Having survived their ordeal on a tropical island, teenagers Alex,
Li, Paulo, Hex and Amber decide to put their various skills and
new-found respect and friendship to good use. They plan to use
orphan Amber's considerable inheritance to pay for training and
equipment that will help them to right wrongs around the world.
When Alex visits his father, who is on SAS business in Ecuador, he
is appalled by the living conditions of the street kids. On hearing
that a shadowy figure, known only as the Rat-Catcher, is killing
these children for sport, Alex informs his fellow members of Alpha
Force that they have their first assignment. It may turn out to be
their last. This is the sequel to Survival, the first Alpha Force
adventure that described how the group met and how adversity made
them put aside their differences in order to keep each other alive.
This new instalment is every bit as exciting, but better suited to
a slightly older audience. The violence, although never
trivialized, might be too extreme and disturbing for the younger
end of the age range (10+) who might have enjoyed the original
novel. Ryan's view seems to be that this is a violent world and
that it is better to confront atrocity than to bury it.
Nevertheless, with its references to murder, drug-trafficking and
glue-sniffing, this is a long way from the Famous Five, so buyer
beware. Survival was the better book because it dealt to a greater
extent with the group's struggles with themselves and each other as
they came to terms with their desperate circumstances. Rat-Catcher
certainly makes for heart-pounding entertainment but something has
been lost by introducing such an unlikely scenario as providing
five youngsters with the means to battle injustice without anyone
noticing. Amber's uncle, the co-ordinator of their mission, says
that he is not sure about letting them climb a treacherous mountain
to infiltrate a cocaine factory. You have to say he has a point,
but our intrepid heroes will not be held back. Both books in the
series so far emphasize the merits of teamwork but never lose sight
of the fact that these are five very different teenagers with their
own hang-ups and who are still learning from their mistakes. This
is a thrilling read for those who have the stomach for it and will
no doubt recruit even more acolytes for Chris Ryan's distinctive
brand of action-adventure. It is doubtful that the tourist board of
Ecuador will be rushing to recommend it. Ages 12+ (Kirkus UK)
The team is in action: Alex, Li, Paulo, Hex and Amber. An elite team sent to South America to take part in a covert SAS operation to catch an evil drugs rat. They begin with the street kids but their adventure takes them high into the isolated mountains. Will their combined skills be enough to lead to a successful operation? The second adventure in the Alpha Force series.
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