The world feels very uncertain: It is, unfortunately, not hard to believe that some people will cheerfully line their pockets at the expense of others or that members of the government might be eager to bend to a giant corporation’s will. We hear manipulative stories every day that insidiously chip away at our sense of well-being, of whom to trust. This is where Matthew Reilly restores my faith in humanity. His dynamic series of books featuring the exploits of Captain Shane Schofield, USMC, call sign “Scarecrow,” is a balm—a roaring, weapon-laden, blood-soaked, metal-screeching, honor-bound antidote to what seems a pervasive atmosphere of greed and academic ignorance that currently has us in a chokehold.
In Scarecrow Returns, Schofield leads a small group of soldiers (including one of my favorite characters, Gena “Mother” Newman), civilians, and one feisty robot on an impossible mission to an isolated Russian weapons base in the Arctic, taken over by the enigmatic and vicious Army of Thieves, to prevent their plan to literally scorch the earth with an atmospheric weapon. To complicate matters, Schofield also has a bounty on his head, courtesy of the French government, as a result of a previous mission. As usual in a Reilly novel, the available weaponry, complete with diagrams and descriptions of their use, is practically a character in its own right. Everyone fairly bristles with armaments, ensuring that firefights become creative demonstrations of their use as fallbacks are employed in quick succession. No one is more imaginative in combat than Schofield, who often leaves even seasoned soldiers open-mouthed with admiration. To heighten the intensity of those moments, Reilly often makes use of both italics and exclamation points. It almost feels like cheating but there is no denying their rousing effect on the narrative.
I was delighted to discover Schofield’s therapeutic use of the “memory palace,” a meditative technique used to fantastic effect by Agent Pendergast in Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Book of the Dead and Two Graves and in Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher. On a less savory note, there are descriptive scenes of horrifying torture I could have done without (the author does not recommend his books to young teens and neither do I). Schofield’s nemesis describes himself as “a necessary evil…the dark side of the American psyche”—but fear not. This is a Reilly novel: honor is upheld, no one is left behind, and the good guys prevail.
Get ‘em, Scarecrow.
Get caught up with Matthew Reilly on his website.