The Secret Runners of New York by Matthew Reilly

Posted on February 10, 2019


secret runners of new yorkThe Secret Runners of New York

Matthew Reilly

March 2019





Generally despicable teenagers of the super-rich having access to a curious, secret and ancient technology. Nothing could go wrong there, right?

One of the hallmarks of a Matthew Reilly story is how he researches things, to give it an overall appearance of believability or realism. And combining action with information is a well-accepted means of gaining and keeping the attention of a predominantly male readership. Reilly knows his demographic, writes for it well and has done so once again.

The Secret Runners of New York is considered a Young Adult novel by the publisher, but it would also sit equally well with the rest of Reilly’s novels on the ‘adult’ bookshelves. I certainly enjoyed reading it and I am well beyond being in the YA demographic.

This novel uses an interesting ‘what if’ scenario. What if one of the ancient civilisations from further south in the Americas had made it all the way north to Manhattan Island and surrounds. And left behind a hidden, secret technology only known to select descendants of those who ‘bought’ the island. And something keeps adults from participating in it?

To make the story work, Reilly has had to ensure he had his geography and history right or at least plausibly so. And that seems to have worked. By coming up with a reason why adults cannot access to that technology was a clever way of ensuring protagonists are in the age range suited to a YA offering. But be assured, in writing a YA piece, he has avoided anything childish in style.

This story blends several things. There are the silly, petty and sometimes cruel concerns of these young super-rich and their relationships with the protagonists. It is an action-adventure piece. And, curiously, it is also a post-apocalyptic piece but with most of the story happening before the apocalyptic event which only occurs at the novel’s end. That probably is a big hint that a limited degree of time travel slips into things.

The development of the character pool has been well done. Largely the progeny of the super-rich, they have little to do other than their own frequently petty and silly concerns, while accepting their access to ridiculous wealth as the norm. And they can be a bloody cruel mob, but you aren’t meant to like most of them. The protagonists are on the cusp of those circles, not quite part of them but not entirely divorced from them either. That creates some quite interesting relationships which then help drive the story forward.

A particularly striking thing about this novel is how the apocalyptic event has been managed. It is essential to the story. Crucial action occurs within the post-apocalyptic period. The question of whether or not an apocalyptic event is coming has driven people’s actions and reactions within the broader narrative arc. Yet the novel only comes to an end with that apocalyptic event occurring. It really has all been very well managed within creation of this novel.

Something about the scenario, the characters and their underlying stories suggest to me this could easily become a big thing in YA circles. I am sure the film and television rights will not be available for long as I think this could adapt well to the big or small screens.

If this were an adult novel, it would be getting three stars at the most. But as a YA piece, a gateway to the rest of the Matthew Reilly catalogue, it deserves four stars.


Posted in: Review