Sunday 17 April 2011

Sunday Supplement: Review of HIVE by Mark Walden

Otto Malpense is one of the newest students at the Higher Institute of Villainous Education, better known as HIVE. So is his new friend Wing. As you’d expect, neither of them are keen to stay there – although this is less to do with moral scruples than with the thought of wasting six years studying how to be evil when they consider they’re rather good at it already, thank you very much. A plot to escape is hatched…

HIVE is one of those series I’ve seen in bookshops a lot but never got round to reading before. Having picked this first novel up from the library, I found it fairly enjoyable – I’m not racing to order the follow-up, but it’s readable enough. The good points – Walden writes action scenes and dialogue well, the finale is genuinely exciting, and the book rattles along at a decent pace as the children are exposed to a variety of classes such as Tactical Education, Stealth and Evasion and Biotechnology. I also thought the development of the friendship between Otto and Wing worked well. There’s also a number of laugh out loud lines, my personal favourite being ‘’Friends, as they say, may come and go, but high powered laser-beam weapons were forever.’’

On the less appealing side, the majority of characters are on the two-dimensional side, worst offenders being the two girls Otto and Wing grow friendly with, Laura and Shelby, while the explanation for the school’s existence never seemed particularly convincing – it’s been founded because even supervillains don’t want complete chaos, apparently. The book’s probably one that will appeal to younger readers who are less worried about well-rounded people and just want a decent action adventure. The fact that you get to cheer for ‘villains’ may well be an added pleasure! For what it is, well worth a try and the teaser at the end as to someone's true motivations means that if I see book 2 in the library I’ll probably give that one a go.

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