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Snakehead (Alex Rider Adventure) Paperback – September 4, 2008
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About the Author
Anthony Horowitz (anthonyhorowitz.com) is a world-renowned screenwriter for film and television, having received multiple awards. And he is, of course, the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Alex Rider novels, which have become bestsellers the world over, spawned a major motion picture, and a line of graphic novels. A master of the spy thriller, Anthony is the only writer authorized by both the Arthur Conan Doyle and Ian Fleming Estates to write original Sherlock Holmes and James Bond novels, respectively. Anthony lives with his wife in London, England; they are parents to two grown boys. Follow Anthony on Twitter @AnthonyHorowitz.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
He was still lying on his back, crammed into the tiny space with his knees tucked into his chest. Half closing his eyes, Alex experienced a moment of extraordinary stillness. He was completely still. His fists were clenched. He wasn’t breathing. Was it really true? Already he found it impossible to believe that the events that had led to his journey into outer space had really taken place. He tried to imagine himself hurtling around the earth at seventeen and a half thousand miles an hour. It couldn’t have happened. It had surely all been part of some incredible dream.
Slowly he forced himself to unwind. He lifted an arm. It rose normally. He could feel the muscle connecting. Just minutes before he had been in zero gravity. But as he rested, trying to collect his thoughts, he realized that once again his body belonged to him.
Alex wasn’t sure how long he was left on his own, floating on the water somewhere . . . it could have been anywhere in the world. But when things happened, they did so very quickly. First there was the hammering of helicopter blades. Then the whoop of some sort of siren. He could see very little out the window—just the rise and fall of the ocean—but suddenly a man was there, a scuba diver, a palm slamming against the glass. A few seconds later, the capsule was opened from outside. Fresh air came rushing in, and to Alex it smelled delicious. At the same time, a man loomed over him, his body wrapped in neoprene, his eyes behind a mask.
“Are you okay?”
Alex could hardly make out the words, there was so much noise outside. Did the diver have an American accent? “I’m fine,” he managed to shout back. But it wasn’t true. He was beginning to feel sick. There was a shooting pain behind his eyes.
“Don’t worry! We’ll soon have you out of there . . .”
It took them a while. Alex had only been in space a short time, but he’d never had any physical training for it, and now his muscles were turning against him, reluctant to start pulling their own weight. He had to be manhandled out of the capsule, into the blinding sun of a Pacific afternoon. Everything was chaotic. There was a helicopter overhead, the blades beating at the ocean, forming patterns that rippled and vibrated. Alex turned his head and saw—impossibly—an aircraft carrier, as big as a mountain, looming out of the water less than a quarter of a mile away. It was flying the Stars and Stripes. So he had been right about the diver. He must have landed somewhere off the coast of America.
There were two more divers in the water, bobbing up and down next to the capsule, and Alex could see a third man leaning out of the helicopter directly above him. He knew what was going to happen, and he didn’t resist. First a loop of cable was passed around his chest and connected. He felt it tighten under his arms. And then he was rising into the air, still in his space suit, dangling like a silver puppet as he was winched up.
And already they knew. He had glimpsed it in the eyes of the diver who had spoken to him. The disbelief. These men—the helicopter, the aircraft carrier—had been rushed out to rendezvous with a module that had just reentered the earth’s atmosphere. And inside, they had found a boy. A fourteen-year-old had just plummeted a hundred miles from outer space. These men would be sworn to secrecy, of course. MI6 would see to that. They would never talk about what had happened. Nor would they forget it.
There was a medical officer waiting for him on board the USS Kitty Hawk—which was the name of the ship that had been diverted to pick him up. His name was Josh Cook, and he was forty years old, black with wire-frame glasses and a pleasant, soft-spoken manner. He helped Alex out of the space suit and stayed in the room when Alex finally did throw up. It turned out that he’d dealt with astronauts before.
“They’re all sick when they come down,” he explained. “It goes with the territory. Or maybe I should say terra firma. That’s Latin for ‘down to earth.’ You’ll be fine by the morning.”
“Where am I?” Alex asked.
“You’re about ninety miles off the coast of Australia. We were on a training exercise when we got a red alert that you were on your way down.”
“So what happens now?”
“Now you have a shower and get some sleep. You’re in luck. We’ve got a mattress made out of memory foam. It was actually developed by NASA. It’ll give your muscles a chance to get used to being back in full gravity.”
Alex had been given a private cabin in the medical department of the Kitty Hawk—in fact, a fully equipped “hospital at sea” with sixty-five beds, an operating room, a pharmacy, and everything else that 5,500 sailors might need. It wasn’t huge, but he suspected that nobody else on the Kitty Hawk would have this much space. Cook went over to the corner and pulled back a plastic curtain to reveal a shower cubicle.
“You may find it difficult to walk,” he explained. “You’re going to be unsteady on your feet for at least twenty-four hours. If you like, I can wait in the room until you’ve showered.”
“I’ll be okay,” Alex said.
“All right.” Cook smiled and opened the main door. But before he left, he looked back at Alex. “You know—every man and woman on this ship is talking about you,” he said. “There are a whole pile of questions I’d like to ask you, but I’m under strict orders from the captain to keep my mouth shut. Even so, I want you to know that I’ve been at sea for a long, long time and I’ve never encountered anything like this. A kid in outer space!” He nodded one last time. “I hope you have a good rest. There’s a call button beside the bed if there’s anything you need.”
It took Alex ten minutes to get into the shower. He had completely lost his sense of balance, and the roll of the ship didn’t help. He turned the temperature up as high as he could bear and stood under the steaming water, enjoying the rush of it over his shoulders and through his hair. Then he dried himself and got into bed. The memory foam was only a couple of inches thick, but it seemed to mold itself to the shape of his body exactly. He fell almost instantly into a deep but troubled sleep.
He didn’t dream about the Ark Angel space station or his knife fight with Kaspar, the bald ecoterrorist who had been determined to kill him even though it was clear that all was lost. Nor did he dream about Nikolei Drevin, the billionaire who had been behind it all.
But it did seem to him that, sometime in the middle of the night, he heard the whisper of voices that he didn’t recognize but that, somehow, he still knew. Old friends. Or old enemies. It didn’t matter which because he couldn’t make out what they were saying, and anyway, a moment later they were swept away down the dark river of his sleep.
Perhaps it was a premonition.
Because three weeks before, seven men had met in a room in London to discuss an operation that would make them many millions of dollars and would change the shape of the world. And although Alex had never met any of them, he certainly knew them.
Scorpia was back again.
- Lexile measure : 740L
- Grade level : 5 - 9
- Item Weight : 10.4 ounces
- Paperback : 388 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0142412120
- ISBN-13 : 978-0142412121
- Dimensions : 5.19 x 0.75 x 7.81 inches
- Publisher : Puffin Books; Reprint edition (September 4, 2008)
- Reading level : 10 - 15 years
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #43,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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It's over! "Snakehead," the seventh and last book in the Alex Rider series, concludes the secret service adventures of one 14-year-old English lad. It was a great adventure for our unwilling but lucky super hero, but all good things must inevitably come to an end.
The only spoiler I will give is this: Anthony Horowitz ends the series well. I have my interpretation, but it will sit quietly in my brain so the next reader will conclude the series with the same blank slate I had--no spoilers, no clues, just surprises.
"Snakehead" is just as full of wild adventure, amazing escapes, and clever plotting as each novel in the series. I must declare that I don't have a favorite in the seven. I found each as enjoyable as the one preceding and the one following.
I displayed the first in the series in the small school library where I work just yesterday. I did a quick book talk to two different boys who picked it up. The second checked it out. The first returned today to borrow it! Can't wait to get a student opinion of this exciting series.
Literary merit? The books are well-written, cleverly plotted, and plausible, but the series is strictly escapist fare, adventure par excellence. It's greatest bid for permanence in the pantheon of older children's literature is that it is a link of books that will reinforce a love for reading.
Like the Harry Potter books, the reader must read! Both Harry and Alex are forces for good and dare all to be so. Alex inspires courage, valor, and stamina in the face of great odds. In nearly all of the books, the villain has the face of good but the heart and actions of evil. Alex is placed in circumstances that allow him to discover this truth and thus must act. No coward Alex!
Of course, in a spy series there must be violence, but it isn't graphic. Although there are deaths, there are no curse words, drinking, sex, or anything else objectionable (this sounds silly in the face of deaths and violence), but there it is: a very mild warning. In comparison with video games, the Alex Rider series is Dr. Seuss, OK, maybe something stronger. How about the dangers of The Magic Tree House series magnified by age and locations?
As for "Snakehead," the villain is a Snakehead, one part of Scorpia, who controls black market trafficking in human beings, i. e. moving immigrants for vile purposes. One thing Alex is forced into as a smuggled person is facing a master of Muay Thai (a killer combination of boxing and martial arts used for personal discipline by real masters) in a ring with bets on how long the opponent can last against this master. Need I say that Alex wins? This is not a spoiler since it happens very early in the novel and I am not revealing HOW he wins. Later he will be used as a harvest field for body parts.
"Snakehead" also involves the destruction of an island and all of Western Australia by a tsunami. It is Alex's assignment to stop this from happening.
So I come to a close in the close of a series. Goodbye, Alex Rider. It was great fun while it lasted!
Author Anthony Horowitz certainly does his homework. There is absolutely no reason to think that every basic element of what happens in SNAKEHEAD doesn't or couldn't happen in real life, somewhere. In fact, a good many things one reads about here I knew about already. I'm not sure that the event around which the plot revolves could be done in reality, but then I don't comprehend the scope of the adapted real-life weapon invoked as a trigger.
Make no mistake: some of the things Alex faces are absolutely horrific, and yet there are people out there who really do these things to other people. The reader needs to be PREPARED for this. No wonder Alex uses every curse word he knows on one of the perpetrators (even if we're only told of one of those words). Good on Alex that he "bites back" more than once, and most effectively.
Top reviews from other countries
Alex Rider himself achieves closure in an area of his personal life, and there are exotic locations and dastardly deeds aplenty - all resulting in a fast-paced and consistently gripping novel.