November 2009, Walker
416 pages, Hardback
Children's, 9+, action
Yunaleska's recommended rating: ♥♥♥♥
Summary provided by Walker
Alex Rider's eighth adventure and the most action-packed yet...
Targeted by a hitman and under threat of his past being exposed by the media, Alex reluctantly turns to MI6. But their help doesn't come cheap: they need Alex to spy on the activities at a GM crop plant. There he spots Desmond McCain, a high profile charity organiser, who realises that Alex is on to him and the real plans for the money he's raising. Kidnapped and whisked off to Africa, Alex learns the full horror of McCain's plot: to create an epic disaster that will kill millions. Forced to ask MI6 for protection, Alex finds himself being manipulated in a deadly game that could lead to the destruction of an entire East African country.
I haven't read any of the Alex Rider books before this one. I was intrigued, particularly because on the press release it said there was an embargo until the publication date (I got it a few days after).
Initially, I didn't understand the hype, or the reason for the embargo. The first three chapters were well written, with lots of background laying information. However, there wasn't much action, at least not in the way I expected. I was close to putting the book down, but kept on because this book has been long awaited. It seemed slow. I understand the need for the build of anticipation. But three slow chapters are not always the way to do it, especially with the number of books on the market.
It hit the 'brilliant!' stage around chapter 4 and onwards. The action was almost non stop. The twists had me gasping and going 'cool' as poor Alex got deeper into trouble. In this latest installment, Alex doesn't want to work for MI6 any more. I can't blame him. Yes, being a spy must be cool, but all he wants to do is fit in. In some ways I'm sorry that he won't ever fit in. In others I'm not because hopefully his adventures will continue for a few more books.
I sympathised with Alex - he tries hard to be normal but the criminal world know all about him and I believe they won't ever leave him alone. His guardian housekeeper (and friend) has a lot to worry about too. I like how the relationship between them was played - Alex was still a typical teenager in keeping things from her, but does use her help when he has to face MI6 personally.
I love anything to do with spies: I like non-stop action, I like the characters regularly getting into peril and I adore all the cool gadgets. Alex has a small number about him on his adventure in Africa. I think Anthony Horowitz must enjoy creating gadgets for a teen spy - there's a lot of scope for the imagination in this area. Near the end, I guessed correctly before an event happened how he could escape. This didn't spoil anything because I kept anticipating what Alex would do with the object.
There are parts of the novel which are graphic - scenes of slaughter, which would have me putting this more towards YA than children's, but otherwise the content is pretty clean.
Aside from the slow beginning (which was slow compared to what I had expected and what hit the reader later in the book), I loved this book. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for future installments, and eventually reading previous ones.
Make sure you check out all the action on Anthony Horowitz's website.
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