Archive for the ‘Anthony Horowitz’ category

Crocodile Tears by Anthony Horowitz

November 30th, 2009

Over the weekend, when I wasn’t figuring out Google Wave, I finished Crocodile Tears by Anthony Horowitz. Stormbreaker (as well as Haddix’s Among the Hidden) was the first YA book I read as a junior high teacher and it helped me to see how that market of books has developed over the years. If you remember my review of Ghost in the Machine by Patrick Carman, I made reference to how much I enjoyed Scorpia (my favorite of the series) and how Ark Angel was a letdown for me. (Yes, I’ve read Snakehead.)

As I began Crocodile Tears, I thought, “Can this get me back from ‘I enjoy the series’ to ‘I rave about the series’?”

I love how Horowitz starts out the novels with an opening scene much like a James Bond movie. We see minor characters involved in some sort of trauma, introducing a sliver of the main conflict. We also don’t see Alex Rider, for the most part. Chapter one gets you hooked with a disaster at a nuclear power plant. A charity swoops in to help immediately and we are instantly suspicious that the charity may have known ahead of time when the disaster was going to happen.

I was nervous, at first. I’m a huge supporter of helping out wherever you can, even internationally, so I was hoping that Horowitz would not paint a jaded view on aid organizations. There’s a great conversation where Alex Rider is defending people who donate because it’s the right thing to do, not because they’re playing some kind of game.

Desmond McCain is a good villain in the spy movie sense. There are some times where the cheaper, easier way to win would be to just kill Alex and be done with it. Nope. Just like it’s mentioned in Pixar’s Incredibles, the villain monologues and explains the plan, trusting the henchmen to finish the job. Not the most logical way to enact your evil schemes, but it definitely fits the style.

A student and I had debated on whether Alex Rider had actually killed anyone in his books. The villains pursue him to the “Captain Ahab” level of obsession to their own demise. In this one it’s pretty clear: bad guy is going to kill Alex, Alex kills him first – but it’s under a spy code of morality.

  1. You point a gun at someone and shoot, you’re an assassin.
  2. You create an elaborate plan to watch the person die, you’re a supervillain.
  3. You create an elaborate plan using just what’s on you at the moment (perhaps feeling a degree of remorse), you’re a super spy.

Alex is angst-ier this time around.

Something that I had lost sight of is that the entire series has just been one year in Alex’s life. In other words, he has missed a TON of school. Crocodile Tears highlights this; the adults finally realize that this 14 year-old should probably attend a full day of school from time to time.

It’s definitely not the end to the series. There is still room for Alex to grow throughout the years. Crocodile Tears is an enjoyable read. (I’m still biased towards Scorpia, but I’m excited to see where the series goes.)

Mysterious messages from authors

August 22nd, 2009

Check out the Twitter messages from Anthony Horowitz:

AnthonyHorowitz: The man in the telephone box left a white card in the window. A single word. REEVER.

and from Ally Carter:

OfficiallyAlly: I know a secret.

It makes me question their inspirations for their books. Real-life spies?

Snakehead by Anthony Horowitz

November 9th, 2007

Terrorism. Human smuggling. Drug running. Toymaking?

snakeheadn. – an organization controlling many different parts – including moneymaking schemes and crime

I was very excited when I received an advanced reading copy of Snakehead, but I had a couple of other books to read first (like when Frank Beddor visited my library, I probably needed to read his books). Now, with Snakehead coming out next week, I have the great opportunity to review the book.

Along for the Rider

  1. Fans of the series will not be disappointed in the action department: homemade kayaks in whitewater, magnetic coins from Smithers that remote detonate, and muay thai pitfighting. Yeah, baby!
  2. If you need to brush up on your geography, you’ll visit Bangkok, Jakarta, Darwin, and an oil rig.
  3. The return of Scorpia! (cue dramatic spy music and dancing silhouettes)
    I have to admit, Ark Angel was kind of a let down compared to the gripping drama of Scorpia. Who better to complement MI6’s finest than an organization of merc spies bent on world domination and chaos? That’s right.
  4. We find out a lot of details about Alex’s family, especially his dad. John Rider, original super spy, coordinated/saved some pretty intense missions. We even learn of the last minutes of his parents’ lives, leading up to the plane crash/explosion.
  5. Actual issues: I get into a debate with the Language Arts chair about the depth of Alex Rider. Sure, there’s helicopters (a must in any book for me) but Alex’s search for his history is something that many of my students can relate to, even if their dad has been present the whole time/not an international assassin.

For your eyes only

  1. This is one of those books that would be tough for a new fan to jump into. I had a student who started the series with Scorpia and didn’t get all of the character development. But, if it gets a struggling reader to read, go for it.
  2. If you are annoyed when spies repeat their tricks, go easy on this book. How many different ways can you explode your jail cell? I mean, really.

Horowtiz does repeat some tricks, but so do Ian Fleming and Robert Ludlum. What I really like about this book is how it shows the deep connection between “light” illegal activity and the hardcore stuff that most people know is wrong.

How do terrorists get money? Check out an article from 2002 from CBS News:

Federal authorities say they have amassed evidence for the first time that an illegal drug operation in the United States was funneling proceeds to Middle East terrorist groups like Hezbollah.

Evidence gathered by the Drug Enforcement Administration since a series of raids in January indicates that a methamphetamine drug operation in the Midwest involving men of Middle Eastern descent has been shipping money back to terrorist groups, officials said.

“There is increasing intelligence information from the investigation that for the first time alleged drug sales in the United States are going in part to support terrorist organizations in the Middle East,” DEA administrator Asa Hutchinson said.

Horowitz shows the connection between drugs and terrorists, as well as Bangkok sweat shops and cheap toys being made under inhumane conditions. Mix your kung fu with your global awareness.

Fans of the series will be very excited, as well as students who are getting into the spy scene through shows like Chuck and movies like Bourne Ultimatum. I predict that this one will do very well in my library.