Thursday, 31 July 2014

Stormbreaker, by Anthony Horowitz

I'm attempting to read at least the first volume of as many major Middle Grade and Young Adult series as I can manage, just to get the gist of what each series is about. First up is Stormbreaker, the first instalment of the Alex Rider series.

The book begins with super rich kid Alex Rider (14) learning of the death of his uncle and adopted parent, Ian Rider. The official story is that Ian (not Uncle Ian, never, ever Uncle Ian) died from being in a car accident where he was not wearing a seat-belt, which Alex and his American housekeeper (turned permanent babysitter) find strange, Ian being a seat-belt obsessive. He doesn't seem enormously cut up about it, if I'm honest...At the funeral of his uncle, Alex is introduced to the boring and mostly described as 'grey' Alan Blunt, who appears to be devoid of most personality traits- he identifies himself as a colleague of Ian's from 'the bank'. Suspicions aroused, Alex cuts school and decides to investigate- learning in a single morning that Ian Ryder was murdered, 'the bank' is actually an elaborate ruse for an MI6 spy operation and they want Alex to pick up where his uncle left off.

Alex is informed by his new bosses that successful Lebanese businessman, Herod Sayle, has built a revolutionary supercomputer and intends to donate one to every school in England. Suspicious of his over-philanthropic too-good-to-be-true vibes, they want Alex to dig around and find out his motives. Armed with a couple of gadgets and his wits, Alex sets off to Stormbreaker HQ in the guise of a computer genius competition winner, Needless to say, things get a little bit perilous for Alex down in Cornwall and he has to use every trick in his 14-year-old spy child book to survive his trip.

Alex Rider is basically little boy Bond. The villains (even individually) are very reminiscent of various Bond villains and the evil scheme that underpins the whole plot is dastardly to the Blofeld degree. There's tanks of dangerous sea creatures, hidden floor panels and underground lairs hidden in disused mines, helicopter fights and attempted murder by quad bike. There are gadgets and witty retorts and some spectacular escapes and explosions. The plot is absolutely ludicrous, but it's so fun to read that it never really matters. 

Despite its frequent deferences and cap-doffing to the Bond franchise, it never really feels like a rip off. Horowitz is evidently a huge Bond fan and a masterful storyteller, and his love and enthusiasm for the books is evident in every scene. Stormbreaker feels like it could be a Bond film, rather than a sequence of already-seen-before Bond moments strung together and repackaged. The plot is original enough to escape being called a reproduction, but the spirit of Bond (the action and the silliness) runs through it. It's pacey, exciting and filled with suspense and action, so it's hard to argue with.

No comments:

Post a Comment