Sunday 21 March 2010

Review: Mission Survival: Tracks of the Tiger by Bear Grylls

Volcano eruption! Beck and his friend are on a relaxing holiday in Sumatra, visiting orang-utan sanctuaries and hanging out by the pool. Except that when they spend the afternoon out in the jungle, things take an unexpected turn, and a volcano eruption leaves them stranded and alone. Beck must use all his skills to survive the dangers of the jungles and swamps of Sumatra - can he get them to safety alive?

The man with the super-cool name, Bear Grylls, is back with this, his fourth instalment in the Mission Survival series and yet again he has produced an exciting adventure story that will have great appeal to many boy readers. This time Beck and his friend Peter are holidaying on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, an island with a long string of volcanoes that lie on the Pacific's so-called Ring of Fire. Of course, if you have read any of Mr Grylls' books before you will already be able to guess exactly what is going to happen.

Yup - no prizes on offer for predicting that Beck and Peter will become stranded miles from civilization as a result of a volcano eruption, and using the extensive survival skills and knowledge imparted by instructor they will attempt to make their way to safety. The last time the two boys were stranded they were in the Sahara Desert with snakes, scorpions and the merciless sun to contend with. This time there are still snakes, but also included in the equation are crocodiles, a tiger, a cyanide-secreting millipede and bacteria that could quickly cause even minor injuries to become gangrenous.

Bear Grylls' Mission Survival books are all pretty formulaic, and rarely ever particularly deep, although there is a nice environmental subtext running through this story concerning the problems caused by illegal logging in the rain forest. However the majority of 8+ boys are not looking for deep and meaningful, they just want page after page of easy-to-follow action, with characters they can easily relate to. Throw in a bucketful of survival skills that will make them sound cool in front of their mates and these books are a guaranteed hit with this age group (did you know your wee can be used to dissolve the spines of a sea urchin, should you ever be unlucky enough to step on one?). These books are a great introduction to the action/adventure genre before progressing onto the more complicated plots and themes offered by the likes of Robert Muchamore.

Tracks of the Tiger can be read as a stand alone story, although it does occasionally reference events from other books in the series. It is published by Red Fox and is available in stores right now, and my thanks go to Random House for sending me a copy. If you like these books then I also strongly recommend the Alpha Force series by Chris Ryan, also published by Red Fox.