Night on Terror Island by Philip Caveney

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Night on Terror Island by Philip Caveney

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: The new projectionist at the Paramount Cinema is rather odd, but Kip and his dad don't mind as long as the crowds keep coming. And even when Kip discovers Mr Lazarus can actually send him physically into the films, he doesn't object too much – it's actually quite exciting. Until, that is, Kip realises his little sister is trapped in a film with cannibals, sabre-toothed tigers and enormous snakes, and he only has until the final credits roll to rescue her...
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: May 2011
Publisher: Andersen Press Ltd
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1849392709

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Kip is a real film buff, and because his dad runs the local independent cinema he gets to see all the latest films as a reward for making the popcorn and generally helping out each evening. But this happy state cannot continue for much longer: the big multiplexes on the edge of town are taking all their clients, and the Paramount Picture Palace may soon have to close for good. Things start to look up when the eccentric Mr Lazarus arrives, but Kip is suspicious: the new projectionist may have a gift for raising the quality of the films he shows to enviable standards, but he knows far more than he should about everyone who works at the cinema. And he talks about stars, films and cinemas of the past as if he had actually been there.

Then things get stranger to the point of spookiness. Mr Lazarus has invented a machine which can send people physically into films, or at least into the copy which is showing at the time, and he practically forces Kip into a gangster movie just at the moment when there's a huge shoot-out between the baddies and the cops. Kip's task? To get hold of the main character's hat and bring it back: Mr Lazarus knows a collector who will pay him big money for film memorabilia.

Mr Lazarus warns Kip that anything that happens to him in the film will have a real-life effect, so the poor lad spends most of his time trying not to get shot. Still, he has seen the film before, so he knows what will happen next, and this enables him not only to survive, but to save the life of a mother and baby who were destined to get caught in the cross-fire and tell the famous actor Russell Raven (who believes when Kip meets him that he really is a gangster) that some of his buddies are about to turn up and rescue him in a stolen police car. Kip returns from the film, complete with the hat, and decides the whole experience was actually fun. Things go downhill though when Kip's little sister Rose accidentally finds her way into a film full of tigers, snakes and Neanderthals who all see human flesh, especially little-girl flesh, as nothing more than a very tasty snack.

Philip Caveney is a skilled writer who uses the anomalies and rules of cinema to further his tale. At some points Kip, his sister Rose and his friend Beth are up on the screen for all the cinema's customers to see, but then the action moves elsewhere, to other characters, and Mr Lazarus cannot track what is happening to them. Apart from the fact that everything they meet wants to eat them, finding Rose is made even more difficult by these conventions: action can move from one side of the islands to another in a second, and the film's habit of missing out the boring bits by jumping ahead to the next big, dramatic scene makes doesn't help. Fortunately Kip and Beth have seen enough films to be able to be able to use these conventions to their advantage , including spotting which member of the cast will be next to meet a grisly end.

Although this book is primarily a thriller, laden with heart-stopping chases and encounters which range from terrifying to downright gory, a lot of humour is generated too, especially as Kip and the others try to persuade various members of the cast that they are not, in fact, real people. This trademark humour, which has made books like A Buffalope's Tale and Sebastian Darke, Prince of Explorers so popular, will make this book a sure-fire winner, and readers will look forward eagerly to any sequels. Thoroughly recommended, for both boys and girls.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: For another breathless, thrilling story where the main characters find themselves suddenly transported to another world, try Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow by James Rollins. And while the monsters in Time Train to the Blitz by Sophie McKenzie are all human, the danger and the awful sense of time running out are just as vivid.

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