Tagged: alex rider

Snakehead by Anthony Horowitz

(Cover picture courtesy of Harford County Public Library.)

They murdered his parents.  They shot him and left him for dead.  And yet Alex Rider thought he was finished with the terrorist organization known as Scorpia.  He was wrong.  Back, and more dangerous than ever, Scorpia is working with ruthless gangs operating across Southeast Asia.  Known as snakeheads, the gangs smuggle drugs, weapons, and, worst of all, people.  When the Australian Secret Service asks Alex to infiltrate one of the gangs, Alex accepts for one reason only: to work with the godfather he never knew existed in hopes of learning more about his parents.  What he uncovers, though, is a secret that will make this his darkest and most dangerous mission to date.

What is the saddest thing of all?

Wasted talent, of course.

Perhaps I’m getting emotional because I’m watching the last act of Aida as I write this, but the Alex Rider series makes me kind of sad.  Anthony Horowitz is an absolutely amazing writer—he can create breath-stopping suspense and throw in some truly unexpected plot twists, but he is wasting this talent on a cliché series.  Sure, Alex has a bit more depth by now, but he is still a cardboard cutout.  And yes, the plot of Snakehead is exciting, but the ending is predictable: Alex saves the world yet again.  The only thing I truly love about this series is the fact that kids who have never read before are discovering the joy of reading, which is something that lasts a lifetime.

The plot of Snakehead is fairly predictable, but there are occasional plot twists, especially at the end.  You know that Alex saves the world, but this is another case where the journey is more interesting than the destination.  Of course Anthony Horowitz keeps things moving along with his perfect way of balancing dialogue and description.  He also informs readers about how horrible smuggled refugees have it, especially when they travel by ship.

Alex isn’t a complete cardboard cutout by Snakehead, but neither is he an exemplary character.  He is still far too perfect for a fourteen year old boy, even if his uncle did train him all his life to be a spy.  Meeting Ash, his godfather, gives him a lot more depth, but he’s pretty much back to the same old Alex by the end of the novel.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble

Ark Angel by Anthony Horowitz

(Cover picture courtesy of BRHS Book Reviews.)

The sniper’s bullet nearly killed him.  But Alex Rider, teen superspy, survived—just in time to intercept a kidnapping of billionaire Nikolai Drevin’s son.  Drevin’s been targeted by a group of deadly eco-terrorists who think nothing of killing millions to achieve their goals.  Unless Alex can stop them in time…

This sixth volume in the Alex Rider series is pretty much the same as the previous five books: Alex goes out on a mission to save the world and succeeds.  Again.  And all at the tender age of fourteen.  Throw in some cliché characters, a few plot twists and a cliffhanger at the end to keep readers hooked and you’ve got the perfect James Bond knockoff series.

Anthony Horowitz really is a talented writer, especially when it comes to writing action novels, but he seriously needs to tone down the cliché.  I know that most of his audience, being tweens and young teens, does not care that the Alex Rider series is predictable, but Horowitz could at least make an effort to change things up once in a while.  True, I would rather that young adults be reading something rather than nothing at all, but that’s no excuse for lazy characterization.

As for the plot, it’s incredibly fast-paced with a couple of twists and a good cliffhanger at the end.  Anthony Horowitz balances description, interior monologue and dialogue perfectly for an action novel.  More experienced readers will be able to predict the ending, but then again I think everyone knows that Alex is going to save the world.  The main reason for reading this book is the heart pounding journey, rather than the predictable destination.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble

Scorpia by Anthony Horowitz

(Cover picture courtesy of English I Book Reviews.)

Teen superspy Alex Rider’s world shatter when he discovers that the father he never knew may have been an assassin for Scorpia, the deadliest terrorist organization in the world.  And now Scorpia wants Alex on their side, and will stop at nothing to get to him.

Alex Rider’s doubts about MI6 have resurfaced in this book, this time with extraordinary consequences.  Just like Yassen told him before he died in Eagle Strike, he seeks out Scorpia in Italy.  This leads to a whole series of dangerous adventures, interesting characters and incredibly tough decisions.  Will Alex choose between working for Scorpia like his father supposedly did or will he continue to work for MI6, an organization that has manipulated him again and again?

Scorpia is probably the best book in the whole Alex Rider series because Alex finally acquires some depth.  He’s still a bit too perfect for a fourteen year old boy, but he is more of a three dimensional character now than before.  The villain, Julia Rothman, is better than many of the villains in the previous novels, but she will still never make my list of good villains.

As for the plot, it’s very fast-paced and showcases Anthony Horowitz at his best.  He has achieved the perfect balance between description and dialogue for an action novel and there is never a dull moment in Scorpia because of this.  As usual, he has done his research well and transports readers to each exotic location in the novel very well.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble

Eagle Strike by Anthony Horowitz

(Cover picture courtesy of ESC-Reads.)

Sir Damian Cray: Millions adore him.  He is a philanthropist, peace activist, and the world’s most famous vintage pop star.  But still it’s not enough—not if he is to save the world.  Trouble is, only Alex Rider recognizes that it’s the world that needs saving from Sir Damian Cray.  Alex has seen his share of evil masterminds in the short time he’s been an agent at MI6.  But in the past, Alex has always had the backing of the government.  This time, he’s on his own.  Can one teenager convince the world that the most popular man on earth is a madman bent on destruction—before time runs out?

This is the fourth book in Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series, so I’m not even going to comment on the fact that it’s a rip-off of James Bond.  If you’re already this far in the series, you obviously don’t care about the predictable plot.  But if you’re new to the series, you should read Stormbreaker first, to get an idea of what you’re in store for.

By this book, Alex is a bit less of a cardboard cutout than he was in the first few books, but that isn’t saying much.  He gets a little bit of character development here in Eagle Strike, but he is still only a two dimensional character.  As for Damian Cray, the villain, well, let’s just say that he will never make my list of good villains.  He is about as three dimensional as the villains in the early Bond films.

If you can ignore the characters, you will enjoy Eagle Strike because despite all my criticism, Anthony Horowitz is a good writer.  His descriptions are just the right length to be informative and still maintain the fast pacing.  There is also no denying that he has done his research, particularly about Air Force One.  The confident way he writes makes it seem like he has been to all of the exotic places his books are set in, which is highly unlikely.  Yet, his imagination combined with a huge amount of research is what sets his books apart from most action books.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble

Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz

(Cover picture courtesy of Better World Books.)

Working as a secret agent for Britain’s most exclusive agency, Alex Rider thinks he’s seen it all.  He’s been shot at by international terrorists, stood face-to-face with pure evil, and saved the world—twice.  All before his fifteenth birthday.  But Alex is about to face something more dangerous than he can imagine: a man who’s lost everything he cared for—his country, his son—a man who has a nuclear weapon, and will stop at nothing to get his world back.  Unless Alex can stop him first…

I’ll just come out and admit right now that Skeleton Key is my favourite Alex Rider book.  It’s not that the plot was more exciting or anything like that—it was the villain.  I absolutely love my villains and when there is a good villain in a story, it just improves my overall enjoyment of the book.  General Alexei Sarov is one of the great villains that I didn’t have room to include in my list, despite the fact he comes in a very close 6th.

As usual, the plot of Anthony Horowitz’s book moves along at a fast pace that will keep readers turning pages at a furious speed.  I can also vouch for Horowitz’s accuracy in his research, particularly in Alex’s scuba diving scene.  As a scuba diver, I can say with confidence that this is one of the only completely accurate diving scenes in mainstream fiction.  Just like in all of his novels, the effort Horowitz puts into research really shines through in his writing.

Truly, the only place where his writing falls flat is his characterization.  It is by no means terrible, but it does not hold up to his fast pacing or his great research.  General Sarov is a great villain, however Alex falls flat for me.  He seems a little too perfect, especially since he’s saving the world at the age of only fourteen.  Despite this little flaw, Skeleton Key is an excellent book.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble

Point Blank by Anthony Horowitz

Point Blank by Anthony Horowitz

(Cover picture courtesy of Infinitas Bookshop.)

When an investigation into a series of mysterious deaths leads agents to an elite prep school for rebellious kids, MI6 assigns Alex Rider, fourteen-year-old reluctant spy, to the case.  Before he knows it, Alex is stuck in a remote boarding school high atop the Swiss Alps with the sons of the rich and powerful, and something feels wrong.  Very wrong.  These former juvenile delinquents have turned well-behaved, studious—and identical—overnight.  It’s up to Alex to find out who is masterminding this evil plot, before they find him.  The clock is ticking—is Alex’s luck about to run out?

You honestly can’t accuse Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series of being completely original.  In fact, it has a few allusions to James Bond, which anyone who has watched Octopussy can tell you.  Smithers, the man who supplies all of Alex’s gadgets, was named after the man in Q’s makeshift office in India during that movie.  The plots of the books take elements from James Bond movies, but Horowitz never strays anywhere near plagiarism.  In fact, he puts his own spin on the familiar franchise.

Alex Rider is not a great character by any stretch of the mind, but he is not a complete cardboard cutout either.  He really doesn’t want to put his life on the line again after the events of Stormbreaker, but is once again manipulated into spying for MI6.  This time, the stakes are even higher and Alex is in more danger than ever before.  Anthony Horowitz keeps his descriptions at just the right length to convey this concept and creates an aura of suspense throughout the novel.  Really, this is a book that deserves its place at the top of YA literature for boys.  It’s basically a less violent, less sexual James Bond series for young male readers.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

(Cover picture courtesy of Book County.)

They told him his uncle Ian died in a car accident.  But fourteen-year-old Alex Rider knows that’s a lie, and the bullet holes in his uncle’s windshield confirm his suspicions.  But nothing prepares him for the news that the uncle he always thought he knew was really a spy for MI6—Britain’s top-secret intelligence agency.  Recruited to find his uncle’s killers and complete Ian’s final mission, Alex suddenly finds himself caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse, with no way out.

The first thing you need to know is that the Alex Rider series is basically a James Bond series for teenage boys.  And you know, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  There are very few YA novels aimed at young boys, but Anthony Horowitz is a good writer that has tried to tap into this market.  The James Bond movies depict a cold, calculating, womanizing super-spy while the Alex Rider series depicts a young boy who wants nothing more than to have a normal life.  What stops Alex from becoming a true Gary Stu despite all of his talents is that he really, really does not want to be a spy.

Alex is a decent enough character, but he seems a little too perfect for my liking.  He accomplishes a lot of amazing things because his uncle trained him all his life to be a spy, but he is still a bit perfect for a fourteen-year-old boy.  He is admittedly a bit of a cardboard cutout, although Alex does improve as the novel progresses.  The other characters like Herod Sayle, Alex Blunt and Mrs. Jones are very obviously cardboard cutouts, but what do you expect from an action book?

The plot is fast-paced and exciting, Anthony Horowitz’s writing is excellent and Alex Rider is an interesting character.  I think Stormbreaker is a bit clichéd and predictable, but it was written to appeal to a completely different audience.  It can be a bit violent, so I would recommend it for ages 12+.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble