After the dramatic ending of "Scorpia" I wondered if we'd heard the last of Alex Rider - but this sixth instalment begins with his recovery in hospital, and we soon learn that the recent assassination attempt on him didn't quite go according to plan.
After coming so close to death, Alex is more determined than ever to put his spying days behind him and return to the dull yet peaceful routine of school. However, even before he's fully recovered, he finds himself thrust headlong into another exciting adventure when a gang of thugs try to kidnap a boy in the neighbouring hospital room. Before long, Alex is facing dangers greater than ever before: locked in a burning tower block, go-cart racing a psychopathic Russian billionaire, trapped in an underwater wreck as his oxygen runs out - and eventually finding himself fighting for his life aboard a prototype space hotel known as 'Ark Angel.'
The tension and breathless pacing are as outstanding as ever - it's almost impossible to put it down until the final page. My only (slight) criticism would be that it is a tad predictable. True, Alex has to survive every impossible encounter almost unscathed - but some of the twists fail to come as a surprise, and it's all too clear either who is going to rescue Alex, or what gadget he's going to use to get out of trouble. That small quibble aside - if you've read the others in the series to date, then this cannot be missed!
Knowing that there won't be any further instalments in the Alex Rider series until probably sometime 2006, I'm now off to read "Silverfin" the first in the new "Young Bond" series by Charlie Higson. As this is set something like 30/40 years earlier than the Alex Rider stories, it'll be interesting to compare the two heroes; so similar in many ways, yet clearly having very different technology and background. Review to follow!