Monday, June 11, 2007

Fight Game

Fight Game, by Kate Wild
$13.25 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 0439871751
What an unexpected treat this book turned out to be! It looked like a rip-off of Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, and honestly there is some similarity. The author used the same setting but somehow created a novel that is quite original and entertaining.
Freedom "Fred" Smith is our story's sixteen-year-old hero. He's a Gypsy living with his family in England, taking care of himself as much as possible when he gets in trouble with the police after he's involved in a fight with a street thug.
Fred has some experience as a boxer, and as it happens the police need some help infiltrating an underground gambling ring in which the rich and powerful gather to bet on boxing matches. Preferring the spy game to jail, Fred accepts the police's offer.
The story gets a lot deeper than that, though. The illegal club is host to a lot more than just gambling. Headed by the sinister Darkus Night, he and his followers kidnap boys off the street, brainwash them, and load their bodies up with steroids to make them strong and vicious, and microchips to monitor their behavior and control them. In time, Night is hoping to build a super-charged boy army. In the mean time, he perfects his formula by keeping the young men in cages and forcing them to constantly fight one another.
The police mean well, but their hopeless incompetence and corruption cause difficulties for Fred at every turn. Additionally, there are gangs of racist skinheads after him because of his Gypsy origins. Before long, Fred begins to suspect that Night has agents working on the police force: he even sees a prominent judge attending the club's boxing matches.
This is a fast-paced techno-thriller that works on a number of different levels. The bad-boy anti-hero gives the story some amazing street-cred, and his Gypsy family is a rather fascinating, softer side to his life so he's not a one-dimensional caricature. There's a lot about boxing in here, plenty of nerve-wracking fights where Fred is pitted against three guys twice his size. The nanotechnology brainwashing scheme is imaginative, and there's a terrific villain's lair built in subterranean tunnels under an abandoned chemical plant. Not the sort of place you'd want to be caught as a spy, and Wild describes the tension in dazzling, vivid detail.
So if you're looking for an adventure story with brutal violence and lots of subterfuge, this is a great choice. Brooding, strong-silent teen heroes are always a favorite as well.

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