This was the first Alex Rider book that I've read. I wanted to gauge its suitability as a Christmas present for my nephew and also to get a feel for when my son might be old enough to start reading the series. I was pleasantly surprised by this book which is a very readable thriller. The beginning is a little slow, but it builds and the action in the final quarter is particularly exciting. I won't reiterate the plot, but it is as plausible as any Bond movie (ie: just enough for you to suspend disbelief) and touches on recent news events like people smuggling and tsunamis. I would think the bullseye age group for this book is 10-14 years. The vocabulary is probably too stretching for a younger reader (words like acrid, infiltration, gantry, proposition and ricocheted). The 400 page length and reasonably complicated plot would also be unlikely to sustain the interest of most younger readers. And while a child older than 14 would probably still enjoy this book, I think they could cope with something more complex, such as Matthew Reilly or Allan Folsom. Here are some things that parents may like to know about this book: - There is a lot of violence - mostly shooting but also stabbing and fighting. Some of that violence is unprovoked or involves innocent civilians. While the violence is not described in overly graphic detail, it does frequently occur. Alex fires a gun once, although he doesn't hit anybody. - There are also some disturbing scenes, eg: one in which Alex is covered in rats (it scared me anyway!) and another when he is going to be farmed for body organs. - There is no swearing or blasphemy - Alex does swear once but the description is "he spat out every foul word he knew" which is pretty vague! - Alex is offered beer on at least two occasions (which he always declines). - No sex. One passing reference to topless women in a Thai bar. Overall I thought this action packed story was an excellent choice for a mature 10-14 year old (male or female) - I know that I would have loved it at that age!
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