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I’ll be honest: I picked this one up because I was looking for some light reading and I had a coupon and enough money from a Borders promotion that meant I got this book for free. This is a short (110 pages or so) novella in large font with an additional ten pages or so of black and white line drawings. The author’s note mentions that the story was originally contracted by the Australian government as part of an initiative to promote reading, particularly among adolescent boys, and I can see that this is certainly a quick, exciting read that teenagers who think they don’t like to read might enjoy.

I should also note that this is actually the fourth work in Matthew Reilly’s Shane Schofield series (which I didn’t realize until after I read the book). That wasn’t a problem, as the protagonist and his comrades are only hastily sketched out and continuity/backstory for the characters is only briefly hinted at.

Plot spoilers follow.

A small team of Marines is sent, along with several other ill-fated special operations forces teams, to investigate a seemingly abandoned U.S. aircraft carrier that is docked at a secret island in the Pacific that has been used as a site of military experiments. The Marines soon find themselves the only survivors fighting against a horde of genetically-modified and cyborged gorillas who are armed and extremely dangerous. There are, inevitably, a couple final twists and turns, as things aren’t quite what they appear to be. The book is full of fun imagery and it’s a pure action movie kind of book. It’s an extremely quick read and essentially no thought is required. In fact, I could easily see this plot being the subject of one of those action movies that doesn’t do terribly well in theaters but is shown on cable for years.

I give this one 3 stars out of 5, because it does exactly what it sets out to do. It’s light reading, and pure, non-stop action, in some ways a video game described in prose form. If that’s the kind of book you’re looking for, this might be a good choice, but just be warned: you’re going to need to take along a second book with you on the plane or to the beach because you can finish this one in an hour. But the book isn’t worth $6.99. As I mentioned at the start of this review, I ended up receiving this book for free. It’s worth a couple bucks, maybe $2-3 because the illustrations are pretty good and add to the story, but a single hour’s worth of light reading material isn’t worth more than that.

Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers