Sunday, August 18, 2013

Book Review: Stormbreaker

Title: Stormbreaker (Alex Rider series)
Author: Anthony Horowitz
Genre: Teen, Action, Thriller
My Rating: *
Age Group: 14+

Summary -
After his uncle dies in a tragic car accident, Alex has nothing to look forward to in life. He's a fourteen-year-old orphan with no friends and no real knowledge of his uncle's past. But when he begins to suspect that his uncle's death wasn't an accident and starts to investigate, he's picked up by the MI6. Apparently, his uncle was more interesting than Alex thought; he was actually a spy whose last mission killed him.
And now MI6 wants Alex to complete the mission. They don't really give him much of a choice in the matter. So he's packed off to a computer manufacturing facility to discover why his uncle died and what Herod Sayle, a technology mogul, is doing. Neither MI6 or Alex realize just how dangerous the mission will be.

The Bad -
 - Ian Rider is killed by an assassin (not described).
 - Alex gets into various dangerous situations, either purposely or accidently, most of which you would expect to find in a spy book. Some are: sneaking into a junkyard and getting trapped in a car about to be destroyed, various fistfights, gunfights, climbing dangerously high buildings, sneaking around a high-security facility, being dropped into a jellyfish tank to die, etc.
 - MI6 blackmails Alex into joining them, knowing full well that he might not live. This is made more serious because he's only 14.
 - A man at the training camp that Alex is sent to purposely sabotages him.
 - A remark is made in a description of a fat man about his buttocks.
 - A remark is made about how jellyfish have no anus.
 - There is a mention of drug smuggling.
 - There are several uses of the euphemism "bliddy" for a popular British swearword.
 - Herod Sayle, the bad guy, is genuinely evil, with many evil sidekicks. They all threaten Alex's life at some point. Sayle's evil plot includes killing thousands of children in order to get revenge for bullying he received when he was in school.
 - An assassin kills a man for dropping a box (described).
 - While Alex tries to avoid killing anyone in cold blood, he does cause quite a few accidental deaths as he escapes from various dangers.
 - Alex shoots a gun in a crowded room. He misses everyone but the bad guy, whom he wounds.
 - Sayle is assassinated.
 - Alex states his intention to kill the man who murdered his uncle.
 - While this does not become more apparent until later books, the characters of the Alex Rider stories have very little moral sense of right and wrong. Their general philosophy seems to be that as long as everything ends up alright, anything can be done to get to that conclusion. Alex himself seems to have at least an inclination toward good, but his irresponsibility and selfishness tends to drown this out in later books.

The Good -
 - In this story at least, Alex tries to do what he thinks is right.
 - Alex shows great resourcefulness and bravery.

Conclusion -
I'll admit that I've read quite a few of the Alex Rider books, though it's been a few years since I bothered to pick one up. And rereading this book reminded me exactly why I stopped bothering.
No matter how hard he tries, Anthony Horowitz cannot write. I don't know how these books became popular, or even sold to a publisher, but it's like Horowitz wrote them in his sleep and published them without editing them at all.
Outside of the utter sloppiness of the writing, the Alex Rider books don't really tell an uplifting or enlightening story anyway. The "get it done" attitude of the characters leads them into doing many things which would disgust many sensible readers, and while this first book in the series is relatively clean, you can still pick up hints of this attitude, particularly in the adult characters.
Would a younger reader enjoy it? Maybe, if they're the sort who can overlook a bad writing style. But should they read it? The first book is innocuous, but as it ends on a semi-cliffhanger, parents should probably be wary of introducing the series, because the later books become much less innocent.

Please Note: This is the first book in the Alex Rider series, and while it is relatively appropriate for a 14+ age group, the rest of the series is not. I would suggest that parents read the series before giving it to anyone under the age of 16. 

Maria has also written a review of a movie based off of this book: Operation Stormbreaker

1 comment:

Lurai said...

I agree with you entirely. It's been a while since I've read this book, and I remember getting *slightly* hooked on/interested in it, but other than that it kinda stunk. No offense to the writer or anything, but seriously.

Also, not to be technical (but to be technical) I remember a description of a video game system as a piece of spyware...and the system was very old if I read it correctly (depending on when the events take place I suppose), thus making that part of the story even less realistic. *heavy sigh*