It’s been around five years since I read Temple by Matthew Reilly, and it still has a life-changing effect on me. This outrageously awesome book opened my eyes to the type of entertainment that’s possible through the written medium of storytelling. Though it’s a standalone book, Temple has 700+ pages to throw the readers into an epic that’s bigger than anything that can ever be done in movies. All the MCU action flicks would appear boring and small scale to anyone who’s read this mind-expanding book that has more action than any studio can afford, and more epic set pieces than what can be found in video games. It’s truly an inspiring read for any creative person, storyteller, and entertainer to understand the awesomeness they can orchestrate through words.
The protagonist, William Race, is a linguist aka a language professor at a university, living a harmless life into his thirties when a US Army Colonel takes him away for a top-secret mission. Race is given a job to translate some pages of Latin written by a monk who died a few centuries ago. The unsuspecting professor is taken to the Peruvian jungles with a group of Green Berets, led by the colonel, as he keeps translating the monk’s tale of helping an Incan prince escape the Conquistadors to track down a mythical object with supernatural powers. The monk’s adventures with Renco Cuzco(the Inca Prince) is a parallel story within this book which is written like a historical fiction adventure, featuring a few real-world figures in the background while still staying action-packed with dangerously unrealistic creatures and gritty action.
When Race arrives in the jungle, his translation is used for a treasure hunt for a dangerous object. All goes well till their team of researchers and commandos are attacked by German BKA agents in a misunderstanding, then by a heavily armed force of Nazis with a plan to get back at the world, and finally by a Japanese suicide cult who try to end the world. Yep, it sounds pulpy and bat-shit crazy as it’s definitely not realism, but the fun never stops. Add ancient tribes, Will Race fighting gigantic crocodiles in a ritual, the figure of an idol which is a meteorite that’s more radioactive than anything in the known world, a device stolen from DARPA which can use the meteorite’s substance as a bomb that can destroy the planet by blasting away one-third of Earth, large numbers of an Incan mythical giant cat who are too dangerous until the characters cover themselves with monkey piss. So it’s a wild ride from the beginning to the end, and each action sequence keeps escalating as if it’s competing and winning against the previous action sequence in the book.
The techno detail is vivid for fans of weapons and vehicles, and some weapons are even beautified memorably. What stands out is the sheer lunacy of some of the action sequences which would send any Hollywood producer into a lifelong coma by just thinking about its estimated budget and earn the respect and admiration of creative minds all around the world. Many of the action set pieces are so intensely over-the-top, it’s the best form of creative inspiration any human could ask for. With scenes like riding a jet-ski over the bent wing of a sea-plane to crash it into a helicopter, and jumping from the nose of one plane into the rear ramp of another plane while both are in the air to take out a few hostels and diffuse a bomb within a tank while the tank is then being thrown out of the plane into the ground with the protagonist still in it, Matthew Reilly’s Temple is an epic spectacle on unbeatable proportions.
The narrative moves back and forth between Will Race’s tale and the monk’s adventures, while sometimes being manipulative with unreliable narrators. The suspense, twists, and shocks never cease as the story’s layered on many levels. Race’s superiors aren’t what they seem, and at one point, he’s dragged into a brutal conflict between rogue factions within the US Army, Navy, and the Air Force, with Green Berets and SEALs facing off against each other. Reilly’s narrative prowess hits another level when both the timelines within this story connects, hinting at Race being the reincarnated version of Renco Cuzco. Though this book is not for those who a piece of realism and slow seriousness, there are many emotional moments within Temple, and the narrative is an epic on mythologically classical levels. Race, a wild-mannered linguist at the beginning, becomes a superhumanly larger-than-life hero by the end after all his struggles and feats of lunacy in doing what’s right. Don’t expect all the characters to survive, as the scale of action in this book requires the deaths of many of them. Like a video game narrative, Race and his allies are thrown into a gauntlet of action against multiple opponents, one after the other, with each sequence upping the ante till the climax would ruin your ability to enjoy any normal book.
Though Temple was written over 20 years ago, it still holds up as a masterpiece of outrageously fun action-adventure and will always be respected within this genre as a classic. In a genre filled with many long-running series, Temple is a standalone book that tells a complete story in a highly satisfactory way. The one sad point about Temple is that reading this book can damage your focus while reading any slow and wordy book. The amount of explosive, bullet-ridden, blood-pumping, adrenaline-flowing, destructive, and epic action in this book might be the pinnacle of the action-adventure genre.