Saturday 4 September 2010

Review: Zero Hour (H.I.V.E.) by Mark Walden

Overlord is reborn, and has developed the chilling ability to move from body to body, erasing the host's personality and ultimately killing them, forcing him to hop from victim to victim. He must find Otto, the only host designed to contain him, and for that he needs the location of H.I.V.E. He also plans to take control of a secret US Army facility that is home to the Autonomous Weapon Programme, a computer-controlled system uniquely vulnerable to his control. Nero is forced to activate Zero Hour, a plan designed to deal with any member of G.L.O.V.E. on the brink of true global domination. Nero also knows that Otto must not be allowed to fall into Overlord's hands, and a desperate race across the globe begins. The stage is set for a final battle with Overlord. Little do they know that he has a final weapon in his arsenal, on a scale unlike anything they have ever seen before.

As with other 'next in series' books that I have reviewed on The Book Zone please do not expect a lengthy detailed review - we don't do spoilers here. If you have read any of the H.I.V.E. books you will already know that ex-video game designer Mark Walden writes fast-paced techno-thrillers that are pretty much guaranteed to appeal to boys of nine and older. If you haven't yet discovered this series there you must make it a priority - these books are brilliant.

I'm guessing that fans will not be overly bothered if I don't write a long review anyway. If they are like me, whenever a new series book is released all they want to know is 'is it any good'? Well I am delighted to say that H.I.V.E. fans can sleep easy - this book is just as good, if not better, than others in the series. Six books into the H.I.V.E series and Mark Walden proves that with Zero Hour he is certainly not running out of ideas. I think that part of the way he manages to maintain quality is by creating three-book story arcs and Zero Hour brings the latest H.I.V.E. story to a satisfying conclusion, just as Escape Velocity did for the first three books in the series.

In Zero Hour the stakes have never been higher for our young heroes. Overlord has survived the climactic battle scene at the end of Rogue, and he is now on the verge of world domination and only Otto Malpense and his friends can stop him. However, with the Overlord still in possession of the Animus strain they soon find themselves up against someone they never dreamed would become an enemy, as they flee H.I.V.E. island to escape Overlord's attack forces. Against odds like these it seems unlikely that any of them survive, but let's face it, Mark Walden is hardly going to kill off his team of anti-heroes is he? However, in order to maintain the levels of tension and excitement that he has become known for maybe, just maybe, this time they won't all make to through to the final page.

As with all of the other H.I.V.E. books I read this in a single sitting - of course, this is partly because I enjoy them so much and therefore clear the decks so that I can do this. For me this is what reading is all about - pure escapist fun - and the H.I.V.E. books are a perfect example of why as an adult I still love reading books for kids and Young Adults. If a story is good, with a great cast of characters, then why shouldn't it be enjoyed by people of all ages?

Last year I read that Zero Hour would be the last H.I.V.E. book, however this was either a vicious rumour or Mark has changed his mind as we are now promised a new episode in 2011. If the series so far is anything to go by then perhaps fans can now expect another three-books story arc to keep us entertained for a few more years. Zero Hour is due to be released on the 6th September although some stores may already have copies. My thanks go to Bloomsbury for sending me a copy.

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