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A More Mature Young Bond
on 15 January 2006
For this old 007 fan, Charlie Higson's first Young Bond novel, SilverFin, was a mixed bag. Clearly a book written for a preteen target audience, it too often seemed to mimic a Harry Potter adventure. I'm happy to report this is NOT the case with Young Bond Book 2: Blood Fever, which takes a confident quantum leap into maturity and gives Bond fans of all ages one of the very best James Bond novels yet written.
The key difference seems to be that SilverFin was written as a children's book (which could still be enjoyed by adults), while Blood Fever appears to have been written with a more adult readership in mind. This is a tougher, darker, much more violent book than SilverFin. It even includes a classic Bondian torture scene (but don't panic, parents, the torture is more about endurance than person-to-person sadism). But because Blood Fever chronicles the adventures of a 14 year old, it's still very much a novel young readers will find thrilling--even dangerous. This one may need to be smuggled beneath the sheets and read by flashlight--which is precisely where a James Bond book SHOULD be read. Ian Fleming would be proud.
The villain in Blood Fever, Count Ugo Carnifex, is a true Bond baddie in the most classic sense, with a lair and scheme reflecting every inch of his megalomania. This is the best drawn Bond villain, book or film, we've encountered in some time. Secondary characters are also marvelously conceived, but it's the character of young Bond who stands head and shoulders above all others. The timid, apologetic youngster of SilverFin is long gone. Here, we have a teenage James with all the skills and swagger of Ian Fleming's secret agent. He coolly defies the villain, finds kinship with bandits, and gets visceral excitement by diving off high cliffs and driving fast cars. This Bond is no Harry Potter clone. This is the boy who will become 007 and who could kick the pixy dust out of any character in the Potter universe.
One thing that is still not a part of the Young Bond universe, even in this more mature version, is sex. However, there is some simmering eroticism in how Ugo's decrepit sister leers at handsome young James, and clearly, the animalistic Vendetta has some carnal curiosity. Bond even delivers his first "hard kiss on the mouth" in Blood Fever. But that's as far as Higson takes it. Bond's resistance to his female admirers seems more rooted in chivalry than nervous preadolescence (as in SilverFin), and besides, danger is always too close for such "distractions."
Some Bond fans have resisted the Young Bond series based on concept alone. Even I admitted that SilverFin wouldn't change the minds of the most entrenched fans. However, with Blood Fever, that resistance is now foolish. Bond fans are denying themselves a better Bond adventure than most of the recent James Bond films. There has been much talk lately about bringing Bond back to basics. Well, those basics are being practiced right here in the Young Bond series.
So for you holdouts, my advice would be to take the plunge with Blood Fever. Young or old, this is James Bond at his very best!