Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

DropZone: Terminal Velocity

DropZone: Terminal Velocity

Andy McNab
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Random House UK, 2011   ISBN: 978-0552563277

Last summer Ethan Blake started working at a skydiving school. Back then he was a seventeen year old boy from a poor family who lacked direction and whose prospects for the future were not good. Thankfully for Ethan, the head of the school, Sam, saw something in the boy and he decided to let Ethan take skydiving lessons.

   Now Ethan is a skilled skydiver who even managed to complete a jump successfully when his primary parachute failed. He is also a part of a team of teenagers who are being trained to participate in clandestine missions that they, and they alone, are best suited to complete. The teens are perfect for such missions because they are highly trained and their youth makes them less noticeable than adult operatives would be. The team, the Raiders, is a top-secret unit that very few people know about, and that the government can therefore disavow should its members get into trouble.

   Sam has decided that Ethan and his four team members need some additional training to give them “a different set of skills” that they are going to need to compliment the skills that they already have as a team. The teens are taken to a remote location where they are put through grueling training exercises. Among other things they learn how to stay strong if they are captured and interrogated.

   The teens have just finished this soul and body breaking exercise when their MI5 handler, Gabe, arrives on the scene. When they see him, Johnny and Ethan know that “play time’s over.” Gabe’s presence means that they soon will be taking part in a mission.

   Gabe tells the team that young homeless teens have been disappearing off the streets, only to be found some time later barely alive or dead because they have been systematically beaten. Photos of the teens show that they have clearly been fed well, and their bodies indicate that they have been training. MI5 has figured out that someone is abducting them for the sole purpose of forcing them to fight to the death in some kind of cage fighting event. Gabe believes a faceless nameless man called “Mr X” is behind the fights. He is a ruthless weapons smuggler who has been on MI5s radar for some time, but they have not been able to “nail the bastard” because he manages to always distance himself from the smugglers. Perhaps if they can find a way into the cage fighting syndicate that Mr. X has created, they can finally get enough on him to put him out of business for good.

   Ethan and his team members know that going after Mr. X is going to be extremely dangerous, but knowing that teens not unlike themselves are dying to please the man’s lust for blood sports makes them determined to do their best to put a stop to the fights. It is decided that Johnny will be the one to go undercover, posing as a street kid. Ethan, Kat, Natalya and Luke will be the ones who will follow Johnny, “effect a covert entry” to the place where he is being kept, gather information about Mr. X’s activities, and then get themselves and Johnny out and to safety. On paper the mission sounds doable, but in reality Ethan and his friends know that what they are going to have to do will be the toughest challenge that they have ever attempted.

   This second DropZone title carries forward the story of Ethan and his friends, further developing the characters. It is fascinating to see how the young people cope with the situations they are presented with, and how they find great strength and courage within themselves. Readers who like thrillers are going to thoroughly enjoy this exciting story.