Author: M. G. Harris
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
“We have our first emergency call father, The new Fireflash mach 6 atomic airliner is in distress at London airport.”
That’s about as much as we got in terms of some form of world-building prequel in Gerry Anderson’s sci-fi puppet series Thunderbirds. Only in his thirties when Thunderbirds blasted off on our TV screens, it wasn’t until the gentleman’s later years that he began constructing a pre-Thunderbirds world, something that would manifest into Gemini Force 1. Sadly, Anderson passed away before his new idea could come to full fruition, but under the guidance of Anderson Entertainment director Jamie Anderson (son of Gerry), Gemini Force One is now very much a force to be reckoned with. This first book, Black Horizon, written by M. G. Harris, is an exciting debut written with a boisterous pace, warm humour and subtle drama all mixed together into a powerful adventure story.
The first in a planned trilogy of novels, Black Horizon serves its two audiences extremely well – the die-hard Ander-fan and the young adult have plenty of thrills waiting for them as Ben Carrington undergoes the most desperate and difficult training programme ever in order to prove he has what it takes to join the worldwide rescue outfit Gemini Force.
Initially reading like the prequel Thunderbirds never had, Black Horizon stands very much on its own. For one, the hero of the day is a mere schoolboy, but if anyone is now having some nightmare-ish flashbacks to Joe 90, you need not worry. Ben Carrington is a very classically molded hero. He has guts, a bit of brains, a hint of charm, and plenty of anxiety that plays out to strong dramatic effect against his adventures with the newly established Gemini Force.
Black Horizon centres on Ben and his wealthy mother, Caroline, being approached by the Jeff Tracy-esque Jason Truby, who is looking for the right sort of funding for his rescue outfit. Reluctant at first, Ben and his mother decide to give Gemini Force 1 a try, fuelled somewhat by the loss of daddy Carrington in a mountaineering accident. Black Horizon does develop into a snapshot feel, detailing the Carrington’s hair-raising exploits as they get to grips with that Truby has to offer them, and the consequences of joining Gemini Force result in a heart-breaking twist for Ben.
That turn of events does save the somewhat less-than-engrossing day-to-day feel that Black Horizon has towards the middle, but the story as a whole is well-layered and is on the verge of drowning in its own depth of plot, all the while being thrust against the Carrington’s mixed feelings about their developing future with Gemini Force. All together, it makes for hooky reading, with an interesting mix of supporting characters and International Rescue-level situations that Ben constantly becomes embroiled in when Gemini Force are called into action. The novel also has a fantastic build up towards a tense, gritty finale, involving terrorists, gunfights and industrial espionage.
Complete with a fantastic array of vehicles designed for specific rescue missions, and a canine sidekick, Gemini Force One: Black Horizon hints at more than being an updated version of Thunderbirds (that honour goes to what ITV are currently getting up to…), it’s a finely crafted adventure story with all the potential it needs to gain a loyal audience of youngsters. There’s a bevy of classic Anderson references for older fans to spot too (look out for Ben’s favourite rock band!), and that cross-appeal will surely work in the novel’s favour. All in all, a blast of a book from cover to cover.
Gerry Anderson’s Gemini Force One: Black Horizon is released on April the 2nd – you can pre-order your copy from the official Gerry Anderson website here!