Saturday, March 15, 2008

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

Action. Suspense. An evil villain. Narrow escapes. Explosions. A high-security compound. Disguises. An assumed identity. Clever gadgets. An accident? A murder! A plot for revenge that involves killing hundreds of thousands. And a kid who saves an entire country.

Yes! On to chapter 2!

Okay, okay, the pace of Stormbreaker isn't that frenetic. Not quite, anyway. But close.

Alex Rider has been raised by Uncle Ian. After Uncle Ian dies in a car accident, Alex goes to investigate. He discovers Uncle Ian's car in a salvage yard with bullet holes in its side. As Alex looks for further evidence inside, the car is moved to the compactor, with our 14-year-old protagonist inside. What follows is narrow escape #1.

If you look close at this point you will see the hook using the book as bait. Rarely - very rarely - do the first chapters fail to hook 10, 11, and 12-year-old boys. Watch these boys. They'll sniff it. Look at it hesitantly. Glance around to see if others are reading it. Then suddenly, after about two chapters, it's GULP! They're hooked and well on their way to books 2-7, breaking only to eat, sleep, and race to the teacher's desk to say, "Listen to this! Alex had to scuba dive, and then this shark..."

In Stormbreaker Alex is recruited by MI6, sort of the British CIA, to continue his uncle's work. (Turns out Uncle Ian was a spy and yes, he was murdered.) He is sent to the compound of the perfectly named Herod Sayle to investigate a deal too good to be true. Mr. Sayle has invented a new computer, the Stormbreaker, and intends to donate them to all the schools in England. But this ain't your granddaddy's Microsoft. Alex witnesses a submarine deliver a secret shipment in the middle of the night, and when a worker carelessly drops a container, Alex witnesses his ruthless murder. Already having seen workers in contamination suits (in a computer factory?), Alex knows something is amiss.

Of course, his communications have been cut to MI6, so he must escape on his own. Unable to contact Mr. Blunt or Mrs. Jones who in turn would send in reinforcements - like adults with weapons and training - Alex must then save the Prime Minister and the lives of countless others throughout England.

High action. High suspense. And a hero not much older than the reader. What's not to love?

Other books in the Stormbreaker series: Point Blank, Skeleton Key, Eagle Strike, Scorpia, Ark Angel, and Snakehead.

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