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*Alex Unlimited Volume 1: The Vosarak Code* by Dan Jolley- young adult dark fantasy book review


Alex Unlimited Volume 1: The Vosarak Code
by Dan Jolley
Grades 9+ 218 pages TokyoPop May 2007 Paperback    

Meet Alexandra Benno, or Alex, as she’s more commonly known. She’s your typical teenage girl, with one difference: she can summon duplicates of herself from parallel dimensions. These duplicates are referred to in Alex Unlimited: The Vosarak Code, the first book in a new series by Dan Jolley for TokyoPop, Inc., as “Alex Primes.” They are always idealized versions of herself - smart, fast, tough, and beautiful - but they make Alex, who is employed at the covert CIA-like government agency the BGO (Bureau of General Operations), always feel as if she never gets any credit for what her duplicates do, that she’s always in the shadows: “Always the sidekick, never the hero.”

TokyoPop is usually thought of as publishing manga-related books. In a way, this book is manga-like, but without the pretty pictures. I was reminded by the dialogue and storyline of Disney’s Kim Possible series. Kim is kind of an American manga heroine, but Alex as a heroine is a more complete character than Kim Possible. She has been raised from childhood by the BGO, given up by her mother and father for the good of the country, supposedly, when they realized that her strange powers could potentially save the world. Having been raised as if she’s an orphan, with her only friends being other children at the BGO (with, presumably, other types of powers - we’re not told in this first book just what those powers might be), she has missed the affection of loving parents and developed low self-esteem.

Now she’s eighteen, and the start of The Vosarak Code has her finally living on her own but still under the protective embrace of the BGO. They’ve arranged for her to live in a condo at Ash Tree Condominiums and even provided her with a talking parrot named Worsel, who utters phrases such as “Alex! Best friends! Alex!” What else could a young woman want?

In this promising start to the Alex Unlimited series, Alex wants to assert her independence and autonomy even more, to not sit in the back of a van guarded by humorless suit-wearing government agents anymore, as she has been forced to do in the past while whichever Alex Prime she calls up kicks all of the butt and takes all of the glory. After relating her feelings about the backseat role she’s previously had to the head of the BGO, B.C., she is surprised when he agrees to let her and the latest Alex Prime, who is an expert at languages and goes by her middle name of Rachel (all of the Primes go by their middle names) go on a mission on their own, without chaperones.

The mission looks like it will be a relatively safe one. Alex and Rachel will travel to Paris, and Sec (the woman who is second in command at BGO) tells them Rachel’s language skills will come in handy to help decipher a ancient language known as Vosarak on a sword discovered in a Chinese temple. It’s akin to the Rosetta Stone, since it has words in Aramaic on it, also. The sword has been stolen, though, and Sec tells the duo, “We need you to talk to people and help us find the sword, so we can either get it back or get a detailed analysis of it.”

Why is the Vosarak Sword so important? BGO’s computer security division, Sec relates to Alex and Rachel, “became aware of a new virus trying to propagate through the Internet.” It seems to be, she says to them, “little more than a test run. But the disturbing factor here is that one line of the computer code contained a word in Vosarak.” This particular virus, designed to “hack secure financial records,” if left unchecked “could ultimately compromise every major financial institution on the planet.”

What could be easier, right? Maybe it would be easy, if an enemy agency called SKAR (the Sacred Knights of Altered Reality) weren’t also after the sword. What’s worse is that the head of SKAR, Baron Giacomo Morbidini (the Gray Baron), has noticed something similar about photos taken during past schemes of SKAR that have failed. He tells the other two leaders of SKAR, Sabre Cromwell and Sonnet Ivandrova:
“You are seeing the one person who has been observed in all five places at all five times. Dresden. Monaco. Warsaw. Johannesburg. And now Rio de Janiero. We do not know her name yet. But I have decided that, whatever her identity, the young lady needs to be sanctioned.”
If you’re a fan of manga, Kim Possible, and the spy genre in general, you’re sure to like Alex Unlimited: The Vosarak Code. Will the duo locate the Vosarka Sword, defeat SKAR’s plans yet again, and save the world? It seems impossible, especially when words in the Vosarak language have what seems to be almost magical powers over those who hear them and can turn people into brainless, unquestioning zombies under the control of whomever has a mastery of the language. Dan Jolley has written a fun read, and it’s a great start to the Alex Unlimited series. It looks like it’ll be a winner in TokyoPop’s lineup.

Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Douglas R. Cobb/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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