Sure Fire by Jack Higgins with Justin Richards

October 27, 2009
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It’s a rare day when a perfect combination of universal appeal, an intricate but exciting plot full of change and liveliness, and characters that exude both humor and a perfect persona for an action / adventure novel is found! Sure Fire is a well-written novel that has the typical action of a spy novel but with an unusual twist – children and adults are working together to uncover a huge terrorist operation coming from the Krejikistan Oil Subsidiaries (KOS), headed by Viktor Vishinsky. Higgins’ novel begins with an already surprising development in the plot. Two twin children, Jade and Rich, who recently lost their mother, find out that they have a father named John Chance. The pair of children later figures out that Chance is an agent that is working to stop a plan involving a sample of fuel that Chance steals. Chance is later kidnapped and sent to Krejikistan, the place where the evil scheme is being concocted, and is questioned to find this fuel sample of seemingly unimaginable importance. Vishinsky’s spies then put the kids in danger. Friends of Chance come to help the twin siblings reunite with their father and stop Vishinsky’s plan. Along the way, numerous explosions, chases, and shootouts occur, leaving the reader with wonder if survival is possible for the two teenagers. The twins need to, in order to save the world and father, “Grow up fast – or else”! Throughout this action-packed plot, the author uses universal appeal to help the reader.

Universal appeal is common in Sure Fire. Higgins loves to use the thought of Dualism, otherwise known as the battle of good against evil. It is clear that this is happens throughout the entire novel. In many scenes, such as when a shootout between a KOS agent and a spy on Chance’s side erupts, there is a distinct line between good and evil. The KOS agent is evil for assisting in a terrorist plot and the Civil Service side (Chance’s side) is good for trying to keep the world safe from the terrorist plot. This idea of Dualism is common in many stories around the world. Higgins also uses the thought of survival and self-preservation in Sure Fire. For example, the text states, “A bullet ripped into the wall of the hall as Rich and Jade ran for the front door…Rich and Jade pushed through [the door], and Rich felt the sharp wood catch on his trousers. He didn’t slow down (75)”. Staying out of harms way is a perfect example of how a person will try to stay alive. This then helps the reader understand how the characters felt, because it offers easy insight into how humans would react in the same situation. Another part of human life is how people react to problems and deal with them. In general, there are two approaches: optimism or pessimism. In Sure Fire, Higgins accentuates how optimism is better. “Alone in a cell in the middle of Krejikistan, Chance was taking courage from the fact that his children were safely in London, thousands of miles away (169),” stated in the text, reveals that adding comfort by thinking positively helps people. This adds depth and the human element to the novel, which, in turn, creates a more exhilarating plot and a substantial relation to human nature. Not only did universal appeal help create a better reading experience by exposing human nature, but plot development helped make the book a more fascinating read!

Although the novel was extremely fast in plot development, it fit the genre of action / adventure cohesively. In fact, in the very first chapter of Sure Fire, Rich and Jade are revealed to their father. Instead of this fast-paced plot development hindering the book, it did the opposite affect, creating a more intense, captivating story line. For example, Jade, just after escaping the clutches of a plethora of KOS agents, had “…a hand clamped over her mouth, pulling her backward into the darkness of the cargo hold (176)”. This sudden and abrupt change after relief gave the novel a complete feel of surprise, and has the reader turning the pages faster and faster to see what might happen next. As the novel unfolds, more and more outbursts of gunfire and attacks occur. Readers certainly can appreciate that this does not leave them with a dull moment of reading. Higgins does an excellent job of keeping the reader satisfied, and when there may be a time when action seem to be at a lull, another onslaught of gunfire or surprising event takes place. Instances, such as when a Range Rover suddenly “explode[s] into the pool room (154)”, shows the randomness of Higgins’ plot. It would be nearly impossible to predict a phenomenon like that to happen. This plot development keeps readers interested in the novel all of the way through to the denouement. Another attractive merit of Sure Fire is it’s countless colorful characters!

Dynamic characters tend to dominate the novel, and the characters are an absolute perfect fit for Sure Fire. However, this volatility in the characters adds to the suspense and thrill of a “spy” novel. Rich and Jade, who hated their father early in knowing him, later say, ‘“Whatever he’s up to, whatever he’s involved in, whatever it takes – we’ll get him [Chance] back (55)’”. This definitely shows how Rich and Jade have come to want their father in their life. It also gives the reader a window into the inner-workings of and helps describe Rich and Jade, like tenacious and determined. Additionally, nothing tops off a novel about like spies better than the bad guys do. The leader of the “bad guys” in Sure Fire, Viktor Vishinsky, is the stereotypical antagonist. He is extremely curt, he is vague about his plans but still descriptive, he threatens everyone very well, and he always has to put on a big show. This is shown when he says, ‘“No one can help you [Jade]. No one is coming to your rescue (225)’”. His rude behavior and threatening demeanor is the typical breed of antagonists of these novels. Even humor is evident with the characters. For example, Rich is talking about how boarding school may be a good option and Jade says, ‘“Oh, look…Out the window…Thought I saw a flying pig,’ Jade said.” This humor helps people relate to the characters by getting to know their sense of humor. The characters both add to Sure Fire’s intended type of genre and overwhelmingly good plot. The combination of gun-wielding, psychopathic madmen and innocent but strong protagonists define the action / adventure genre well.

Sure Fire is an intense, action-packed book. It is filled with universal appeal, incredible plot development, and fantastic characters to make a great book and a personal favorite of mine! It is highly recommended that each and everyone who likes to read anything that deals with explosions, fighting, and excitement read this. Go wherever possible to pick up a copy of Sure Fire by Jack Higgins with Justin Richards!

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

HIHI said...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 5:05 am
Who were all the characters again i forgot
eeyore123 said...
Nov. 10, 2009 at 8:22 pm
this article is like what I had to write in school for a major exam or test, this must have taken lots of time and effort! :)
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