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Friday, 10 April 2015

Review: Gemini Force 1: Black Horizon by M.G. Harris


After the tragic death of his father, Ben Carrington's mother teams up with a wealthy entrepreneur to form an elite, top-secret rescue organisation - Gemini Force.

Ben is determined to become part of the team, but can he prove he has what it takes to face dangerous situations and save lives?

Impossible rescues. Maximum risk. This is Gemini Force 1.







I've already mentioned in a previous post just how much Thunderbirds and the other Gerry Anderson TV series meant to me as a child, and this love for all things Anderson has not diminished all these years on. I have box sets of DVDs of many of those series, and love to dip in to an episode of one series or another every now and again. I was therefore overjoyed when I discovered that M.G. Harris, the author of one of my favourite recent series of YA books, had been given the task of bringing one of Gerry Anderson's own planned projects to fruition.

As I've already mentioned, Gemini Force 1 was a Gerry Anderson project, and he had hoped to write a series of books featuring his new characters and their rescue agency. Unfortunately, due to the worsening of the Alzheimer's Disease he was suffering from, and then his untimely death in 2012, he was never able to complete the project. Fortunately, his son Jamie recognised the potential of the project and through Kickstarter he and MG managed to raise the necessary funds for the project to go ahead. However, it is still very much Gerry Anderson's concept and early story ideas that M.G. Harris has used as the foundations for Dark Horizon, and this is very evident throughout. In fact, if this had come from anyone other than Gerry Anderson then there may have been cries of foul and plagiarism for obvious reasons: a rescue agency that operates outside of government control; a secret mid-ocean base; a series of rescue craft, each with its own number and piloted by relatively young operators. And the similarities don't end there - like Thunderbirds, this first Gemini Force 1 book is also full of fast-paced action and adventure, and even more importantly it is a really exciting and hugely enjoyable read.

Dark Horizon follows the adventures of main character Ben Carrington, a 16 year old from what many would call a privileged background. His mother is an Austrian countess and his father, until his recent passing in a mountaineering accident, was a multi-millionaire businessman. However, it isn't long before we start to discover that Carrington senior's relationship with his son was not exactly one of loving nurture, with more attention devoted to his business empire than on Ben. His background also makes it quite difficult for readers to empathise with Ben - he comes across as an arrogant and self-centred public boarding school brat, quick to make rash and selfish decisions that could affect the safety of others. However, he is also brave and loyal and eventually readers will see that he is more than a product of the environment in which he has grown up.

As Gemini Force is a team endeavour there are naturally many more characters is this story. However, one has to remember that this is the first book in a planned series, and there has to be a lot of scene setting, and therefore many of these other characters are not as developed as some of the more demanding readers might (unfairly) wish. The only other character who is given a fair amount of wordage is young American pilot Addison Dyer, although nowhere near as much as Ben. However, there are enough teasing hints as to secrets from her past to leave us eager to find out more about her in future installments.

One of the things that I loved about MG's Joshua Files series was the realism and believability that came with her story, and this is very much the case in Dark Horizon. Although some of the technology initially seems a little fanciful and futuristic, a short time spent in the company of Google shows that pretty much everything that the Gemini Force team use is currently in development somewhere in the world, even the amazing 'invisibility' stealth technology used on Aquarius, Addison's amazing 'plane'.

Since reading Dark Horizon I have been struggling to decide exactly what age group the book is aimed out. Ben is 16 and for many that would suggest that it is definitely in YA territory. However, it read to me like a book that is perfect for upper Middle Grade kids, and I would be very comfortable putting this book into the hands of an 11 year old, although with a degree of parental advisory warning as it does deal with issues related to bereavement and dealing with the loss of a parent. I loved Dark Horizon and I know I would have loved it as a child. I feel that it is the kind of book that could get young people enthused about reading, and I am sure that there will be many adult Gerry Anderson fans who will be pushing this into the hands of their children.

Although the book initially came into being through Kickstarter, Jamie Anderson and M.G. Harris eventually managed to find a publisher who was interested in their story, without wanting to make too many changes, and there is now an initial three book deal with Orion, who published Dark Horizon in the UK last week. We also don't have to wait too long for the sequel, Ghost Mine, which is due for publication in September of this year.

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