“The thing is, Alex, you’re never really in control, whatever you may think. Just keep paddling and never fight the current because the current will always win.”
I actually enjoyed this way more than I remember enjoying it the last time I read it and now I’m hyped for Crocodile Tears. Snakehead is real chonky compared to the rest of the series, though they have been getting progressively longer, and Crocodile Tears and Scorpia Rising look equally chonkers. If Snakehead is any judge, that’s going to be a real good thing, because it felt like this one was so much better for that extra 150 pages.
Rating: 5 stars!
Alex Rider series so far:
At the end of Ark Angel, we see Alex quite literally going above and beyond as he’s fired into space by the CIA to deactivate a bomb set to launch a multi-billion dollar space hotel into the Pentagon. If you think that sentence was wild, the book was wilder. After bringing nothing but his wits to a space knife fight, a gruesome as hell accident left Alex free to shove a torpedo into a space toilet and fire himself back into the atmosphere for a crash landing off the coast of Australia, where we start Snakehead. No wonder Ark Angel has always been my favourite – it’s a wacky fucking adventure.
Trouble is still hunting Alex, and he’s barely set foot on the coast of Australia before he’s being sucked into another so-called adventure. This time, ASIS (the Australian Secret Service) want his help, and his target is the criminal underworld of South-East Asia, the dangerous and ruthless world of the Snakehead as he tries to find out how exactly they’re smuggling people across the Australian border.
What did I think?
Snakehead was really good. Like, really good and not just chaotic nonsense kind of good like Ark Angel was. The more I talk about it the more I think I should bump my rating up to 5 stars. (I got this far before scooting it up to 5 stars and I have no regrets.) As far as I’m aware, Snakehead took a little longer to write than the others, or at least longer to release, and it’s longer than previous entries in the series. I think that made a huge difference, honestly. The mission was more complex and in depth, and it felt like I could really get my teeth into it. There was more going on, and the story developed gradually rather than hurrying into the climax.
Snakehead takes its name from the gangs that traffic information, supplies, contraband, organs and people across borders. They work with Scorpia and are involved with the same bad people and the same bad things as Scorpia have been. It feels like the Alex Rider series grew up in this book. The early parts of the series are fun and wacky, and they do seem childish. While there was threat there, Alex’s missions were all still about him being a child. In Snakehead, he’s not a child any more. Even though he’s still a fifteen year old kid still, the Australian Secret Service are treating him like an adult, and Snakehead sure as hell don’t care that he’s a kid. It was an intense book, and I was on the edge of my seat. If I didn’t know there were more parts of the series, I would have genuinely thought that Alex was going to die at several different points.
Alex, for a teenage protagonist, is really mature. His wise-cracks are a part of his personality, but even they are toned down in this book and we get to see him thinking before he speaks – and thinking before he antagonises Winston Yu. He still shows a little child-like naivety and a weakness for authority figures when his family are name dropped, but I appreciate that in him. If he didn’t have those child-like flaws, Alex would be an adult protagonist (and not a well developed one either) in a child’s body, and that wouldn’t be half as interesting. Alex should absolutely have trust issues. He should have trust issues for days. Literally nobody in his life is trustworthy (I’ll give Jack 90% but I still haven’t forgiven her for implying that if Alex is too difficult she won’t look after him any more) and yet still… he believes in the good in people? I’ve been through like 0.5% of the trauma in my whole life that Alex has been through in the last six months and I don’t trust people like he does. I spent half of this book screaming at Alex to use some common sense because certain people were being ridiculously shady. I wish Alex wouldn’t throw his lot in with everyone who might know something about his parents. Sing an Elsa style self-discovery song and stop trusting dangerous people! Please!
We actually made it all the way to chapter 9 before we got our disfigured = evil comparison, and it was so brief that I’m actually optimistic we might be done with that part of our lives? Our big bad guy was chronically ill, but so were some good guy characters and the way that the chronic pain was represented was well-done so I’m actually, for once, going to let it go. Here’s hoping we get zero disfigured/disabled ‘~evil~’ characters in Crocodile Tears and I can stop yelling about it. The refugee sub-plot was handled well too, and I really felt for the people Alex encountered as he followed the smuggler’s route to Australia.
I also immediately noted when Alex got a matching scar to Yassen in one scene. I could write an entire thesis on the parallels between Yassen Gregorovich and Alex Rider, red-string conspiracy theory and all.
My Alex quote of the book:
“I didn’t set fire to the building.”
“No, but you did pull it into the river.”
“That put the fire out!”
My ranking so far:
Add it on Goodreads here!
Buy at Waterstones or Amazon (not affiliated) and if you can, please support your local indie booksellers!