Review Blog

Sep 20 2008

Bunker 10 by J A Henderson

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Oxford University Press, 2007.
(Age 10 +) Highly Recommended. Seven teenagers have been sent to live on a military base, apparently because of their superior intelligence, although none of them seem to know quite why they are there. All are about to be annihilated in a huge explosion on Christmas Eve - and this story is the countdown to their destruction.

Cheerful stuff! The uncompromising bleakness and violence in Bunker 10 is shocking enough, but hovering above it is the stark suggestion that these are not actually real children, but extremely sophisticated computer programmes.

Simulations are a specialty of this military base and it appears that a team of intelligence experts have been sent into the base to test the ultimate in simulation - computer programmes that can think and act independently and who believe themselves to be real human beings.

There is so much double crossing and ducking and diving that you have to really concentrate while reading Bunker 10, but this outstanding book more than repays the effort. On one level there is enough tactical action to satisfy the most ardent paint-ball fanatic. The speed of action is breathtaking with plenty of shooting and gore. On another level I found the whole story quite unsettling. We know simulations are an important element of the plot and I spent the entire book wondering whether the children were real or not and whether the massive explosion (we are told at the start there are no survivors) would really happen.

J A Henderson is a master. His use of the 'countdown' (each section starts with the time, adding to the sense of urgency) builds the tension until you are racing through, desperate to find out what happens. There are some great touches of humour - I loved the reference to Star Trek. Characterisation of all seven children is engaging - their idiosyncrasies add to both the realism and the humour and while the plot is wildly beyond the realms of reality (I hope!) who cares? This is a fantastic story which should impress the boys. Quick J A Henderson, write another one!
Claire Larson

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