Danger Zone: The Devil's Breath by David Gilman

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Danger Zone: The Devil's Breath by David Gilman

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: An adventure with an environmental slant that riproars its way across Africa and in which the semi-reluctant hero is not afraid to cry or tell his father that he loves him. It's all completely implausible, of course, but for those who like high octane fiction and don't mind suspending belief, it's recommended.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: June 2007
Publisher: Puffin Books
ISBN: 978-0141323022

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Touch of Frost scriptwriter David Gilman makes a big noise with his debut book for children, the first in a series about Max Gordon, teenage action hero with a conscience.

Max is at a Gordonstoun-style boarding school in Dartmoor when word comes through that his father, a campaigning environmental scientist and ex-SAS officer, has gone missing while on a secret field trip to Namibia. Within hours of his father's disappearance, an assassination attempt is made on Max. With his own teacher apparently involved, it seems that there are few people Max can trust. He sets off to find his father and soon uncovers the reason for his abduction. A shady businessman - and villain worthy of any Bond film - Shaka Chang, is planning to precipitate an environmental disaster that will make him a lot of money, but also wipe out the San Bushpeople, the people his father was trying to protect. With only a school friend, a white Namibian girl and a boy from the Bushpeople to trust, Max must try to prevent the disaster and save his father...

I'll hold my hands up. I'm not a fan of Boys Own Adventures. Well, I'm a girl! I wasn't really looking forward to reading Danger Zone: The Devil's Breath despite its environmentally responsible slant. And I was wrong. It drew me in almost immediately. Max is a tremendously likeable character. He's vulnerable and naive and not afraid to show it (Alex Rider, take note). He's seen to cry. At the same time, he's full of spunk and big of heart and understands that he has a lot to learn. His friendship with the young San boy, !Koga, probably brings more to Max than it does to !Koga, showing him that far from being primitive, the bushmen have an integrity and dignity from which we could all draw lessons.

The beautiful but harsh African landscape is described beautifully. It is a living, breathing, vital part of the story, not just a pretty backdrop. The San culture is explored in full. The supporting characters are multi-dimensional and there's even a strong teen girl action hero who, on occasion, makes mincemeat of Max.

None of this, though, gets in the way of the action, which comes thick and fast. It's all Bond-style high jinks involving Max making palpably ludicrous narrow escapes from the jaws of terrible peril. At one point, there is a marvellous scene in which Max is attempting to penetrate a mountain-top fortress by means of its hydro-electric system. He is caught between the turbines and a frenzied pack of underground, blind, albino crocodiles with only the rib of a long-dead animal to defend himself. 007, eat your heart out. The junior action fans are going to forget all about you.

Despite myself, I really enjoyed Danger Zone: The Devil's Breath. It really isn't my sort of thing at all, but it sucked me in and I ended up reading until past midnight to get it finished. I'm sure da kidz are going to love it. I do hope so.

Fans of Max Gordon will be able to get interactive using Google Maps at The Danger Zone. The Bushmen's plight is real. To learn more, visit Survival.

My thanks to the nice people at Puffin for sending the book.

Stephen Cole's Thieves Like Us is a straightfoward action thriller with a more traditional cops and robbers slant, while Garry Kilworth's Jigsaw is another rollercoaster ride with an environmental theme and a supernatural thread.

Booklists.jpg Danger Zone: The Devil's Breath by David Gilman is in the Top Ten Books To Drag The Kids Away From Computer Games For Ten Minutes At Least.

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Buy Danger Zone: The Devil's Breath by David Gilman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Danger Zone: The Devil's Breath by David Gilman at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Danger Zone: The Devil's Breath by David Gilman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Danger Zone: The Devil's Breath by David Gilman at Amazon.com.


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Magda said:

I have just remembered how much of this kind of stuff I read when I was small! There was a giant series in Polish, taking part in the 1905-1914 period, and with progressive messages everywhere (anti-slavery, pro-American Indian, anti-Empire in India etc). Really badly written, but I loved it!