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Temple    by Matt Reilly order for
by Matthew Reilly
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

As I discovered while absorbed in this author's debut novel Ice Station, you need to suspend every ounce of disbelief before turning a page written by Matt Reilly. Having done so, open the covers and join the book's protagonist in a wild race through a shooting range, with guns blasting and monsters looming in all directions. The hero of Ice Station was a Marine Lieutenant. Reilly has taken a different approach in Temple, picking a mild-mannered Professor of Ancient Languages for his lead role.

William Race is pressed into joining a team of DARPA scientists and Green Berets in an urgent mission to Cuzco. They need to locate an ancient Inca treasure before the bad guys do. It so happens that the Incas carved their singing idol from a meteorite which contained thyrium-261, a rare isotope from the Pleiades system. To make a long story short, if you combine it with a new military weapon called the Supernova (already stolen by a paramilitary group) you can blow up the world. To increase the challenge, the treasure is surrounded by giant crocodiles and monstrous jungle cats.

Temple, like Ice Station is a thriller with a strong element of farce. Take the climactic situation in which Race is surrounded by bad guys and the Supernova device countdown has started. He's talking to an FBI agent by cell-phone, and gets this rather silly advice 'Wherever you are, you have to get out of there. The people with you are very dangerous individuals.' With the world about to end, does it really matter who you're associating with at the time?

Anyway, Race translates an ancient manuscript from the time of the Spanish conquest of the Incan Empire. It tells a mythic tale of an Inca prince, aided by a Spanish monk, rescuing the idol, the spirit of the Inca people from the gold-eating invaders. Renco, the prince, has acrobatic skills and fighting abilities reminiscent of Zorro, and they succeed in hiding the treasure, despite great peril and constant pursuit by Pizarro and his men.

I'm not quite sure how Race finds time to read the manuscript, given the unrelenting action and regular cliffhangers that beset him in this tale. Like Clark Kent, William Race morphs through the length of the story, into a blend of Superman, James Bond and the Energizer Bunny, able to perform the most amazing stunts, keep on going, and (repeatedly) save the world from imminent destruction at the last second. It's wonderful entertainment.

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