CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 8. . . October 27, 2017
Stealth of the Ninja, the eighth installment of Philip Roy’s “Submarine Outlaw” series, finds Alfred sailing to Japan on his home-built submarine with Hollie the dog and Seaweed the seagull. The story begins when he finds a derelict ship drifting with the current. Living alone on the old boat is a 100-year-old Japanese man who collects plastic from the ocean and stores it in the hold. The man calls himself Sensei and offers to teach Alfred ninjutsu.
Alfred trains for a few weeks with Sensei, but then a tsunami hits. Al escapes into his submarine, but Sensei stays on his ship which sinks. At first, Al is sure Sensei died, but when he discovers that the ship is hovering at 137 feet underwater, he realizes the holds full of plastic must be airtight, and Sensei could very well be alive inside. This leaves Al with a terrible dilemma: should he stay and try to rescue Sensei himself, or go for help, knowing he may never be able to find the capsized ship again. Since 137 feet is too deep for Al to dive without scuba equipment, he reluctantly leaves after tying his dingy to the ship to mark its location.
Al makes it to Japan which has just been hit with the tsunami and the resulting nuclear catastrophe. After some adventures, and after communicating with his mentor in Canada who forbids him to return to look for Sensei, Al heads back to where he thinks the sunken ship might be. Miraculously he finds it, and even more miraculously and at great risk, he rescues Sensei and brings him back to Japan.
Stealth of the Ninja is a more introspective book than some of the other installments in the series (although they all deal with Alfred coming-of-age and determining his philosophy toward the world). There are exciting scenes of danger and technical prowess, but the greatest conflicts are internal. Al has to decide how to react to Sensei’s unconventional personality and teaching style; he has to recognize his own limitations; he has to decide which rules he will obey and which he won’t; and his biggest conflict is deciding whether his moral code requires him to risk his life, against the expressed command of the man he respects and loves as a father, in order to save the life of an old man he just met.
Al is a likeable, engaging protagonist: practical, straightforward and open, with an insatiable curiosity and a compulsion to help that gets him into and out of all kinds of interesting trouble. His knowledge, skill and competence make his adventures believable. The places he goes and people he meets allow the author to introduce themes about the environment, history and politics without ever sounding didactic or biased. Stealth of the Ninja uses the character of Sensei to discuss the issue of plastic in the ocean, a form of pollution that is gaining wider attention as its scope is becoming known.
The writing is straightforward and easy to read. As with the other books in the series, Stealth of the Ninja is a page-turning adventure with deeper themes of morality and responsibility, though the plot is shorter and less complex than some of the earlier books. This series, and this book in particular, would be a great choice for reluctant readers, particularly older boys. It will appeal to anyone who likes realistic adventure stories, anyone fascinated by submarines, and anyone who is concerned about the state of the ocean.
Kim Aippersbach is a writer, editor and mother of three in Vancouver, BC.
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Commercial use is available through a contract with the CM Association. This Creative Commons license allows publishers whose works are being reviewed to download and share said CM reviews provided you credit the CM Association.