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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Book review: Cobalt Blue by Matthew Reilly

 


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Matthew Reilly is the internationally bestselling author of the scarecrow series, the jack west series, and numerous standalone novels. his books are published in over 20 languages with worldwide sales of over 8 million copies. he directed the Netflix film interceptor, which he co-wrote with Stuart Beattie.

Publisher: Macmillan Australia (August 2, 2022) Pages:216 Formats: paperback, ebook, hardback, audiobook

As a lifelong fan of superheroes and pulp fiction, I had to check out Reilly’s latest novella, Cobalt Blue. I devoured it in one sitting. It’s simplistic, maybe even ridiculous, but also entertaining. It reads almost as a screenplay expanded into a fast-paced novella about superheroes. The action gets going from the first page and never slows. 

America and Russia both have superheroes - the Fury of Russia (all strength, rage, and hate) and Cobalt Blue (full of compassion and intellectual curiosity). They both got the same powers (think Superman, only better) during the same event. With each country having a superhero, we get a truce of sorts similar to the nuclear standoff during the Cold War. 

The problem with this? Cobalt Blue was much older than Fury when she got superpowers, which unfortunately don’t stop aging and heart failure. So one day after Cobalt’s death, the Fury of Russia comes to America to kill her offspring and wipe out the country. 

Fury of Russia is a ridiculous villain - a resentful psychopath with no boundaries and a lifetime of anti-American indoctrination. Being insane is his job and hobby. He wants to storm America, crush its monuments, and murder its people, starting with Cobalt Blue’s super-offspring. 

Cobalt Blue had eight children, but only one, Cassie, was born naturally. That makes her most desirable for the Fury of Russia. For most of the story, we follow Cassie’s horror as she observes (through media) the Fury of Russia working his way across America toward her while graphically eviscerating her super-siblings and cities. Before each death, we get flashbacks conveying Cassie’s relationship with her parents and siblings. 

Structurally, Cobalt Blue is simple. We follow a grim countdown to the showdown, wondering if and how Cassie will make it. The characters offer enough flesh and blood to be convincing but not nuanced or authentic. Reilly is more interested in increasing stakes, fun, the high-speed action with brutal fight sequences. As a result, it’s not elegant or subtle. It’s pure quick-cut and loud entertainment with short paragraphs and short chapters. Russia doesn’t score much love these days in the West, and making the Russian superhero purely evil adds to the book's populist appeal. 

The prose here is effective and punchy but rather basic, even crude. But it does its job - it tells the story.

If you love superheroes and action pulp, you simply can’t go wrong with it. Don’t expect deep thoughts, it’s all about excitement and pedal-to-the-metal action. 

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