Thursday, 10 December 2009

Review: Hacking Timbuktu by Stephen Davies

Long ago in the ancient city of Timbuktu a student pulled off the most daring heist in African history, the theft of 100 million pounds worth of gold. The stolen treasure has remained hidden until now, when teenage hacker Danny Temple discovers a cryptic Arabic manuscript. It's a good job that Danny is a keen traceur (free runner) because he has to run across rooftops and leap from buildings to stay one step ahead of his pursuers. His nightmarish and adrenalin-charged quest leads him all the way to sub-Saharan Africa, and the mysterious cliffs of Bandiagara.

Wow! I have just finished this book and it has left me feeling a little out-of-breath. This story really is non-stop action from beginning to end. Writing good action scenes is not easy, yet Mr Davies does it incredibly well. Danny, the main character of the book, and his close friend Omar are traceurs - they are experts at the sport of parkour (or freerunning). If you have ever seen freerunners you will know how fast and energetic their sport is; how Stephen Davies manages to translate this sport so fluently onto paper is amazing - I really felt that I was running through the streets with Danny and Omar. The author has also put a lot of time into researching parkour and the technical language for the boys' moves is used throughout the story.

There are a lot of scenes featuring parkour throughout the story, yet at no point did I feel it was being overused as part of the plot. In fact, I spent each non-parkour scene page reading as quickly as possible so I could get to the next adrenalin fuelled freerunning scene. Interspersed between these scenes are detailed descriptions of Danny's computer hacking; yet again, this all sounds authentic and well-researched, although not being a hacker myself (honest!) this is only my own feeling about these scenes.

The attention Stephen Davies pays to detail and his thorough research continues as the two boys reach Africa, although this comes as no surprise as Mr Davies has first-hand experience of this place, its people and their culture as he is a missionary in West Africa and lives in a small town on the edge of the Sahara desert. Again, the quality of his descriptive writing made me feel like I was travelling the dusty African roads with the boys. There are obviously less parkour scenes once the boys reach Africa as the narrative focuses more on their journey, but Mr Davies uses these quieter moments to show us more about his characters and the details of friendship. 

And there's more..... as well as a fast paced story, with thrilling action scenes and moments of nailbiting tension, there is also a lot of humour running through the story. In fact, many of the scenes featuring Danny and Omar had me chuckling out loud. The banter and bickering that they display when with each other is reminiscent of a good Hollywood buddy movie like Lethal Weapon or Bad Boys.

I really enjoyed this book and I doubt there are many action movie loving boys out there who would disagree with me.

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