Book two of the Alex Rider series (aka, more normal accidents). I am really enjoying this story line of teenage spy, I’ll tell you right now. I’ve found that when I’m feeling most unsure, I’m about to do something right. Alex is accepts his spy role but with reservations and hesitations (although he generally doesn’t hesitate to do what is right), and, drum roll, he makes mistakes in the process.
Plot: The “accidental” deaths of two important world figures have just one connection: sons who “happen” to be attending the prestigious Point Blanc academy, which “happens” to only admit fourteen year old boys. Guess who old Alex is? His secret agent skills have been emerging at school (the opening scene with drug deals is arguably the most hilarious bust up of all time), and its about time he took a vacation anyway. With that parental argument, the agent handler drops Alex off for a week of luxury training with murderously lazy rich brats. He’s delighted to leave them behind, until he finds the locale of his next mission involves the Swiss Alps, a miniature army, and a classroom that appears to be full of robots. And he is the newest classmate. In a school where classes are optional but only robots attend, no drugs are allowed but he falls right to sleep after one glass of soda pop, and the private bedrooms come equipped with hidden cameras, there are lots of secrets. But then, he’s a secret agent.
Positive: Well written, with good character development given to several supporting persons. Alex is delighted to hang out with kids his own age, until he recognizes how immature they all are. Several interesting themes regarding what a person’s taste in art says about them, how wealth does not bring happiness, and allusions to the effect of peer pressure. Also, did I mention that the obligatory opening action sequence is totally cool? The plot follows the stereotypical action-movie sequence of beginning action, introduction of real plot, development via small action sequences, and ever-bigger sequences of fighting and explosions, with a minor resolution that is an illusion to forestall the final ka-boom, and then the actual resolution (as do most of the Alex Rider series). As usual, that structure is tweaked to involve a more classical character development, and one very inventive opening sequence involving a drug ring, a boat, and a crane.
Negative: The crazy Swiss guy isn’t very realistic. He and his minions are pretty clumsy to have such a well-organized scheme, and the motivations are underdeveloped. I suspect the author was told to have a crazy lunatic in his second book just because it worked so well in the first, but he didn’t actually plan the plot around that point. So it seems incongruous. We forgive the book for its leaps of logic by the time of the last tension-filled scene, but the plot holes resemble, well, Swiss cheese. One of Alex’s escapades in particular is ridiculous beyond words (but since he is thinking “this is ridiculous” the whole time, I forgave it and enjoyed the thrill ride). Lots of action violence, some blood mentioned, adults are irresponsible, pride is used against several main characters with embarrassing frequency, drugs used against kids, and racism/apartheid espoused by bad guys.
Overall; great book for lounging on the beach with. Or in the library, where the next book is within easy reach (I borrowed the first three at the same time, and had to get the next three within a week, so be forewarned, its not a good book to casually pick up for half an hour between studying for other things!).