Stormbreaker — "Alex Rider" Series
Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the "Alex Rider" series.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Ian Rider was a cautious man. So when he dies in a crash without wearing his seatbelt, his nephew, Alex, suspects foul play. Alex wonders why someone would murder a banker — then he discovers clues that convince him his long-time guardian was not the man he claimed to be.
When Ian's "bank" calls Alex to discuss the will, the 14-year-old sneaks into his uncle's old office and finds suspicious files. Security guards shoot him with a tranquilizer gun, and Alex wakes up in a posh house where he's escorted to dinner with Ian's former employers, Mr. Blunt and Mrs. Jones. They tell him they're executives for the British intelligence agency known as MI6 and that Ian was one of their agents. Ian was investigating a billionaire inventor named Herod Sayle, and they want Alex to help them finish the mission. They threaten to send Alex to an institution if he refuses. Alex reluctantly agrees to work for them and receives a two-week crash course in MI6 operations training.
Alex poses as a boy genius, and Sayle invites him to test out his new, state-of-the-art computer system, Stormbreaker. Sayle's seemingly altruistic plan — to give Stormbreakers to every secondary school in England — has aroused the suspicion of the MI6. Just before the crash, Ian had sent an urgent message to Blunt insisting that the Stormbreakers not leave the plant.
Alex visits Sayle's estate, meeting the small but menacing inventor, his butler, Mr. Grin (whose face was deformed in a circus knife throwing accident), and Sayle's enormous jellyfish. When he's not testing the Stormbreaker, Alex sneaks around the factory buildings and follows clues left by Ian. A makeshift map leads him to a series of underground tunnels, and he discovers a lab where Sayle's workers are inserting biological weapons into each computer.
When Sayle realizes Alex has discovered his secret, he explains that the British prime minister bullied him when they were kids. He plans to avenge himself when the nation's unsuspecting leader accepts the Stormbreakers (already distributed throughout the country). The prime minister will press a button, thinking he's activating the computer network, when he'll actually be releasing Sayle's genetically altered smallpox virus, which will kill thousands of children.
Sayle orders his people to get rid of Alex, while Sayle heads to the ceremony. Alex is released into the enormous tank with the killer jellyfish and uses special MI6 tools to break the tank open in the nick of time. He hides out on a plane and gets to the ceremony just before the virus is released. Sayle tries to escape by using Alex as a human shield, but Yassen Gregorovich (Sayle's Russian business contact who killed Ian) saves Alex's life before escaping by helicopter.
A vicar who attends Ian's funeral seems disappointed that Alex refuses to cry.
Other Belief Systems
When Alex is able to get back to his room with no one catching him, he feels as though his luck is holding out.
Alex curses about his circumstances, though no swear words are seen in the text at that point. H--- appears several times, sometimes as a curse word but more often to describe something horrific. The word d--n is also found a time or two. When Sayle says his jellyfish reminds him of himself, Alex asks if it's because jellyfish have no brain, no guts and no anus.
The book contains several disturbing descriptions, including that of the tongueless Mr. Grin whose mouth was deformed in a knife-throwing accident, a man crashing his motorcycle into an electric fence and an account of Sayle's jellyfish wrapping itself around and killing Sayle's assistant. Alex is involved with shootings, fiery car crashes and plane explosions. Russian assassin Gregorovich kills people without thought. He urges Alex to get out of the spy business and go back to school, because killing is for adults.
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Smoking: A few minor characters, including the sergeant and Alex's fellow trainees, smoke cigarettes.
Alcohol: Blunt, Mrs. Jones and Sayle drink red wine with dinner.
Nudity: In Sayle's house, Alex sees a semi-nude sculpture that looks like Sayle and a statue of a naked Greek goddess.
Lying: Alex realizes everything Ian told him about his (Ian's) life was a lie. Alex lies to his sergeant during training to protect one of his teammates and about his identity in his efforts to infiltrate Sayle's operation.
A movie based on this book, titled Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker, was released in 2006 in the UK.
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Readability Age Range
12 and up
Speak Books, an imprint of the Penguin Group
"The Alex Rider Series," The New York Times Bestseller, 2010