I liked that Cyber Spooks has been developed with the aim of teaching young readers about cyber security and being safe online through an engaging illustrated story.
On the day Carlo joins his Dad, Recon, at work a serious cyber attack on a bank means the whole Cyber Spooks team will have to come together to find the culprits and stop the criminals from stealing millions of pounds. As the plot unfolds, technical IT terms are introduced and explained to the reader, with extra emphasis on teaching the audience warning signs to look out for and tips for using the internet on a range of devices safely (gaming consoles being included in the narrative was a nice touch).
Perhaps because I’m not the intended audience, I did notice a couple of discrepancies with the narrative. On page 7, The attack on Neptune bank is coming from “many countries” however by page 12, not only does the conclusion seem to be jumped to that the culprit is Chinese, it’s then quickly followed by a connection to the Chinese government (bear in mind that on page 26, Recon is still looking for the source of the attack). All this appears to happen without an explanation or evidence and so I can only surmise that the author has based it on the disputes like the ones covered in the news at the moment. I think that an opportunity has been missed to explain VPNs or IP addresses to find the source of the hack and the location of the culprit’s computer, and it seems to be missed in favour of a slightly obvious and quick plot reveal. Following this, and again without any explanation as to why the Cyber Spooks team feel the culprit is connected to the Chinese Embassy (page 20), Kali hacks her way into a government database to get the information she needs. I personally found this at odds with the Cyber Spooks' 'good guy, stay safe and legal' message. I’m not sure whether a younger reader would notice these issues and the overall narrative is interesting and fast paced, but there’s potentially space for improvement.
I think the illustrations throughout are brilliant, I liked the style and the extra humour hidden within them. It was also great to see female characters such as Kali and Naiomi take the lead at times while imparting cyber safety knowledge.
I think that Cyber Spooks this is a useful book for sharing an important message about staying safe online. I think there’s some slight improvements that could be made to the plot but on the whole this is a book I would allow my nephews to read.