SOS Adventure: Fire Storm by Colin Bateman

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SOS Adventure: Fire Storm by Colin Bateman

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: Michael and Katya are teenage members of an élite team which travels the globe dealing with ecological disasters in this high-octane, thrill-a-minute story. In this, their second adventure, they arrive in Papua New Guinea just as a volcano erupts.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: October 2010
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0340998878

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This book opens with a breath-taking chase as a young local boy, Joe, flees the bandits who have just murdered his father; they intend to kill him too so they can take over the land owned by his village. The plight of the Joe and the villagers, who have to choose between keeping their land and risking death, or selling it for a few dollars, continues as a theme right through the book and provides a nice counterpoint to the exploits of Michael and Katya.

The reader must not expect the dangers and challenges faced by the two young adventurers to be realistic: despite the serious ecological message this is a thriller, pure and simple. But once you accept that premise, the book is thoroughly enjoyable. What young person doesn't dream of being plucked out of ordinary life to become a hero? Or of saving the world, especially when the adults have failed? A few short days ago Michael was merely a disruptive and angry pupil in a boarding school. Now, a member of Dr Kincaid's globe-trotting environmental rescue service, he is heading straight for the rainforests of Papua New Guinea to help in the rescue of an important scientist. And between the two, he has played a major role in the recovery of a lost satellite in the Arctic. Not bad going for a boy who has been expelled from more schools than he can remember. Again in the tradition of the action hero, Michael and Katya manage to place themselves in terrible danger by not following orders, and their success at the end of the book is a hard-won thing.

Despite all the violence and danger in this book, there are light-hearted moments when Michael and Katya squabble. They spar constantly, and Katya is not above using the fact that she has been a member of the team much longer than he has to score points. He would never admit it, of course, but Michael is intimidated by her obviously greater skills and knowledge, and there are moments, even in the relentless movement of this story, when he suffers from self-doubt. But the two are thrown together both by circumstance and because of their age, and when things get tough they have no hesitation in trusting each other. It would have been interesting to know a little more about Katya and how she joined the team, though: her character seems to float in a vacuum.

The adults contribute light comedy too, at times. They are all fairly eccentric, from the burly, shaven-headed Mr Crown, who does not hesitate to drag Michael out of bed by his foot when he messes up on night watch, to the dare-devil pilot Bailey, who has a tendency to 'lose' aircraft and who teeters between brave and reckless. None of them think to make any allowances for Michael's youth and inexperience to begin with, a fact which almost leads the whole expedition into disaster.

The author's attitude to portraying danger and pain is quite uncompromising, and the reader's emotions are deeply involved in the story. Good people really die, and Michael, in the same vein as other action heroes, does seem particularly prone to injury. No detail of the daily discomforts of life in the rainforest is left untold, either: an early scene in the book has the two teenagers removing dozens of leeches from Mr Crown's body, and as they move around the island they find themselves being scratched bitten, and stung by the local wildlife. A holiday guide this is not, and readers of delicate sensibilities should avoid reading it just after a heavy meal. But if you enjoy heart-stopping action, imminent death and crazy, heroic derring-do, then this book is just what you want.

Many thanks to Hodder for sending this exciting tale to Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: Colin Bateman has another pair of bickering, wise-cracking teens in his futuristic story Titanic 2020: Cannibal City. You may also enjoy Scat by Carl Hiaasen and The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch, although these two are not so much thrillers as coming of age stories with an ecological setting. For sheer adrenalin and action, try Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz.

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