Below Zero by Dan Smith

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Below Zero by Dan Smith

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Z J Cookson
Reviewed by Z J Cookson
Summary: A chilling action adventure story which combines a gripping plot with strong characterisation. A must-read for fans of this adrenaline-packed genre.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: January 2018
Publisher: Chicken House
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1910655924

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Twelve-year-old Zak Reeve is supposed to be enjoying a relaxing holiday in the sunshine with his family before he goes into hospital for surgery. Instead, the whole family are on a plane to the Antarctic because the 'spider drones' his parents have designed to support the Exodus mission to Mars have started to malfunction. His parents assure Zak and his older sister, May, that this will be a flying visit but, as you'd expect with any action adventure story, things go wrong from the moment their plane crashes into the ice outside Outpost Zero. Zak and his family are about to find themselves in a chilling adventure that will leave them fighting for survival.

I read Boy X last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was, therefore very excited to get a copy of Dan Smith's latest action adventure Below Zero. And I was so glad that I did. This is another fast-moving thriller that's comparable in many ways with the wonderful Boy X, the main difference being the contrasting locations – the intense heat of the jungle in Boy X and the chilling Antarctic research base in Below Zero.

If I'm honest, I found it slightly harder to get into the story in Below Zero: the opening chapters switch back and forth between Zak and his family's dramatic arrival at Outpost Zero and the experiences of teen, Sofia Diaz, 3 days, then 21 hours previously. Then, just when I'd got used to this unusual structure, we're introduced to a third viewpoint character – the mysterious adult referred to only as The Broker. Fortunately, by this point, I was hooked and needed to read on to find out what was going to happen next in this gripping plot.

As with Boy X, the fast-moving plot is not at the expense of characterisation. Although written in the third person, I felt close to Zak and his desire not be treated differently because of his illness was particularly powerful. His older sister, May, is also a great character and my favourite scene in the book shows May's frustration when her parents become absorbed by the changes in the 'spider' drones they created and she has to remind them that she and Zak are still there and in danger.

In keeping with the genre for this teen-action adventure, the plot is at times ludicrously far-fetched and I totally loved it. The climax is page-turning with a clever twist followed by a more predictable resolution. There are also a handful of Star Wars references in the climax of the book that made me laugh out loud.

If you enjoyed this, I'd definitely recommend Boy X. Or why not try the now classic 'Alex Rider' series by Anthony Horowitz – start with Stormbreaker. Alternatively, if you'd prefer a standalone adventure, try Stunt Double by Tamsin Cooke, Sky Thieves by Dan Walker or The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon. Teens might enjoy Beyond by Graham McNamee.

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Buy Below Zero by Dan Smith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Below Zero by Dan Smith at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Below Zero by Dan Smith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Below Zero by Dan Smith at


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