Stormbreaker (Alex Rider) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-06-13 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

"I don’t generally read a lot of youth-oriented (aka “YA”) fiction these days, but being an “omnivore” when it comes to reading I don’t specifically exclude it. Mumblety-mumblety years ago, writers that I respected and enjoyed wrote what was called “juvenile” fiction.

For example, Isaac Asimov wrote six “Lucky Starr” novels (under the pseudonym “Paul French”) in the early 50s. Robert Heinlein started writing “juvies” in the late 40s eventually producing 13 (or 14 depending on how you count). Unlike Asimov, Heinlein’s works were pushed under his own name. As far as I know, Arthur C. Clarke (the 3rd member of the “Big Three”) did not write any juvenile fiction.

All of this is the long way of saying that when an author turns his or her hand to creating a story for a younger market, I don’t necessarily turn away in avoidance.

While I do not remember exactly why I had originally placed “Skeleton Key” (aka “Alex Rider #3”) on my TBR shelf, I suspect one of my friends did so and I found its premise interesting enough. Recently, I read one of his adult books (“The House of Silk”) and rated it fairly highly (4 stars). Of course that was a Holmes pastiche for which I do have a very soft spot.

At the same time I picked up “Stormbreaker” which is the first Alex Rider novel. Up to that point (THOS) I had not read anything by Mr. Horowitz, so I did not know that he apparently has written a fair amount of YA fiction or that he has written extensively for British dramatic television.

“Stormbreaker” is not a bad novel nor is it a great novel. Like most things, it lies somewhere in between abject failure and unqualified success. The story is reasonable, the protagonist is a bit too lucky and capable, but falls into that James Bond kind of luck.

(If you don’t know what I am talking about, go back to the earliest films (or books) and see how Bond stumbles his way through the story relying on bravado, luck, and the kindness of strangers to augment his own powers of observation and martial skills in an almost-unsuccessful attempt to avoid death.)

Alex has the same kind of luck and "Stormbreaker" has the same kind of moments. I don’t have any proof (nor have I researched this), but I would guess that this copying of the “Bond formula” is deliberate both because of the longevity of the original and because quick action/changes are a hallmark of film and TV.

This novel takes a boy who has an unusual uncle and first turns his world into chaos, then gets him embroiled into the deepest secrecy of government (through his own natural inquisitiveness, sense of wrongness, physical skills, and luck –see the parallels?) From then on he is offered and then forced to accept a role as the boy spy. He goes through an abbreviated training period during which he “rises above” others’ pettiness (he is the “hero” after all) and then is thrown into his first, critical mission. Since there are beaucoup sequels, Alex obviously succeeds in his mission and eventually returns to his normal life, but available for recall.

In writing this review I am trying to keep in mind that it was intended to have less depth and read faster than an “adult novel” (even a Fleming-written Bond). But I keep comparing it to other children’s/YA stories and thinking it comes up a bit too “light”. (The “Lemony Snicket” series about the Baudelaire children is my reference standard here.) But there is nothing wrong with it; I just left a little unsatisfied. It’s definitely well-constructed and well-plotted (it crams in plenty of action) with a few morals here and there. I’m giving it a three (3) star rating because I do think it works for its intended audience, but I don’t know if I will be reading more of this series.

" said.

" Quick and easy read, but somewhat interesting and fun. I might pick up book nr.2 in a while :) " said.

"So, i was quite excited when i found out there was a book. I loved the movie, so of course i had to read the book.

Well, i can say i didn't got disappointed.

The book was fine, but it's not like it was horrifying, or filled with big emotions. Everything in it was all happening quite fast, and we almost never got Alex opinion on anything.
The writing-work and stuff was alright too, but there were some sentences and terms, where i would have used some other words. But perhaps it was because i read the translated edition, and not the original book, so i won't put that on the author; He couldn't know his words would sound so stupid in Danish.

But it's not like i hated this book. Not at all.

It's a great plot and a fine story. I enjoyed it, and i'll definitely keep reading it, because i have faith in this book. I believe that the next books will build up his existence, his life and perhaps we will get some more feelings from him.
" said.

"This is the start of the phenomenally successful Alex Rider series written by the equally successful Anthony Horowitz (the man has written so much its difficult not to either be influenced by it or to be distracted by it, after all I have his two officially sanctioned Sherlock Holmes books... ok must resist).

Where was I ah yes this is the first in a series of book which charts the exploits of a seemingly normal school boy Alex Rider who is destined to much more. The series runs in to numerous titles (there are 9 titles of Alex's exploits) and has recently returned with a leaner darker edition (which I have yet to get).

But this book although aimed at the teenage audience I think is so well written that it does not feel like it. Now I try not to give away spoilers however since this book appears everywhere (when I go around the charity book shops there are always copies there, its more a case of what condition are they in) and the film has seen its fair share of air time too, however if you still were able to miss all this its a challenge not to give it away. Sufficient to say that the film presents are more realistic version of the boy and his adventures while the book allows you to "bend" the facts and imagine more. To that end I think that the villains and set pieces are more impressive in the book (yes I will admit I am biased book over film every time).

So my opinion - its a great opening title, however I am sure there are bigger and greater adventures awaiting out there and with the rest of the series stretching out ahead I am sure I will not be disappointed
" said.

"Following the death of his spy uncle, Ian Rider, 14 year old Alex Rider is recruited into the MI6 to complete his mission. After eleven days of intense SAS style training, Rider is set on his first mission where he investigates the work of Herod Sayle and his Stormbreaker computers. Weaving through old tin mines and underwater caverns, Rider uncovers the unfortunate truth behind the Stormbreakers, a bout of lethal smallpox encased within. At the press of a button all the children of the UK could face a dismal end.

Having already watched Horowitz's Foyles War, I had high hopes of his Alex Rider series, however I was left a little disappointed by the literary content, but that may only be due to my age. However with it's James Bond-esque action scenes and gagetry it is sure to entice reluctant young readers in KS2. For use in the classroom I feel it would be a good book to have at hand to get the boys reading, furthermore the gadgets mentioned in the book can be the basis for children to design and make their own mock ups.

'Stormbreaker' is most certainly a book aimed towards boys, and it's simplicity is easy for even the most reluctant readers to follow and it might even spur them on to continue with the Alex Rider series. In regards to age range I would encourage ten year old's to give it a go, unless there are any precocious readers. There is a lot of death and violence which may not rest well with younger audiences.
" said.

"3 Stars

Another three star read. I enjoyed it, I’ll read the next couple of sequels at least, but there was a lot that held me back from liking it more. This is (mostly) more my fault than the book’s; which is, for the most part, a high quality action-adventure spy-story very much in the vein of a ‘teenage James Bond’ that has fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Unfortunately I’ve never been that into the James Bond films, found Casino Royale to be a total snooze-fest, and have never had any inclination whatsoever to pick up an Ian Flemming book. These damning personal defects aside I would probably have gotten on with this book a lot better had I read it when it came out in 2000 (when I would have been eleven or twelve) – not just because I’d have been both less picky and in the right age bracket but because, only twelve years later, a lot of the premise comes off as absurdly dated.

This isn’t Horowitz’s fault of course – in 2000 many teenagers in the UK didn’t have their own mobile phones, 24-hour internet access was an incredible novelty, and a gift of a single computer to a school may well have been a big deal (my primary school replaced the library with its first computer room to celebrate the millennium – the bookshelves were moved to a wide corridor – before that we had a single computer in each class that we were never allowed to actually use). None of that is too unrealistic, but it feels it – and I still can’t come up with a reasonable explanation beyond ‘plot’ why Alex wasn’t equipped with a mobile phone along with the rest of his gadgets. It’s also so very, very, pre 9/11 that it almost breaks belief some of the things Alex can get away with without getting immediately shot dead by security forces. Again, not Horowitz’s fault and it's part of the genre to suspend disbelief at these things but it’s something I also can’t help but notice. That said the target audience of 8+ is not going to care or notice too much – except probably the mobile phone thing.

As I’ve probably given away the plot revolves around high-tech computer systems but otherwise it’s very James bond. There’s vehicle chases, near death experiences, dangerous wildlife being kept as pets, labyrinthine underground lairs, death traps, smuggling, and assassins. This book is chock full of action and I’ll say this for it – it does a much better job than most children's books in making you forget that Alex has to survive and fearing for the protagonists safety, at least until after the fifth near-death escape. If you’re after a jam-packed action-filled book that’s a nice easy read this definitely fits the bill. Where it fell down for me though was in also importing the dismissive sexism and xenophobic stereotypes that characterise the adult spy genre.

It’s not so much offensive as it is simply lazy – the assassin is Russian, the evil sidekick is a German woman, the bully during Alex’s training has a ‘funny foreign accent’ (though I expect we’ll be seeing him in future books as a goody), and the big-bad is a short, fat, ‘slimy‘ middle-eastern man with eyes like frogspawn who eats dog-meat. Better still his backstory involves an American family ‘rescuing’ him from his own poverty in Beirut and bringing him to London without giving a single fuck for the rest of his family. This probably wouldn’t bother me if I was a child but as an adult I am both more culturally aware than I was, and have seen these ingredients used so many times that I’m quite frankly bored with them. That the villain’s motivation is ‘I was a victim of racist bullying’ doesn’t really mitigate the whole lazy stereotyping that went into characterising him before and after. And then the sexism, again part of the genre but I have to ask – why? Why do action-adventure stories have to have only strong male characters and sideline women into purely maternal or ‘evil sidekick’ roles (thankfully no shoe-horned love interest here)? Why in a novel set in 2000 is the only reference to female spies ‘we have to send in someone who won’t be noticed [. . .] We were considering sending down a woman. She might be able to slip in as a secretary or receptionist’. Even the female in charge of the section only provides a ‘motherly’ role, fretting about Alex while her male partner is flat and emotionless, dedicated to the cause no matter the cost.

I’m not angry, I know it sounds it but honestly I’m not. I’m not even offended. I’m just tired. I know this book is essentially a tribute to James Bond but. . . it’s just predictable. Of course the female sidekick is German, the contract killer is Russian – they always are.

That said, and I know that’s come off as really negative sounding, I liked the book. It’s not a standout but I enjoyed it and I want to read the next few books as well. Alex has the potential to be an interesting character – I don’t think he quite got there in this book, he seemed way too detached and unaffected by his uncle’s death and made some really obviously stupid mistakes (and the bit of me that volunteers at Natural History museums totally resents a portuguese man-of-war being repeatedly refered to as a ‘jellyfish’), but he’s very fun to read about in the action scenes and as I said, the potential is there – I like that he’s not into the whole spy thing but just wants to be left alone.

So yeah. . . a good book, one that I’m sure lots of people who aren't me will love, but one that shares many of the traits that always make me feel excluded and dismissed by this genre. Hopefully I’ll enjoy the next book a bit more because, with a few improvements, this is a series I could really get into.
" said.

"I picked this book up in my high school media center during study hall when I was bored and had nothing else to do. I read it in about three days and proceeded to rip through the next four books in the series.
Still can't really explain why I like these books - Horowitz's target audience is clearly 14 year old boys who don't read much. I guess it's because I'm a James Bond fan, and the Alex Rider series could have been retitled "007 - The Middle School Years." Seriously, the plot of every book is a carbon copy of a classic Bond film: there are crazy gadgets, weird villains with even weirder plans for world domination, drawn-out attempts to kill Alex (in Stormbreaker, he gets thrown in a tank containing a giant jellyfish), lots of high-speed chases, and even the required Bond-girl character is present in Alex's friend/potential love interest, Sabina Pleasure (I wish I was kidding about her name. But I'm not). The only thing missing is the martinis.
Good light reading if you want to avoid doing your homework and still look like you're doing something academic.
" said.

"Actual rating: 3.5
Not so much excited as I expected.. It's good story, it's mainly for the readers at 14 but I enjoyed it nevertheless.. And I'm going to read the rest of the series soon.

The story is about Alex who is 14 yrs old, he lives with his uncle, but one day the police came to his house to tell him that Ian-his uncle- died from a car accident because he didn't put the seat belt but Alex knew that Ian would never forget something like that so he gets curious about his uncle's death and here where our story begin
" said.

July 2018 New Book:

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