Saturday, November 21, 2009

Alex Rider: Crocodile Tears

Well, I've started on Before They Are Hanged, and it's great fun so far. But I didn't suddenly stop reading in the days leading up to its being chosen. That wouldn't be like me. I found a copy of the latest Alex Rider book: Crocodile Tears, the eighth in the excellent teenage spy series by Anthony Horowitz. As always, it's a lot of fun, and it's clear Horowitz enjoys his profession to the utmost degree.

It's just another day in the life of an average kid. If you're Alex Rider, that is.

A con artist has realized there is big money in charity— the bigger the disaster, the greater the money flow! So that is what he will produce: the biggest disaster known to man, all thanks to genetically modified corn that can release a virus so potent it can knock out an entire country in one windy day. But Alex Rider, tired of working for MI6 the past year, will face whatever it takes—gunfire, explosions, hand-to-hand combat with mercenaries— to bring down his most dangerous adversary yet.

Often imitated, never equaled, the series that triggered a reading phenomenon is back, exhilarating and addictive as ever.

Alex is James Bond in miniature, but to just say that would be to deny the greatest fun of the series. Bond certainly didn't have missions with quite so much emotional impact as the almost-15 Alex has had to deal with. Since being recruited part-time by MI6, he has faced an assassin, fought a clone of himself, swam in shark-infested waters, tried to stop a missile on board Air Force One, escaped a burning hot air balloon, left the earth's atmosphere, and found out some frightening truths about his family. All in all, a sense of tiredness has hit Alex, who is weary of missions and really only wants the newest Assassin's Creed game (understandable). That's not to say he doesn't get into some impressive scrapes this time around. My favorite involves armed guards, a school bus, a chimney, a greenhouse full of poisonous plants, and an exploding gel pen. It's quite impressive.

I've been reading this series ever since it came out in the US, and when the UK editions were published a year earlier, I ordered them online from overseas. There's an intensely readable wit that Horowitz infuses in all of his books that really comes into play here. And he knows how to write a good action scene. The last terrifying, desperate battle atop an African dam is a white-knuckled page-turner, and the painfully original torture scene is written with chilling verve. I'm thoroughly convinced Alex can survive anything, from a sniper's bullet to a burning building to a swim in a frozen Scottish Loch. These books are wonderfully over-the-top, and yet... they still manage to be plausible. While certain scenes may indicate this is the end of the series, Horowitz went out with a literal bang. And I'm definitely willing to go an further adventures with Alex Rider.

My rating: 10/10. Read this series.

Coming Soon: Before They Are Hanged.

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