Traitor: Boy Soldier #1

Boy Soldier

Author: Andy McNab and Robert Rigby

Note: Andy McNab uses a number of British words and slang in his writing, so here’s a brief glossary to help clear up any possible confusion you may have.

Publication: Corgi Books, 2005

Pages: 329

Overall Rating: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]                       

Rating for Action: bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary:  Danny Watts wants to join the British army more than anything.  But when he attends tryouts for officer training, he’s turned down because of his connection to his grandfather, Fergus Watts – a former member of the SAS and a traitor.  The government tells Danny that his only chance of getting what he wants is to help them find Fergus.  With the help of his friend Elena, Danny finally manages to track down his grandfather, only to discover that not everything is as it seems.  Before he knows what’s happened, Danny and his grandfather are on the run, pursued by a squad of highly trained government agents who will stop at nothing to kill them.

Age of Main Character: 17

What I Liked the Most: Andy McNab was a highly decorated soldier in the SAS, the British equivalent of special forces, and his book is filled with realistic details from his days as a soldier.  Everything from hand-to-hand combat to avoiding surveillance, staking out a house, and breaking into a secure facility is done with a high degree of realism.  He even uses a lot of real SAS terminology and provides a glossary to help you figure out what he’s talking about.  This does two things.  First, it’s kind of cool to read a story that’s packed with details that come straight from the SAS.  Second, it makes Danny’s experience feel a lot more realistic as he’s suddenly thrust into a world full of unfamiliar rules and jargon.

Because of all this, the surveillance scenes in particular are really well done.  There are a number of instances in which McNab is writing from the perspective of the surveillance team sent out to track Danny and Fergus.   Reading those scenes was like being thrust into the middle of a professional surveillance operation.  Very cool.

What I Liked the Least: There’s a story line where Danny’s friend Elena has to hack into the MI6 – Secret Intelligence Service – email server.  The problem is, while Elena is quite good with computers she’s no hacker, and while McNab tries to come up with a reasonably plausible explanation for how she does it, I didn’t for one second believe she could have pulled it off without getting traced and caught.  Fergus is clearly an expert and teaches Danny enough for his exploits to feel realistic.  But what Elena accomplishes felt forced.

How Good was the Action?  Top notch.  As I said, McNab was a former SAS soldier and he brings that knowledge into his writing.  There are far more scenes involving surveillance and evasion than outright action and fight sequences, but that fits very well into Fergus’ philosophy – which is to use violence only as a last resort, but to be fast and merciless when the time comes.  To that end, the fight scenes are quick but intense.

How Engaging was the Story?   This is the kind of story you mainly read for the highly realistic action sequences and cool scenes involving surveillance, break-ins, and all manner of spy craft.  McNab does do a decent job with character development.  He establishes a good relationship between Danny and Fergus and creates a couple of interesting side characters with their own stories to help move things along.  But that’s not why you read this book.  You read it for the action.

Profanity: Yes.  There’s a fair bit of it.

Sex: No.  There’s a bit of mild suggestion in one or two places, but little more.

Violence: There is violence, but it never feels over the top and while a few people do die there’s little or no actual blood spilled in the course of the story.

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