Stormbreaker (Horowitz) - Book Reviews

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

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