Review Blog

Oct 15 2008

The General by Robert Muchamore

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Hodder Headline, 2008
(Age 12+) The Cherub agents are sent to Las Vegas to engage in a sophisticated war-game at Fort Reagan, a huge military base. American and British troops are patrolling 'Reaganistan' to support the newly elected democratic government and rout out terrorism. Hmmm - sound familiar? The several thousand 'inhabitants' are mainly students being paid $80 a week to take part. About ten percent are paid extra to act as insurgents and stir up trouble for the troops. The Cherub team, under the direction of American hating Kazakov immediately side with the insurgents and generate spectacular problems by destroying several million pounds worth of surveillance equipment and causing a mass break out of violent diarrhoea among the troops. Kazakov and the Cherubs eventually bring the war-game to a complete standstill and American General Shirley is left red faced while muttering about unfair play.

This part of the story will certainly appeal to anyone interested in the military and is right up to date as it deals with the faceless enemies and urban environments encountered by the modern army.

However, as in the previous Cherub adventure, The Sleepwalker, Muchamore presents his readers with a sequence of completely unrelated stories. The General opens with James, sporting a green Mohican, on a mission to infiltrate an anarchist organisation. This is interspersed with another plot where some of the younger Cherub agents break into a state of the art Air Traffic Control centre and completely trash it to demonstrate the ineptitude of the cartoon style security guards. These stories fill the first 130 pages, but end abruptly and are not referred to again until the epilogue, some two hundred pages later.

I can't help feeling that Muchamore is growing lazy. There is no effort to intertwine the plots. Subtlety is absent and none of the characters are given an opportunity to reflect; one plot finishes and the next begins in a welter of action and violence. For example, James, after being severely beaten by the police in the first storyline, does not appear to remember such dramatic events when captured by angry soldiers later on in the book. A crashingly obvious flashback would have been preferable to the complete hiatus we are presented with.

Sensitive characterisation, subtle plots, hints and build-ups are not Muchamore's forte. Forget sophistication, lets hit 'em with a sledgehammer. Muchamore is churning them out and I'm not convinced the formula is working anymore. This is a book that was written in a hurry and which lets his readers down.
Claire Larson

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