In the near future, an incarcerated teen with a reputation for escape attempts is moved to a new, maximum-security facility called the Rig, an oil-drilling platform in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, now converted to use as a prison.
Fifteen-year-old William Drake is a likable, tough-talking narrator who hails from London, the son of an African-American father and a Polish mother. True to hard-boiled type, Drake keeps to himself and resists making friends, even as he makes enemies of the worst baddies by defending weaker kids from them and is won over by the Rig's kindly psychologist, Dr. Lambros. Flavoring the third-person narration with some great one-liners (“She had the voice of a lifelong smoker thrown in a blender”), Ducie takes his time setting the stage for the action-packed second half of the novel, with Drake carefully plotting an escape that involves the skills of his hacker cellmate, Tristan, and the knowledge of Irene, a fellow prisoner who hints at a conspiracy that eventually blows up in their faces. All the elements of a great thriller are here—sinister villains, a stoic hero with a heart of gold, even mutated sharks. If some of these details seem a bit familiar to seasoned action-adventure fans, there is still plenty to keep them engaged, and the open-ended conclusion suggests there may be more to come.
A solid genre outing. (Thriller. 13-18)