The first thing I have to say about this latest and apparently final Alex Rider adventure is that Alex himself does not appear until more than a hundred pages into the book. And as I read those hundred plus pages, I admit that I had my doubts. It reads like a checklist of the villains who survived the Alex Rider missions, all uniting to get him. It struck me that it was the sort of gamble that only a writer finishing a very successful series could afford to make.
It’s not the only change in this volume either. One of the reliable things about the Alex Rider books was that they were all a little bit the same, to tell the truth. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all fun and I love them for it, but after Stormbreaker, the first volume in the series, quickly told Alex’s back story, the series hasn’t strayed much from its winning formula. There are many things about that formula present in this volume too: Alex’s reluctance to get involved while MI-6 finds a way to pull him back in, a tricked out bicycle chase, fights where Alex must show his ingenuity, evil criminal masterminds with plots so convoluted they’re funny. But there is also a new tone. Alex’s reluctance to work for MI-6 is more genuine this time. He has grown up a little and has a new outlook. As well, the violence and brutality of the story has grown up with some big surprises toward the end. But the biggest change is that, thanks to that initial set up, the audience has been let in on the plot from the beginning, meaning that while there are still a few details missing, there’s a lot less to unravel than in other volumes. Instead, we’re left with a sinking feeling that this mission will go awry as we watch Alex walk into a trap.
Overall, I think it was a nice end to the series. And, of course, if you don’t know them, they’re the perfect thing to give a young teenage boy looking for something fun to read.
Last summer I got really into the Alex Rider books and this summer I can already foresee that my spy reads will probably be the Gallagher Girls books. I read the first one in an afternoon and there’s a new one coming out at the end of June. I don’t know what it is about spy stories exactly, but they sure are hilarious fun, especially if there’s spy gadgets.
In case you don’t know the Alex Rider books, this is a YA series by Anthony Horowitz that’s extremely popular across the pond, about a boy who stumbles into becoming an MI-6 spy after the death of his uncle. All the fun games and activities his uncle did with him growing up seem to have been designed to turn him into the perfect spy. Each of his adventures is more preposterous than the last. The eighth book in the series, Crocodile Tears, was just released last winter, so you can imagine how preposterous that one was. However, there’s something incredibly fun about watching Alex succeed against all odds and with ever more impressive gadgetry. It’s great how these books hit that familiar YA theme of adults just not getting it, but played grand in life or death situations where MI-6 refuses to give Alex any backup.
The Gallagher Girls books have the same teen spy feel from an American perspective. However, these books are at least as much romance as adventure. I admit that the writing wasn’t perfect. The dialogue isn’t very well done and some of the cleverness just gets a little cutesy. Actually, there’s a whole silliness factor that needs to be toned down, which is really saying something in a genre that thrives on being silly. However, the premise was good and there’s potential in the characters. Each book has an excellent, if lengthy, title. The one I just finished was called I’d Tell You I Love You, but Then I’d Have to Kill You. In it, we follow sophomore Cammie at the prestigious Gallagher Academy, a school for young women to become spies. There’s not too much real action. Instead, Cammie finds her first romance with a normal boy who she meets while on a covert ops training mission and must figure out what to do. Later books in the series apparently present more action for the Gallagher Girls.
And now for my own spy secret. The writing project I’m working on now is a little bit spy. Actually, that’s sort of an argument for me to stop watching Spooks reruns and reading spy novels so I can do my own thing. That probably won’t happen though.