Ark Angel, by Anthony Horowitz (Alex Rider reread #6)

“…if what you’ve told me is true-“

“It is.” Alex felt a spurt of annoyance. Why should the American doubt, even for a moment, what he said? Was it perhaps because he was only fourteen?

For a long time Ark Angel was my favourite of the Alex Rider books. Because, well, space. It’ll be interesting to see how that holds up, because my ratings so far have been bucking what I would have expected. Time to see how Alex manages to get himself from mandatory bed-rest to outer space in 0.5 seconds.

Note, after reading: It very much held up, oh my god.

Rating: 5 stars!

Alex Rider series so far:

Not that we weren’t in the good stuff before, but now we’re REALLY into the good stuff. Scorpia has finally landed, and we have a big bad that Will Be Back. They attempted to assassinate Alex at the end of Scorpia, unsuccessfully we might assume by the fact that this is book 5 of 12 in Alex’s story… We’ve discovered the truth about John Rider, that he was deep cover with Scorpia and faked his own death only to be assassinated by Scorpia when they discovered the truth. We’ve also started to see a real shift in Alex. He joined a terrorist organisation in the last book, determined to discover the truth, and while he’s been drawn back to ‘the light’ I think it’s pretty clear that he’s been permanently changed by the experience – and by the Malagosto training camp that tried to make him a killer.

The plot:

After an attempt on Alex’s life nearly killed him, he’s supposed to be recuperating in hospital. Quietly. But as per usual, trouble is on its way to find Alex, and quiet isn’t in his future. A fellow patient at the hospital would have been kidnapped if not for Alex’s intervention, and he finds out afterwards that it was no ordinary patient he saved. His father is Nikolai Drevin, an eccentric billionaire. The would-be kidnappers are part of Force Three, a group of eco-terrorists who claim that his Ark Angel project – the first ever luxury hotel in space – is a danger to the environment. Force Three will do anything to destroy Ark Angel, even if millions die in the process. Alex has to take to untold heights to stop them.

What did I think?

We’re disappointed but not surprised that we’re still on the ‘evil people have something physically wrong with them’ train. I’m not going to spend ages talking about this, because if you’ve read all the reviews so far you’ll be sick of me complaining about this – but disfigurement/unconventional appearances doesn’t make people ‘a freak’ or ‘hideous’ and saying that just makes you a dick 🙃 This one wasn’t as bad as other entries in the series, but I’m already partway through the next book at time of writing this and I know it’s not getting better. Sigh.

I do love the chronic pain rep in this. I’d forgotten all about it, but I like the fact that Alex being shot in the chest in the previous entry isn’t just healed up and forgotten about. He doesn’t have plot armour, he was seriously injured and it explicitly talks about the fact that Alex will have chronic pain for the rest of his life. A lot of books will injure characters seriously, then totally gloss over any long term implications of that. Ark Angel is only in the first stages of his recovery, but I’m hoping that this won’t be forgotten in later entries in the series because it’s nice to see some respectful, sensible chronic pain rep and realistic healing processes. I hope we see some realistic chronic pain management and rep in later books, because it’s not something that’s shown a lot in younger audience books. I really get the impression from these books that Anthony Horowitz puts a lot of research into this series, and in my editions of the books there’s an afterword in each discussing different aspects (i.e. locations, weapons, gadgets) and I find them really interesting to read. I’d love to get a look at his writing research notes.

The threat in this series is really pervasive. I love seeing Alex in a situation that’s supposed to be safe when we know that he’s absolutely not safe at all. It made an interesting change to our usual dynamic where Alex is on edge and prepared for disaster. I was stressed, waiting for Alex to catch a goddamn clue. There’s a scene in a shipwreck that is so damn unnerving that I think it might have made my fear of the ocean worse just by reading it. I love thriller writing that can have that effect on me, I want to feel scared even though I know it’s going to end up okay. The main antagonist of Ark Angel is one of my favourite ‘Rider villains’. He really creeps up on you, and it’s brilliant writing that makes the cracks start to show and the reader start to feel like something is not right before we actually know what’s going on.

The space aspect of this book? God, it’s just fucking nonsense and I love it. The CIA and NASA sending a fourteen year old boy up into space in a ship built to carry a chimpanzee because he’s their last chance at saving the world and they definitely couldn’t find a grown, trained adult with a small frame? Perfect, I love it. The space aspect gave us a gory anti-gravity scene that was literally so gross I cringed, and it generally made the book’s ‘evil plot’ unexpected and fascinating. I really loved the way that the plan developed into something completely off-the-wall and it was nice to see something very different after having a few nuclear threat focused stories in a row, and Force Three were fun to read about after again having a few homogeneous terrorist organisations. They also had a few very valid points about the environment and sustainability so it’s a shame they ended up being supremely evil.

Alex quote of the book:

“Was it fate? Was it destiny?”
“I think it was Alan Blunt.”

My ranking so far:


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