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Boy Soldier - Andy McNab

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Authors: Andy McNab,Robert Rigby / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 04 May 2006 / Genre: Adventure Stories / Subcategory: Children's Fiction / Publisher: Random House Children's Publishers UK / Title: Boy Soldier / ISBN 13: 9780552552219 / ISBN 10: 0552552219

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      28.08.2012 15:13
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      Another ideal book to get boys reading - and not bad for the rest of us either.

      This book was recommended by Amazon. It's scary how accurate that little computer that monitors my every purchase is in predicting which books I will like, but it is also nice. It is like having my own personal shopper. Of course I attempted to search dooyoo for reviews before buying, but while the category was here - it was empty and I hate an empty review category so I decided to review it myself.

      There is some debate as to whether this book belongs in fiction or young adult fiction. Andy McNab is known as an author of adult books, both fiction and non-fiction recounting his life in the SAS. Robert Rigby is a former journalist and scriptwriter best known for children's programmes. There are two main characters, Danny is age 17 - which could lead to this being classed as young adult book - but the other character is his grandfather, former SAS man and MI6 agent. If they gave the exact age for Fergus I don't remember it but he is certainly at least late 50's. Funny - I don't think we have an old adult fiction category, but if we did I would not be be far off from the target audience! I can see how this book would appeal to teenage boys, and possibly even preteens, but it also makes good reading material for adults - so I won't put any age limits on this. This does have the token complaint on Amazon about the use of swear words, but it is not excessive and I personally do not see the issue with this. I expect any child old enough to read it has heard a swear word by now. There is nothing in this book that I would worry about my 7 year old reading, but I can't see this book holding the interest of a child under 11 or 12.

      The first page of this book has excerpt from near the end of the book. I should quit reading these things as it really annoyed me. It does give some spoilers, and meant I knew exactly what was going to happen later. I would strongly suggest ignoring the first page - or even ripping it out.

      The prologue begins in 1997 Columbia. The author sets the scene in the jungle quite well. You can imagine the damp and leafy smell of the jungle, the oppressive heat, the canopy of leaves above you quite easily. Fergus is travelling with FARC guerrillas, but these are untrained boys, not soldiers and they quickly walk into an ambush. The boys are expendable and cut down by the government troops while Fergus is captured. We don't know why he was there or what he was doing - or anything else about his fate.

      The next scene is an Army RCB centre in Wiltshire England. Danny is an orphan, living in a children's home after being trailed through a progression of foster homes since his parents death 11 years prior. He has one dream in life to win a bursary to study and become an officer in the British army, and has dedicated his life to achieving this, struggling to pass his A levels, pushing himself to exceed in training, but then it is all shot down. It seems no matter how good he is - he can escape from the stigma of having a grandfather who was declared a traitor. Especially since that grandfather is still on the run after having masterminded a Colombian prison break years before. If Danny can provide information on his grandfather's whereabouts - they might reconsider - otherwise - his army career is over before it ever began. Danny is lost without a goal to work for, this was all he ever wanted - he'd happily shop the grandparent he has never met who has not only betrayed his country but ruined young Danny's life. The problem is - he really does not know where he is. He has never even met him.

      It seems MI6 has set Danny up. They hope he may lead them to Fergus, and he proves extremely resourceful in finding him, with the help of a best friend and computer hacker from the children's home, Elena. But tracking Fergus down has not only put Fergus' life in danger - Danny is danger now as well - more than he ever thought possible. Some people are willing to do anything to make sure Fergus' secrets stay hidden.

      The story is fast paced and very well written. It does have a lot of military language. I can't really say that I thought this made much difference to the story, but many people feel it adds authenticity. I can see where some would really like this aspect, while others might find it distracting. There is a list of terms near the front of the book and these were easy enough for me to remember - so it did not prove at all distracting in my case, but sometimes it felt like it might be just a touch overdone - trying to hard to show military expertise.
      That said, the book does feel like it is written by an ex serviceman, and the description of the ex servicemen's club was perfect. This is a book that I feel will appeal more to boys than girls - but I did enjoy it. It has a very military feel to it - a fair amount on operations and very little on interpersonal relationships.

      This does paint MI6 in a very bad light. We'd like to think nothing like this could ever happen in a country like Britain, that no one man could wield so much power - but then we really do not know much at all about the inner workings of shadow organisations - and that is what leaves room for stories like this. It is actually believable - and the story line avoids the ridiculous scenarios of one man fighting off twenty, or unbelievable gadgets or tricks. Of all the young spy novels I have read , this is far and away the most authentic - with the feel of a very realistic if unofficial mission.

      There has been some criticism of this book by reviewers who feel this is significantly different and inferior to McNab's solo work. I have not read any of his previous books,so I really can not judge on this. I did enjoy this enough to order the next book in the series, as well as another book by McNab. I didn't like this as much as I liked Muchamore or Higson's work, but I put that down more to a difference in taste then in quality of writing. I really can not fault this book on plot development, and character development is good as well. Without the first page spoiler, I would have no hesitation giving this a five star rating. As it stands I have wavered quite a bit, but will go ahead and give this five stars with the dire warning - Do not read the first page.

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