Reilly’s Contest was self-published before being picked up by a major publishing house. Last Christmas he was the biggest selling Australian author. Original copies of the self-published edition sell for over a thousand dollars.

Quite a lot, actually. The road to publication, from acquisition, through editorial, marketing, publicity and ultimately sales and distribution is one that traditional publishers have been perfecting for decades. I have witnessed books being torn apart and put back together by committed editors. Publicists, sales people and marketers work tirelessly to promote an author in whom they passionately believe, but who may have sold hardly any copies. Publishers develop their authors, book by book, over a number of years before seeing any kind of success. In other words: authors are not born – they are made.

The proof of this is in the pudding. Although the internet is full of people complaining that publishers don’t actually do anything, this doesn’t translate to the books people buy. There are very few self-publishing success stories – the fact remains that in order for a writer to be read, their book needs to get picked up by a traditional publishing house.

What do you think? Have you ever bought a self-published book? Do you regularly read self-published books? Do you think traditional publishers are obsolete? In what ways have traditional publishers failed their readership? If you are a budding writer – is self-publishing a viable option for you?

Interview with GREIG BECK

Beneath the Dark Ice – pitch it in one sentence.

Taught adventure thriller with scares a plenty!

The best action/thrillers are those with more than just explosions, those that have depth, an engagement with mythology. In Beneath the Dark Ice, you play with legends like the Kraken and Atlantis, and draw on elements of Mayan and Olmec archaeology. Were these things you were interested in prior to writing the novel, or did you simply discover them during the writing process?

That’s easy – both! I was brought up on a diet of horror-thrillers and science fiction and was happiest reading or watching shows about (all cultures’) myths and legends. Even today small facts that add colour to our history jump out at me. Did you know they recently found evidence of a 16th century vampire in Venice? Buried with a paving stone jammed in her jaws to stop her coming back from the grave? Or in New Mexico, there is evidence that dinosaurs survived for nearly a million years after they became extinct everywhere else – our real Lost Valley. These little things are still ‘wow’ moments for me and add to a collection of myths and mysteries I keep with me in an ideas book.

But discovery is important as well. The (novel) writing process directs you to creating or obtaining believable details. Your readers wouldn’t let you get away with being lazy in the descriptive or exposition process… and you don’t need to be.  Research has been made easier for today’s author via the internet. It brings so much detail to you from enthusiasts, experts, and other authors, keeping your mind working the possibilities and expanding on your own knowledge.

Bottom line is, I started with a basic knowledge skeleton and once I started digging, I kept uncovering more and more flesh for the bones.

I read somewhere that your writing impulse developed out of your habit of storytelling to your son, Alex – would you say your book’s target audience is restricted to young males?

You could say the creative process started with storytelling to Alex. I’d either make up a story or read him a book, and then halfway through I’d stop and say, “What do you think happens then?” We’d have fun describing all sorts of different endings. Even though Alex is now 11, I wouldn’t let him read Beneath the Dark Ice – way too many scary scenes. I wrote the book for an audience of people who enjoyed adventure thrillers, but also like some terror included. There was no real target demographic in mind.

Who would you say were your biggest influences?

Without doubt Graham Masterton, Stephen King and Dean Koontz. And the classic sci-fi writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jules Verne and Pierre Boulle.

What can you tell us about your next release, Return of the Prophet?

You actually caught me in the middle of its final editing. The 2nd book also contains Captain Alex Hunter, and this time he is sent on a mission to the Middle East. A significant radiation spike leads the US government to believe the Iranians are performing subsurface nuclear test detonations. What they find is that they have inadvertently created a miniature black hole. While they try and perfect the technology to continue to create these Dark Events they accidently open a doorway – a portal through which ‘something’ slips through. Alex has to stop the creation of the black holes before they devour the Earth and also confront the thing out in the desert. Just as much fun as the first book, and just as thrilling and frightening!

There have been comparisons made between you and other Pan Macmillan blockbuster action authors, most notably, Matthew Reilly. How do you feel you differentiate yourself from what Matthew, and others, offer in the genre?

I like to think my books are more than just thrillers. Like the other thriller writers, my books are well researched with a high degree of technological realism, but there is also a terror element that I believe gives my readers some good heart stopping scares. The best description I have heard of my style was, Matthew Reilly, with teeth!

If you could rid the world of ONE book, which would it be?

Just one?! It’s a tough question because every book has merit – even if it’s only to serve as an example of how not to do some particular thing. But… if you asked me what book made my brain hurt, well, that would be during my study days. Try reading Valuing the Firm and Strategic Acquisitions without suffering a migraine and wishing for an immediate induced coma!

Last Australian book you read?

Hey, this is no kiss-up, but it was Loathing Lola. It was a lot of fun and I’ve managed to pinch heaps of ideas. Thanks William!

If you could claim any other authors work as your own, whose would it be?

Early Stephen King. What a spread of great ideas that guy had. Whatever he was drinking at the time, i wish i could buy some.

The token filler question: What is the most valuable piece of advice you were never told?

As a writer it would be to read across genres. Though, they tell you to write what you like to read, you should also read beyond just what you’re comfortable reading. You need to experience many different forms of style and type. Some guys just do humour, pathos, fear, anger and rage, etc much better than others.

Last thing – keep a look out for lucky breaks – they do happen!