Countdown to Danger: Shockwave by Jack Heath

30:00

A dark shape wobbles beneath the water, getting closer to the beach. You’re ninety-nine percent sure it’s just seaweed drifting on the currents – but what if it isn’t?

What if it’s one of those big saltwater crocodiles Harrison warned you about?

You look up and down the beach. There are crushed shells, dead jellyfish and a shapeless mountain which might once have been an epic sandcastle – but no people.

No one to ask for advice. Nobody who will call for help if something happens to you. You didn’t even tell anyone you were going surfing, which now seems like a mistake.

30:00

A dark shape wobbles beneath the water, getting closer to the beach. You’re ninety-nine percent sure it’s just seaweed drifting on the currents – but what if it isn’t?

What if it’s one of those big saltwater crocodiles Harrison warned you about?

You look up and down the beach. There are crushed shells, dead jellyfish and a shapeless mountain which might once have been an epic sandcastle – but no people.

No one to ask for advice. Nobody who will call for help if something happens to you. You didn’t even tell anyone you were going surfing, which now seems like a mistake.

The clock is ticking. In the 30 minutes from the time you notice the shape in the water life as you know is over. You are on your own. Your decisions will be life and death ones, and not just for you. Get it wrong and at the very least, you die. Get it right, you may save lives, save livelihoods, be a hero. But this is no game. This is deadly serious. There are multiple possible endings – which will you choose?

Jack Heath is known for action-packed stories and this series of Choose Your Own Ending stories is no exception. Who know there were so many ways to die? Or live? Full of extreme options, every horrible ending man-made and ‘natural’ element seems to have you in the crosshairs. The stories are told in second person and present tense and the pace is fierce. Recommended for mid-primary readers looking for some choice in how the story ends. Will also appeal to older fans of wild adventures.

Countdown to Danger: Shockwave, Jack Heath
Scholastic 2016
ISBN: 9781760159634

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

400 Minutes of Danger by Jack Heath

The lump of ice slipped from beneath Nika’s fingers, and suddenly she was falling.

The climbing rope wouldn’t save her. The nearest anchor point was too far below. She would fall until the rope went taut, and then she would slam sideways into the wall of ice. Even if she survived the impact, she wouldn’t be able to clamber back down with broken arms and legs

She flung out a desperate hand –

And caught a narrow crack in the glacier.

The lump of ice slipped from beneath Nika’s fingers, and suddenly she was falling.

The climbing rope wouldn’t save her. The nearest anchor point was too far below. She would fall until the rope went taut, and then she would slam sideways into the wall of ice. Even if she survived the impact, she wouldn’t be able to clamber back down with broken arms and legs

She flung out a desperate hand –

And caught a narrow crack in the glacier.

‘400 Minutes of Danger’ is a collection of ten short stories, each taking approximately 40 minutes to read. There are countdown markers along the side of each page, so it’s clear just how much – how little – time there is before disaster strikes. In some stories, eg ‘Mosquito’, the main character is on a mission, but in others, eg ‘Kill All Humans’, the hero is unexpectedly called to counter danger, either alone or with the assistance of another character. All stories, whether set in contemporary or fantastic worlds, are full of action.

Adults don’t fare well in these stories. The protagonists are all teenagers – a range of ages – and they are much smarter, faster, better people. Baddies are truly bad, and technology is not always helpful. These short stories will be great for readers who like their action fierce and pacey. The time markers on the page help the reader keep track of the remaining time and help monitor the tension. There’s a good balance between male and female protagonists, working alone and working together. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers, and secondary readers looking for a quick and accessible read. Young writers might also look at the time markers to see how pacing is used to progress the plot.

400 Minutes of Danger, Jack Heath
Scholastic 2016
ISBN: 9781760158798

Review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Scream: The Squid Slayer by Jack Heath

‘I really don’t think we’re supposed to be here,’ Yvette said.

Sarah sighed. When had her best friend become so obsessed with rules? Didn’t she know how to have fun?

‘Relax,’ she said. ‘if we get caught, I can talk our way out of it. “Oh, I’m so sorry, we got totally lost. We’re just kids, we don’t know our way around.”’

‘I’m not so worried about getting caught. No-one ever comes down here,’ Yvette said. ‘I’m more concerned about that.’

‘I really don’t think we’re supposed to be here,’ Yvette said.

Sarah sighed. When had her best friend become so obsessed with rules? Didn’t she know how to have fun?

‘Relax,’ she said. ‘if we get caught, I can talk our way out of it. “Oh, I’m so sorry, we got totally lost. We’re just kids, we don’t know our way around.”’

‘I’m not so worried about getting caught. No-one ever comes down here,’ Yvette said. ‘I’m more concerned about that.’

Sarah and her friend, Yvette live in a coastal town. Water-loving Sarah lives on a houseboat with her mother. Yvette lives in town. Yvette is a mostly-willing companion/accomplice in Sarah’s sometimes wild schemes. Sarah loves ghosts and is determined to prove their existence. Where better to find one than deep inside a cave system? They have only just begun their search when a ocean monster on the beach pulls them and almost everyone in town to the water’s edge. It’s an impossible thing, and Sarah wonders where it came from? Later, she finds far more than she expects as she starts to explore an old sunken ship. Her discoveries leave her with many, many more questions. The cover features an evil-looking squid and the tentacles of many more. The back cover warns ‘read at your own risk’. Pages are surrounded by dark borders adding to the claustrophobia.

The Squid Slayer is mystery, fantasy and horror combined, pitched at newly-independent readers, one of four titles in the new Scream series from Scholastic. Sarah is an outsider, at least partly because of her reputation for tall tales and her belief in ghosts. Yvette is a mostly-willing assistant, trying to keep her friend safe. The Squid Slayer is not for the faint-hearted. Hold on to your wetsuit, and ready your fins for an ocean-based thriller. Recommended for independent readers who like a frisson of danger in their fiction.

Scream: The Squid Slayer , Jack Heath
Scholastic 2016
ISBN: 9781760152116

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Countdown to Danger: Bullet Train Disaster by Jack Heath

It doesn’t look like any train you’ve ever seen.

It has the usual parts – sliding doors, plastic windows, massive grinding wheels – but it’s facing up. The mountain is so steep that the rails are almost vertical. How is that supposed to work? It’s only one carriage long, but still. Can trains even go uphill?

Despite the strangeness, it seems familiar. As if you have taken a ride on it before. Unsettled, you glance at your watch. Wasn’t the train supposed to depart an hour ago?

It doesn’t look like any train you’ve ever seen.

It has the usual parts – sliding doors, plastic windows, massive grinding wheels – but it’s facing up. The mountain is so steep that the rails are almost vertical. How is that supposed to work? It’s only one carriage long, but still. Can trains even go uphill?

Despite the strangeness, it seems familiar. As if you have taken a ride on it before. Unsettled, you glance at your watch. Wasn’t the train supposed to depart an hour ago?

‘Countdown to Danger: Bullet Train Disaster ’ happens over the space of 30 minutes. A 30 minutes that stretches and contracts depending on the actions of the viewpoint ‘You’. ‘You’ are taking a ride on a prototype almost vertical bullet train in an unnamed but obviously mountainous location. Your friend Pigeon is there, and as the train takes off, a boy named Taylor comes hurtling down the central aisle, headed for injury or death. Like a puzzle, your decisions may lead to survival, but other paths may lead you to very different (and less pleasant) outcomes. In total there are 30 paths that you can take.

‘Countdown to Danger: Bullet Train Disaster ’ is the first title in a new series from Jack Heath and Scholastic. It is told in the second person so that even the gender of the main character is not fixed. Readers can choose to follow different paths – and predict which way to proceed. Instructions at the end of each chapter direct the reader, or offer them options. With thirty paths – only ten of them leading to survival – and a digital clock countdown as chapter heading, the pace accelerates, no matter which option you follow. The chapters also become shorter as time ticks away. Great for critical thinking, also ideal for reluctant readers and those wanting to control their progress through a story. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Countdown to Danger: Bullet Train Disaster , Jack Heath
Scholastic 2016
ISBN: 9781760159627

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Scream, by Jack Heath

Scream: The Human Flytrap‘Get them out, get them out -‘
Josh pulled the old woman’s hands off his shoulders. Her skin felt like wet tissue paper.
‘Mum!’ he yelled.
‘What happened to him will happen to you!’ the woman screeched. ‘Go away! Go away!’
She froze, staring over Josh’s shoulder. Josh looked, but saw nothing other than the trees swaying in the breeze.

Strange things are always happening in Axe Falls, but when Josh and his family move into an old, run-down house, they get really creepy. Josh is sure something terrible has happened in the house, and the old lady from next door keeps telling him he must leave, but his family don’t seem to be worried. At school, his best friend’s science experiment comes to life, and Josh starts to wonder if the two things are connected – and whether he will live long enough to find out.

Scream is a new high-action horror series from Australian author Jack Heath. The Human Flytrap introduces Josh and his friends as they deal with human flytraps, while the second instalment, The Spider Army , features an invasion of deadly blue-backspiders.

Each book stands alone, and has plenty of twists and turns to keep readers of all abilities hooked. Spooky covers and page embellishments add to the eerie feel, and The Human Flytrap has a sound chip so that the book screams when opened, which will amuse young readers.

The Human Flytrap , ISBN 9781760152086
The Spider Army , ISBN 9781760152093
Both by Jack Heath
Scholastic Australia, 2015

 

Third Transmission, by Jack Heath

Agent Six of Hearts braced his hands against the hot walls of his steel coffin. The rubber pillow under his head barely lessened the shuddering against his skull as his tiny vessel blasted through the ocean. The web of safety straps around his torso hummed like high-voltage power cables.
He checked the flickering screen above his head. Altitude: 28 metres below sea level. Speed: 150 kilometres per hour. Distance from target: 5.9 kilometres. A little over two minutes to go, he calculated.

Six is back in his fourth adventure and the stakes are the highest yet. The action begins with Six being propelled in a modified torpedo through the ocean towards a large battleship. His mission is to prevent ChaoSonic releasing their latest weapon, a deadly virus designed to wipe out resistance in the South Side of the City. Despite the challenges, this is a relatively routine mission, he thinks. But nothing can prepare Six for the challenges he will encounter, the first of them within minutes of boarding the battleship. Each skirmish he faces adds to his mystery and confusion. Nothing is as he expects. Who is calling the shots? There are several contenders: a villain he’s battled before; the man responsible for his existence: and a scientist and her invention. His people are threatened, danger is everywhere, and time is short.

Third Transmission is an adventure in time and place. Set in a future world there is enough familiar to ground the reader but enough technology to make almost anything possible, it’s a wild ride. The City is controlled (mostly) by ChaoSonic and the sea is held back by a Sea Wall. Current environmental predictions have proved true and rising seas, pollution and acid rain are all part of Six’s world. Heath embraces scientific technology fact and theory and uses his hero’s speculations and discoveries to allow the reader access to the wildest of possibilities. Six is chronologically an adolescent but mostly he performs as a highly trained operative. In this instalment of Six’s adventures, Heath has allowed his character to show some emotional development appropriate to his age. Recommended for futuristic adventure lovers 13+.

Third Transmission (Six of Hearts)

Third Transmission, Jack Heath
Pan Macmillan
ISBN: 9780330425100

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
www.clairesaxby.com

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Third Transmission, by Jack Heath

Six of Hearts is sealed inside a torpedo, blasting his way towards a warship at 150 kilometres an hour.

This book is the third and final story in the Six of Hearts series. It starts with Six trying to steal canisters containing a weaponised strain of the SARS virus, and ends before this event. He has to achieve a series of increasingly challenging tasks, and he continues to achieve, with dozens of stunts, assignments, and life-threatening tasks for the Deck throughout. Once the story begins to take off, we discover a time machine, a spy within the Deck, and Six and Kyntak’s assassin sister.

Third Transmission is an exciting, post-apocalypse adventure, the third in this series. A great read for all readers of the first two books. Lots of excitement and gripping tales await the reader of this book.

A great end to the Six of Hearts series.

Third Transmission (Six of Hearts)

Third Transmission (Six of Hearts), by Jack Heath
Pan Macmillan Australia, 2009

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Lab, by Jack Heath

His stomach clenched. Blood pumped. Gravity kept pulling at him, and he kept accelerating. The wind tore at his hair and beat at his unprotected face, making him squint. Drops of water crawled upwards across his body, as though trying to escape the impact. His heart vibrated crazily, and the adrenalin flowed freely at the thrill of speed…He bent his legs slightly and braced himself for the impact, clenching his teeth.

As the strongest and most invincible agent in the Deck, a team of special agents fighting to uphold justice and values, Six of Hearts is used to getting into scrapes. Battling against ChaoSonic, the company that controls the city, the Deck sends Six on numerous dangerous missions to uncover and remedy injustice.

But Six has a secret. He is the product of illegal genetic experiments conducted by the Lab – a division of ChaoSonic. The agency he is fighting is the same one that created him. If the other members of the Deck find out, he could be expelled, or worse. Then, as he investigates the Lab’s current activities, Six meets a boy with identical DNA. Is Kyntak someone he can trust? Six must face his most dangerous mission yet.

The Lab is a thrilling young adult novel set in a chilling future of chaos and greed in a world almost destroyed by pollution and war. With a chilling, almost clinical telling, reminiscent of Matthew Reilly’s thrillers, it is aimed squarely at young male readers, in the high school age group, and is sure to appeal to such readers.

The Lab, by Jack Heath