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The premise is fun. The pace is relentless.
The action is brutal. The scale is heroic.
The fate of the world rests on the shoulders of the few.
I could be describing any Matthew Reilly novel – after all, this is the winning formula that has been keeping fans of Reilly’s stories furiously turning pages for more than two decades!
At just 200 pages, Matthew Reilly’s newest release Cobalt Blue is a quick and enjoyable read. I finished this in a single session, and I’m a slow reader by anyone’s standards! Short chapters, brief paragraphs, and punchy, concise prose make it impossible to put down until you know how it ends.
The story is set against the backdrop of a renewed Cold-War style throwdown of epic proportions, as we see traditional foes America and Russia squaring off against each other again. However, instead of the threat of mutually assured destruction through ever-expanding nuclear arsenals of the two superpowers, this game of brinksmanship is being played by two literal superheroes – Cobalt of America and Fury of Russia. Things look grim from the outset with America’s superhero recently passed away. After 35 years of deterrence, the Russian superhero can now take advantage of an undefended homeland.
There are no wasted words here – the action begins on page one and accelerates at a terrifying pace as the sons of Fury target the children of Cobalt. These stereotypical Russian supervillains are the personification of hate, and they take great delight in the devastation and death that they leave in their wake. The carnage spreads across continental America, from New York City to Washington D.C., Chicago, Salt Lake City, Nevada and Los Angeles. The downfall of the righteous USA at the hands of its old nemesis seems all but certain, but for the resilience and determination of Cobalt Blue and her siblings.
Fans of the Scarecrow series that began with Scarecrow and the Jack West Jr. series that began with Seven Ancient Wonders will recognise the escalation of danger, absurdly heroic antics and millimetres-from-death escapes that are well-trodden ground for Matthew Reilly’s heroes. Much like in standalone novels Contest, Temple and The Great Zoo of China, the young American hero of Cobalt Blue is faced with an impossibly perilous situation and somehow escapes, only to have leapt out of one frying pan into a larger, hotter frying pan.
These previous works are firmly rooted in the action/adventure genre with a generous helping of military accuracy, a dollop of ancient mysticism and a sprinkling of global conspiracy theory. However, Cobalt Blue positions itself squarely in the superhero genre. Cassie from Cobalt Blue stands alongside Bess from The Tournament, CJ from The Great Zoo of China and Skye from The Secret Runners of New York as a brave, confident and intelligent female protagonist. But additionally, as the biological child of America’s original superhero, she could certainly beat them all in a cage match, arguably at the same time.
This is the perfect example Matthew Reilly’s intense writing style – the threat of violence is immediately backed up by frequent, often graphic clashes. The story gets quite dark at times, highlighting the stark difference between the young adult themes of The Secret Runners of New York and the grittier concepts being unveiled in Cobalt Blue.
The present-day story is interspersed with flashbacks that add depth and characterisation to each of the Cobalt children, also allowing you to take a short breath while the story shifts away from thrill-a-minute action to present the origin stories of this extraordinary family. These scenes are presented in coloured text that align to the superhero aliases of Cobalt Blue, Gold, Red, Green, Silver, Purple, White and Black, which is a delightful addition to a novella that already exudes high quality production value. The first edition of the novel is a beautifully presented hardcover volume with an embossed dust jacket and colour illustrations throughout.
As has become traditional for Matthew Reilly’s published works, Cobalt Blue includes an insightful interview with the author at the back of the book. He reveals that the story began life as a screenplay, but the novella format allowed for greater character development. However, given the breakneck speed at which the plot progresses – not to mention the speed at which main characters get their necks broken – the real strength of this story lies in Reilly’s ability to continually raise the stakes and heighten the tension. It’s an essential part of the Matthew Reilly literary canon. It’s loud, violent and shocking. Often predictable. Sometimes simplistic, bordering on the ridiculous.
But boy oh boy, is it fun.
In between a bestselling author, Matthew Reilly wrote and directed the Netflix film Interceptor starring Elsa Pataky and recent Supa-Star Aaron Glenane. In the past, Reilly himself has admitted that a lot of the action scenes in his books are essentially unfilmable due to the expense for all the over-the-top action sequences. However, with the developments in technology, that may no longer necessarily be the case, and maybe we will one day see Cassie suit up as Cobalt Blue for the silver screen.
In the meantime, the epilogues (yes, plural) hint very strongly that a sequel is in the works!
‘Cobalt Blue’ is out now