Stormbreaker (Horowitz)

Stormbreaker (Alex Rider series #1)
Anthony Horowitz, 2000
Penguin Group USA
256 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780142406113

They said his uncle Ian died in a car accident. Alex Rider knows that’s a lie, and the bullet holes in his uncle’s car confirm the truth. But nothing can prepare him for the news that the uncle he always thought he knew was really a spy for Britain’s top-secret intelligence agency. Enlisted 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 original novel that started the worldwide phenomenon. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—April 5, 1956
Where—Stanmore, Middlesex, England, UK
Currently—lives in London, England

Anthony Horowitz is the author of one previous book for teens: The Devil and His Boy, which received glowing reviews all around. He is also the author of several plays and television screenplays in his native England. (From the publisher.)

Horowitz's Alex Rider Series numbers 7 books (and one short story) with other installments planned.

Anthony Horowitz is an English author and screenwriter. He has written many children's novels, including the Power of Five, Alex Rider and Diamond Brothers series and has written over fifty books. He has also written extensively for television, adapting many of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot novels for ITV series. He is the creator and writer of the ITV series Foyle's War.

Horowitz was raised in "a Jewish enclave," living an an upper-class lifestyle. His father acted as a "fixer" for prime minister Harold Wilson. Facing bankruptcy, Horowitz's father removed his wealth from his bank accounts and hid it away under a false name. He then died and the family was never able to track down the missing money despite years of trying.

As an unhappy and overweight child, Horowitz enjoyed reading books from his father's library. At the age of eight, Horowitz was sent to the boarding school Orley Farm in Harrow, London. There, he entertained his peers by telling them the stories he had read. Horowitz described his time in the school as "a brutal experience,"often whipped by the headmaster. Horowitz adored his mother, who introduced him to Frankenstein and Dracula. From the age of eight, Horowitz knew he wanted to be a writer, realizing "the only time when I'm totally happy is when I'm writing."

Horowitz now lives in North London with his wife Jill Green, whom he married in Hong Kong on 15 April 1988. Green produces Foyle's War, the series Horowitz writes for ITV. They have two sons, Nicholas Mark (born 1989) and Cassian James (born 1991). He credits his family with much of his success in writing, as he says they help him with ideas and research. (From Wikipedia.)

Book Reviews
Alex Rider becomes the first fourteen-year-old MI6 agent when his uncle is assassinated. Alex is forced to take over the case involving a suspicious computer baron who has donated thousands of his newest, top-secret modules to British schools. This action-packed spy novel, the first in the projected Stormbreaker series, has all the cliches: a stony-faced hero, plenty of preposterous stunts—including using the rappelling cord to catch an airplane—terse dialogue, and the evil Egyptian, Russian, and Fräulein. There is not much else to the story, however, nor to Alex's character. Horowitz draws him out a little in the beginning as a reluctant spy who is unwilling to kill—although plenty of other people do kill each other in this story—but then loses him as the movielike plot predictably and explosively unfolds. This uncomplicated novel is fun fare enough for the Young Indiana Jones fan or reluctant reader. Although it offers little that a B movie does not, sophisticated readers will find it simplistic. Those readers looking for intrigue and suspense will be served better with John Marsden or Peter Dickinson. Broad general YA appeal—Nina Lindsay

(Gr 5-9)Alex Rider's world is turned upside down when he discovers that his uncle and guardian has been murdered. The 14-year-old makes one discovery after another until he is sucked into his uncle's undercover world. The Special Operations Division of M16, his uncle's real employer, blackmails the teen into serving England. After two short weeks of training, Alex is equipped with several special toys like a Game Boy with unique cartridges that allow it to scan, fax, and emit smoke bombs. Alex's mission is to complete his uncle's last assignment, to discover the secret that Herod Sayle is hiding behind his generous donation of one of his supercomputers to every school in the country. When Alex enters Sayle's compound in Port Tallon, he discovers a strange world of secrets and villains including Mr. Grin, an ex-circus knife catcher, and Yassen Gregorovich, professional hit man. The novel provides bang after bang as Alex experiences and survives unbelievably dangerous episodes and eventually crashes through the roof of the Science Museum to save the day. Alex is a strong, smart hero. If readers consider luck the ruling factor in his universe, they will love this James Bond-style adventure. With short cliff-hanger chapters and its breathless pace, it is an excellent choice for reluctant readers. Warning: Suspend reality. —Lynn Bryant, formerly at Navarre High School, FL
School Library Journal

What if James Bond had started spying as a teenager? This thriller pits 14-year-old Alex Rider against a mad billionaire industrialist. Non-stop action keeps the intrigue boiling as Alex tries to stop the remarkably evil Herod Sayles from murdering Britain's schoolchildren through biological warfare. Alex begins as an innocent boy shocked by the death of his Uncle Ian in a traffic accident. Suspicious of the official explanation, he investigates and finds Ian's car riddled with bullet holes. He narrowly escapes being crushed in the car as it's demolished, then climbs out of a 15-story window to break into Ian's office. He learns that Ian was a spy, and reluctantly joins Britain's MI6 intelligence agency. After surviving brutal training and armed with stealthy spy tools, Alex infiltrates Sayles's operation as the teenage tester of the "Stormbreaker," a new computer Sayles is giving to British schools. Thereafter he survives murderous ATV drivers, an underwater swim in an abandoned mine, and an encounter with a Portuguese man-o-war jellyfish before hitching a ride on an already airborne plane. The plot is, of course, preposterous, but young readers won't care as they zoom through numerous cliffhangers. This is the first book in a series planned by the author, and may prove useful for reluctant readers looking for excitement.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Stormbreaker:

1. What makes Alex suspicious of the official explanation given for his uncle's death? Trace the steps that eventually involve the reluctant 14-year-old in the dangerous undercover world that Ian inhabited.

2. Talk about the rigorous preparation Alex undergoes to become an M-16 agent.

3. Which of Alex's spy tools do you like the most?

4. What is the secret behind Herod Sayles donation of computers to Britain's schools.

5. Discuss the book's characters. How does the author portray them—as complex human beings with rich inner-lives, or as more one-dimensional characters, lined up on a spectrum of good vs. evil?

6. How did you find the book—suspenseful or predictable? If suspenseful, how does Horowitz, as a writer, create suspense? What techniques does he use? If predictable, how so? Were there points in the story that you felt manipulated, where events were overly contrived? Did any of that detract from your enjoyment of the book?

7. Considering both the cool "spy toys" and Alex's riveting adventures, in what way does Horowitz play into the wish-fulfillment of young people (and older folks)? Is this what's made the book (and the series) so successful?

8. Would you recommend Stormbreaker to others? Are you inspired to read the rest of the Alex Rider series?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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