Colony by J A Henderson

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Colony by J A Henderson

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A tense and pacy thriller dealing with the horrific potential of biological warfare. A multi-time, multi-strand narrative gives it thematic depth and allows a mystery to gradually unfold. Great stuff and much better than the average conspiracy thriller.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: February 2008
Publisher: OUP Oxford
ISBN: 0192755390

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It's 1980 and a secret army research facility in California's Mojave desert is the scene of carnage. Bodies are everywhere and it's overrun by ants. It's 1994 and the remote Diamond Trailer Park plays host to another massacre. The ants are there too. And now it's 2009 on Kirkfallen Island in the Outer Hebrides and a group of teenagers discover their link to these past atrocities. Worse still, the ants are on the move again.

The only person who can prevent another tragedy is the only survivor of the Mojave desert disaster, but he's a fugitive from the law...

Oh, I liked Colony. It's pacy and tight with a multi-strand narrative that takes the reader back and forth in time as the various pieces of its puzzle are gradually slotted into place. By the time the whole, horrific truth has been revealed, the scene is set for a real high-octane denouement. And Henderson certainly gives us that. The fight scenes towards the end of the book are exciting and utterly, utterly ruthless.

There's a large cast of characters, which perhaps prevents the reader from becoming very emotionally attached to any of them, but I don't think this is a particular disadvantage. Everyone is three dimensional and there are no cardboard cut outs. What it does is bring the book's thematic depth to the fore. Biological weapons are a terrifying prospect, not the least because we can never be sure they'll work as expected. Are they ever justified? What about a biological weapon that removed aggression from the target population? Can an end ever justify a means?

These things set Colony far ahead of the average conspiracy thriller on the junior bookshelves. There's a great deal to think about, but since the plot is intricate and intelligent but tremendously tense, it's also a riveting read. It's recommended by Bookbag for sophisticated readers at late primary school right up to conspiracy lovers in the mid teens.

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

They might also enjoy Jigsaw by Garry Kilworth and The Starlight Conspiracy by Steve Voake, which both add a supernatural element to a tight conspiracy thriller, or Being by Kevin Brooks, which has an equally pause-for-thought ending. We also enjoyed The Treatment by C L Taylor.

Booklists.jpg Colony by J A Henderson is in the Top Ten Books To Drag The Kids Away From Computer Games For Ten Minutes At Least.

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Buy Colony by J A Henderson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Colony by J A Henderson at


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