Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. The Leviathan is a living airship, the most formidable airbeast in the skies of Europe.
Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men. Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.
With the Great War brewing, Alek's and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way, taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever.
In my review back then I described this book as "one of the finest examples of steampunk fiction for boys that I have come across". Since then I have read Cherie Priest's amazing Boneshaker, but Leviathan is still a good second place. Is it steam punk? Or is it diesel punk? Whatever it is I really enjoyed this imaginative story with its original premise when I first read it at the tail end of last year.
Crocodile Tears by Anthony Horowitz
Targeted by a hitman and under threat of his past being exposed by the media, Alex reluctantly turns to MI6. But their help doesn't come cheap: they need Alex to spy on the activities at a GM crop plant. There he spots Desmond McCain, a high profile charity organiser, who realises that Alex is on to him and the real plans for the money he's raising. Kidnapped and whisked off to Africa, Alex learns the full horror of McCain's plot: to create an epic disaster that will kill millions. Forced to ask MI6 for protection, Alex finds himself being manipulated in a deadly game that could lead to the destruction of an entire East African country.
Mission 8 for the seemingly indestructible Alex Rider, and in my opinion one of the best books in the series. In my review I stated that: "Reading Crocodile Tears is very much like watching a well-made action movie – Mr Horowitz manages to balance perfectly the highs and lows of the story so that during the quieter moments you are tense with wondering what happens next, and then you get fantastic full-on, white-knuckle action scenes that have you turning the pages as fast as possible to find out just how Alex is going to survive the latest test on his abilities. In this respect this book was very similar to the adult action thrillers written by Matthew Reilly, who readily admits he to writing action movies in novel form. There is no chance to get bored reading this book – the pacing is perfect throughout."
It doesn't really seem like ten years since the first Alex Rider book was published. In order to celebrate this Walker Books is publishing the entire series in new cover designs. In addition, each of the books also contains a new Afterword by Mr Horowitz, in which he takes us behind the scenes of the series with information about the gadgets, locations, characters and many more insider secrets.
And if you like reading all this extra background information then as an extra little treat, today I saw this great article in The Telegraph about the trip Anthony Horowitz took to Egypt in order to research the next Alex Rider book, to be called Scorpia Rising. Follow this link to read the full article.
The Enemy by Charlie Higson
They'll chase you. They'll rip you open. They'll feed on you...When the sickness came, every parent, policeman, politician - every adult - fell ill. The lucky ones died. The others are crazed, confused and hungry. Only children under fourteen remain, and they're fighting to survive. Now there are rumours of a safe place to hide. And so a gang of children begin their quest across London, where all through the city - down alleyways, in deserted houses, underground - the grown-ups lie in wait. But can they make it there - alive?
This book was published in hardback before I started this blog so no review has appeared on here so far. However, I did mention it only yesterday in my write up about Mr Higson's highly informative session. If that isn't enough for you then you could do a lot worse than go over to My Favourite Books and read Mark De Jager's great review of it. As an added bonus for the paperback edition you also get a chance to read the first chapter of the sequel to The Enemy, enitled The Dead, as well as a short interview with the author.