Monday, 7 December 2009
Review: Steel Trapp by Ridley Pearson
14-year-old Steven ‘Steel’ Trapp sets off with his mum and their dog, Cairo, on a two-day journey to compete in the National Science Competition in Washington DC. Steel is both blessed and cursed with a remarkable photographic memory – just one look and whatever he sees is imprinted forever. On the train, he becomes embroiled in an ingenious, international plot of kidnapping and bribery that may have links to terrorists. Federal agents track Steel as he attempts to put together the pieces of a complex puzzle. Using Steel's science contest invention – and with the help of Cairo – Steel leads readers on an action-packed chase adventure as they attempt to prevent the unimaginable, before it's too late.
Steel Trapp has been out for some time but I only stumbled across it in my local library the other day. A quick google and a short visit to amazon.co.uk shows that it was published in the UK in May 2008, and also that there is a sequel due for release in the new year; this folow-up is certainly a book that I will be reading and reviewing in 2010. Although simply known as Steel Trapp in the UK, this book was published under the name Steel Trapp: The Challenge in the USA, with the follow-up entitled Steel Trapp: The Academy.
The main character of the book is Steven Trapp, known as Steel to his family and friends due to his photographic memory ("one of his teachers..... said that he had 'a mind like a steel trap'"). The book starts with Steel on a stage in Washington, D.C, waiting for his turn to present his invention at the National Science Challenge. Mr Ridley then uses a series of flash-backs to bring the story up to the present, flashbacks that include Steel's father attempting to make an emergency landing in a single-engine plane followed by 27 chapters detailing Steel's journey to Washington and how he becomes involved in a mystery plot that could involve international terrorism. This use of the flashback lacked finesse - I'm not sure we really needed the five page prologue of Steel at the Science Challenge.
The premise behind this thriller is set up well from Chapter 1 onwards. We find out that Steel has a photographic memory, and it is through this that Steel is drawn into the world of international crime. From this moment on we are treated to a fast-paced thriller of a story that never falters from beginning to end. Mr Pearson has written a number of thrillers for the adult market and he uses his experience well in developing the plot and characters in this book. However, whilst there is no shortage of action scenes in this story, there is a shortage of tension at times. Unlike Anthony Horowitz's Crocodile Tears, there are very few end-of-chapter cliff-hanger moments that make you turn quickly to the next page. This is mainly due to most of the chapters being very short (a prologue and 78 chapters over 325 pages) thereby meaning that the ultra-fast pace is maintained but at a small cost.
Overall, as a thriller for boys of 10-14 then this does very well, although some degree of belief suspension is required; as the story progress some of the scenes become a little less believable. The sequel is scheduled for a 19th January 2010 release according to amazon so watch this space for more details.