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Saturday, October 18, 2008

THE CHAOS CODE By Justin Richards. London: Faber and Faber, 2007

Computers that can create monsters in the real world, using the elements of water, fire, air and earth, ancient jungle ruins, a millionaire and his daughter who are more than they seem, Atlantis! It’s all here for teens who are waiting for their next fix of Anthony Horowitz, and very entertaining it is, too.

Fifteen year old Matt returns from boarding school for the summer to find that his mother, a high-flying computer consultant, is about to head off overseas on a special job and can’t take him along. He will have to go stay with his absent-minded archaeologist father.

When Dad isn’t home and the place has been ransacked, Matt takes a hint from a cryptic note his father had sent via a neighbour and goes to stay with his aunt Jane. Jane is a PA to millionaire Julius Venture, owner of a large estate near the village where Jane and her brother Arnold, Matt’s Dad, had grown up. Matt can’t understand why his aunt has warned him against getting too friendly with Venture’s strong, intelligent daughter Robin. Soon, however, there are other things to worry about. Matt’s father has been abducted because of his knowledge of a historical treasure that’s much, much more important than gold and jewels. Matt, Robin and Venture are off to South America, plunging into an adventure that could mean the end of the world as we know it, if they fail in their quest.

Richards, best known for his Dr Who novels, has become a writer of very good thrillers with a fantasy edge and this one doesn’t disappoint. There are, it’s true, a lot of scenes in which characters stop to discuss their situation and where someone gives a long explanation of the scientific reasons for what’s happening. These don’t really slow up the story too much, but never mistake this for science fiction – it’s fantasy! When Atlantis comes into the picture, it’s always going to be fantasy. I won’t go any further, because I couldn’t, with without giving away a couple of twists I admit I didn’t quite see coming.

The novel reads like a cross between Horowitz and Indiana Jones. Great fun!

Suitable for teens from about thirteen upwards.

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