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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Point Blanc
(Point Blank)

Anthony Horowitz

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To purchase Point Blank

Title: Point Blanc
Author: Anthony Horowitz
Genre: Novel
Written: 2001
Length: 274 pages
Availability: Point Blank - US
Point Blanc - UK
Point Blanc - Canada
Point Blanc - India
Pointe Blanche - France
Gemini-Project - Deutschland
Point Blanc - España
  • Point Blanc is the second in the Alex Rider series

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Our Assessment:

B- : ultimately too simplistic and hasty

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 28/3/2002 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Wannabe James Bonds will be completely hooked and eager for more. Year fives and above will think it's really cool, but it is smart enough to interest older teenagers too." - The Guardian

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Point Blanc (Point Blank in the US ...) is the second Alex Rider-adventure, picking up very shortly after the first, Stormbreaker. Just returned to school after his first outing as a spy, the fourteen-year-old -- "an ordinary schoolboy in an ordinary West London school" -- almost immediately finds he can't hold himself back when he sees that the Skoda of the local drug dealer is parked yet again outside the schoolgates. He takes matters into his own -- now more spy-skilled -- hands and ... well, he gets the bad guy, but not without making quite the (unbelievable) mess.
       It takes MI6 intervention to get Alex out of this bit of hot water -- but they wanted to avail themselves of his services again in any case. Apparently there's this super-elite school in Switzerland -- the 'Point Blanc' of the (UK) title -- where something funny might be going on. For the second time in a short time the father of one of the students there has died under somewhat suspicious circumstances -- and in this case, right before he was to talk to MI6 about his suspicions.
       The school only has a handful of students, all the slightly wayward fourteen-year-old boys of the super-rich and powerful. MI6 arrange for Alex to become a student -- passing himself off as Alex Friend, son of a wealthy industrialist -- so that he can learn if there is anything questionable going on at the academy.
       First Alex spends a week with the Friends', so that he can play the part. New older 'sister' Fiona -- not in on why Alex is there -- doesn't take to him at all, and when she eventually does allow that he might kiss her, his reply -- "frankly I'd prefer to kiss the horse" -- assures that Alex Rider only goes part-way into James Bond Territory.
       Then it's off to Switzerland, by helicopter -- with a short stop in Paris, where he is briefly drugged and it becomes clear (though not to him) that there is something very nefarious going on. The school is in an extremely isolated area, impossible to reach or leave other than by helicopter. And there are a lot of armed guards there .....
       The students are allowed to do more or less as they please -- though with restrictions such as what they can see on TV, not being allowed to call or e-mail home, and a bedtime. Parts of the building are also off-limits. The head of the institution is a Dr.Grief, who seems to have a fairly laid-back pedagogic philosophy. But, of course, it turns out that Point Blanc isn't primarily about setting wayward boys straight .....
       Alex overhears some talk about a 'Gemini Project', but it takes him a while to discover what that's all about. But when he does, can he escape Grief, helicopter-flying cohort Mrs. Stellenbosch, and all those armed guards ? Will MI6 come in time, like they had promised they would if he sent out a distress call ?
       There's some decent suspense, even as the story spins increasingly wildly about, and Horowitz does offer a few surprises (unlikely though some of these are). And Dr.Grief certainly is a really, really bad guy, with an inspired megalomaniacal plan (unlikely though absolutely every part of that is, too).
       It is all a bit thin, though, escapism that is too airily fantastical -- even for the kids.
       There's also an annoying laziness to the writing, as in the following exchange between Grief and Alex:

     "You should be aware, Alex, that Mrs.Stellenbosch has worked with me now for twenty-six years and that when I met her she had been voted Miss South Africa five years in a row."
     Alex glanced at the hostile face. "A beauty contest ?" he asked.
     "The weight-lifting championships." Dr.Grief glanced at the fireplace. "Show him," he said.
     Mrs. Stellenbosch got up and went over to the fireplace. There was a poker lying in the grate. She took it with both her hands. For a moment she seemed to concentrate. Alex gasped. The solid metal poker, almost two inches thick, was slowly bending.
       Weight-lifting championship's that vote for their winner ? A poker that is "almost two inches thick" ? And much is similarly lazily -- if not quite so jarringly wrongly -- presented -- all unnecessarily so.
       Moving along quickly, with outlandish (but certainly entertaining) plots and twists, Point Blanc is a fast, simple pass-time read. There are a few decent set pieces, but there's little depth to Rider -- Horowitz perhaps leaving him such a blank slate believing that that allows young readers more easily to see themselves in Rider's stead -- and the result is a quickly digested but not particularly satisfying novel.

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 March 2012

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Point Blanc: Reviews: The Alex Rider series: Anthony Horowitz: Other books in the Alex Rider-series by Anthony Horowitz under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Anthony Horowitz was born in 1955.

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© 2012-2021 the complete review

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