Anatomy of a Book: Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves, by Matthew Reilly

The Russian President watched in horror as the blip oScarecrow-and-the-army-of-thieves-cover-3n the screen sped back toward its original launch location. (p33)

The takeover of a secret Russian base, the escape and crash landing of a Russian scientist, panic in a subterranean crisis room, the Russian President ordering the launch of a nuclear missile, the missile returning to destroy its own launch site, and all this before the major events begin.

‘It’s not exactly an assault unit but it’s somebody and they’re up there.’ (p.36)

The events begin with Marine Captain Shane “Scarecrow” Schofield, with a four other Marines and four civilians testing weapons in Artic conditions a few kilometers from the hidden base. This is a classic Scarecrow novel from Reilly. Quick paced and nearly implausible, but a lot of fun.

A five-foot-high horizontal finger of yellow-red fire whooshed past Schofield, completely filling the walkway as it rushed by him: a blasting, rushing, rampaging stream of liquid fire. (p. 165)

In includes fire, emitted from a grenade, that follows a direct line.

But then they heard frantic voices and saw Army men frantically running… (p.320)

And it doubles words, like frantic and rushed, in close proximity. This kind of impossibly and low vocabulary would turn off some readers, but for others it is all part of the pace and the world it is written in. Reilly can write, and writes in this style (vocabulary included) on purpose. It is all for enjoyment, the good v evil kind, and part of all reading enjoyment is the inclusion of so many important writing elements.

Changing Status:

Scarecrow was a physiological wreck after his last outing. At the start of the book he’s just returned to active service, and had been posted out of the way as an easy entry to work and for his own safety (he still has a large bounty on his head). He does not feel up to the task, but knows he must rise, ultimately to battle the odds, and his tormented past, in order to complete this sudden mission.

Also, he takes civilians into battle: …four Marines will not do this. We need as many bodies as we can get… (p.69) And this is another higher demand than those involved believe themselves capable of.

High Stakes:

The fate of the northern hemisphere is at risk. While this would have global consequences, it is the northern hemisphere that is focused on. I feel this misses making the stakes the worst possible, but it is in keeping with the perpetrators involved.

Believable Characters:

It is fair to say that by writing for enjoyment, Reilly does not write characters with depth. What is great is if you suspend your disbelief the moments of character depth that do occur (like Scarecrow’s fears) make the characters endearing. Therefore the reader has motivation to stay with the book, and read intently how these people will overcome adversities.

Time Pressure:

‘We still have an hour and twenty-five minutes.’ (p.121)

That is near the start of the action. The majority of this book takes place in about five hours of day time. It is a rip-roaring, white knuckles, action packed, ripper of a yarn. (Oh dear, I wrote “rip” twice in close proximity. I’m sure it doesn’t matter.)


While much of this book seems beyond reality, there is enough truth and detail in the science and the devices to make occasional suspension of belief possible. The book does educate on all types of things, economical and geo-political relations, advanced weaponry, etc, etc, so even if you will never need to know how to detonate a guard tower there is stuff to learn.


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