Author: Charlie Higson
Bond Books Reviews: Charlie Higson
Published by: Puffin Books
1) SilverFin ( 2005 )
So we go back in time to when our man from MI6 was just a boy, as the back cover suggests ..
Before the name became a legend.
Before the boy became the man.
Meet Bond. James Bond.
Past publicity suggested the publishers hired a graphic artist to draw a Young Bond for future books. Alas this 'eeled' glittering paperback cover does nothing for me or attract my attention to read within. In fact I had difficulty finding it on the library shelf which is a pity as this is an enjoyable adventure aimed at children now enjoying the Potter stories and perhaps older ones reading out of curiosity especially priced at £5.99.
The author better known for his comedy acting opens with a scene setter chapter called Blood in the water which tells of a boy ( is it young James ? ) who goes fishing in Scotland. The 372 page book splits into 3 parts: Eton, Scotland & The Castle.
On arrival at Eton, James becomes friends with Pritpal Nandra who both encounter the older school bullies Sedgepool & Pruitt led by a young American called George Hellebore, son of wealthy and later book's villain, Lord Randolph Hellebore. Another chum called Butcher teaches James some underwater breathing techniques following an incident by the lake. He shows no interests in school sports except running aided by his teacher, Mr Merriot who suggests Bond for the Hellebore's Cup which encompasses swimming, shooting & swimming. Despite an exciting race James helps stop bad boy George winning his dad's cup and lets another senior win.
Off to Scotland to spend the holidays with Aunt Charmian, a favourite relative who is an anthropologist and drives a fast Bentley Supecharge 4 seater sports car and Uncle Max, brother to his late father and a former spy in the war. Despite ill health, the uncle teaches him to fish and drive his Bamford and Martin Sidevalve, Short Chassis Tourer ( what a mouthful ! ) and later referred to as "the Aston Martin." On the train journey to Scotland he meets a young lad called 'Red' Kelly due to his hair colour and shades of Potter's Ron Weasley. After an interesting ride they meet up again when James goes to the circus with his aunt and discovers he is looking for missing Alfie Kelly, the boy in the opening chapter.
James & 'Red' Kelly decide to investigate Hellebore's castle near Loch Silverfin and meet during their walk on the moors a young Wilder Lawless riding her horse, Martini ( aah another name drop ). Lawless makes up this literary trio like Potter's Hermione Granger. So the search and mystery of the cover's eels unfolds as they encounter a Pinkerton detective, a mad scientist/professor and May the housekeeper ( remember's Fleming's one ). Also how the literary Bond got that scar.
Still worth a read as this book will appeal to Bond fans of all ages with the author laying the seeds to future happenings. Whether Young Bond can last as long as the Potter series we'll have to wait and see especially with James' later school record.
2) Blood Fever ( 2006 )
This second Young Bond book has a similar style cover to the first outing SilverFin with an artist's impression of our young, slim, sad ( or is that meant to be serious ? ) looking hero, his face reminds you of a youthful Brosnan, kept to the final back inside page to advertise the website & mobile phone game. The cover with large mosquitos, one about to suck blood over a sub-heading of Death is contagious which is a story warning. The opening scene setter is called The Magyar about young Amy Goodenough enjoing herself in the Mediterranean with her father Sir Cethal on his three-masted schooner The Siren. Alas the yacht is boarded by pirates led by a character called Zoltan the Magyar who kidnaps Amy and her nanny with the loot leaving a sinking ship of dead bodies. The opening of the 30 chapters has our young James doing his 'superhero' feats of evening wall-climbing, going over roofs and through underground passages around Eton to reach a meeting of The Danger Society for boys who like to take risks. Later previously introduced SilverFin characters like his guardian, Aunt Charmian at a cricket match & student friend, Pritpal Nandra make brief appearances to help the adventure series' continuity. During that evening jaunt James spots a double MM sign and later tries to find out the meaning from his tutors but it's Charmian who believes it to be the sign of "the secret Italian society known as the Millenaria." Meanwhile one of his society members, Mark steals his late uncle's Bamford and Martin roadster which James has garaged nearby but after stopping the wreckless drive he discovers the driver is Amy's brother. The remainder of the adventure moves to Sardinia starting with a school archaeological trip and near death for our young hero. To recover, he goes off to stay with his cousin Victor who lives in the far north where later he is to meet the story's villains Count Ugo Carnifex and his evil sister Countess Jana aided by henchman Smiler - silly name ? Zoltan's one called Tree-Trunk ! So can James rescue Amy, find out what Ugo's up to and defeat his army & plans by 'boxing' himself out of trouble. Lives will be lost, some close but there has to be a victor and will it be Bond, Young Bond ? Another entertaining story over 372 pages that keeps you interested to the end at slightly higher price of £6.99. Here's to Young Bond 3 with I hear an undecided title !
Footnote: since reading this library copy back in May, only 3 persons have borrowed the book in 6 months ! Not exactly high in the popularity stakes as say a similar aged Mr Potter.
3) Double Or Die ( 2007 )
The third in a series of adventures for our Young Bond is broken down into three parts: FRIDAY, SATURDAY & SUNDAY over 29 chapters. This week-end of activities follows a scene setter opener called The Hungry Machine which takes place in Highgate Cemetery where a professor is kidnapped.
In the opening chapter, young James is the passenger of his Banford and Martin tourer recollecting how this new adventure had started with his driving & muttering friend, Perry Mandeville. Cryptic clues in a letter uncovered by his pal Pritpal Nandra take him from Eton to Cambridge to Central London onto North London and ending in the East End.
It's a nicely paced & exciting tale with some Bondian references like passing Universal Exports and despite using an alias in a discovered casino, asked his name, his reply is .. "Bond. James Bond." The trail leads to the main villain, Sir John Charnage aided by his two thugs, the nasty and violent Smith Brothers, Wolfgang & Ludwig ( neither musical ) but are they really working for this bad English Knight or perhaps a mysterious lady who ends the chase ?
Meanwhile James' Aunt Charmain gets a mention again but doesn't contribute to the search as in previous outings but a surprise appearance from a friend from Book One aids in the search for the N.E.M.E.S.I.S Project ( wasn't that in the second Star Trek movie ? No that was GENESIS ! ). What is it - that hungry machine or something more sinister ? Who wants it ? So can our James and his school pals save the world again in a week-end ? Of course he can but the ending pages jump 12 years to an older Commander James Bond RNVR to help conclude the mystery.
Despite aimed at teens, this 390 page, softback book will appeal to all Bond book fans priced at £6.99, slightly more than last time but definitely worth a borrow from your library. Well done Charlie !
4) Hurricane Gold ( 2007 )
The fourth in a series of adventures for Young Bond is printed in hardback gold cover & edges resembling a gold bar ? ( seen left ) which has nothing to do with this new story. Sorry black paper label telling us on front: James Bond is staring death in the face and on rear: Greed is a deadly force adds a cheapness to the cover with embrossed title and author. Priced at higher £12.99 with less pages than last time, it's a lot to ask for younger readers to pay, perhaps borrowing from library like this reviewer.
Story narrative split as usual, this time in 3 parts: El Huracán, One of the Gang & Lagrimas Negras. Set away from his usual Eton college surroundings has Young Bond, but following on from his last adventure, packed off on a holiday to remember with Aunt Charmian to Mexico. This turns into a 'real' adventure when left at night with two spoilt children in a large mansion.
Before this meeting, the author introduces the villain called El Huracán who rules over a tiny Caribbean island of Lagrimas Negras where crooks take their stolen money to retire .. until it runs out. Their stay is not cheap and the trip is one-way ! After a visitor's failure to navigate The Avenue of Death, we see an unrelated letter added to the end of the 2nd chapter from James' Eton pal, Pritpal Nandra to tell of school happenings. Other hand written letters are inserted later from previous Eton characters Perry Mandeville & Michael Merriot but whether they are read by our hero is not very clear. Meanwhile Charmian leaves James in a rush to fly off to the jungle with the father, Jack Stone. After immediate dislike to the older daughter Precious but liked by the younger son JJ, he has to use his skills to protect them when a gang of thieves turn up to rob a safe led by a mysterious woman called Mrs Glass.
Will James survive floods, murder and those kids ? What was in the safe and where will it lead them ? Another exciting and enjoyable adventure nicely paced over 355 pages and now looking forward to the author's fifth & final adventure for Young Bond.
5) By Royal Command ( 2008 )
The fifth and final in a series of adventures for Young Bond is printed in hardback black cover & red edges with a flag theme ( seen left ). Clues to the story are given in the front cover top header of James Bond. For king and country. and rear center cover statement of - Life for James Bond will never be the same again. Still priced at £12.99 with same pages as last time, it's seems a lot to ask for younger readers to pay, perhaps again borrowing from library like this reviewer. Story narrative split as usual in 3 parts: Kitzbühel, Eton & Fugitives. The chapter opener with a reappearance of Colonel Irena Sedova aka Babushka, the grandmother last seen in Double or Die who pays a visit to a bookshop in Lisbon, Portugal followed by a short chapter about driver Graf von Schlick's Alpine road accident ? Young James finally makes an appearance on the Arlberg Express on his way to the Austrian Tyrol to meet his Eton chums for a school skiing break. While on the train he has to deal with some Hitler Youth who are bad card losers. On arrival at Kitzbühel he meets up at the hotel with older Etonian Andrew Carlton and teacher Mr Merriot. He is roomed with a know-it-all called Miles Langton-Herring. James soon becomes a quick learner of skiing techniques and is encouraged by the local tutor Hannes Oberhauser. Without giving anything away all these characters play a later part in the developed and entertaining story along with regulars ( Perry, Pritpal & Charmain ). There are plenty of secrets & lies but just to say that the series conclusion brings it full circle. Will we discover why James left Eton, was Vesper really his true love or was a young Irish girl called Roan his heart breaker, and that royal title ? Another exciting and enjoyable adventure nicely paced over 354 pages/32 chapters and the author deserves credit for tackling this Young Bond series and making the books appealing to readers of all ages.
6) SilverFin - The Graphic Novel ( 2008 )
Three years after the good old fashioned text version the author teams up with illustrator Kev Walker who has worked on the Young Bond project since 2005. What you get is an interesting insight into the first adventure with our young hero & the new characters.
The back cover gives you a preview of those characters and a text ending of The legend begins with SILVERFIN. As not read the book for sometime, Walker's artwork captures and helps remind of the original story in his vivid style. Alas no expert in graphic novels but would have liked a few caption headers to endorse/relate the action which after a 5 page opener, has a book title page followed by the main story which is split into 3 parts: Eton, Scotland & SilverFin.
An enjoyable, quick read but unless you are a real novel collector not sure whether you would purchase for £9.99, perhaps now a sale buy or like me from your local library.
7) Danger Society The Young Bond Dossier ( 2009 )
Named after his secret Eton group, this dossier of our young hero is introduced by the author who explains how he came to write the first adventure and concluding that this short story called A Hard Man To Kill takes place after James' Hurraine Gold trip to Mexico. The 62 page adventure has added mixed ( some b&w - other in his colour style ) artwork by regular contributor Kev Walker who comes into his own later in the book. The story has travelling James and his Aunt Charmian at sea first aboard a yacht and for the main action a steamer called the Columbie where he will meet up with one of his earlier girl friends. The title comes from the villain who is a renegade soldier called Caiboche. Without spoiling this enjoyable, choppy adventure it's a nice addition to his current outings and he even introduces himself as "The name's Bond, James Bond". Look out for a young CR/QOS character who first appeared in Fleming's books.
The rest of the 280 page book is about all the characters, locations, facts including cars & weapons all colour illustrated by the mentioned Walker with some historical photos. Anything you didn't know about Young Bond's history of that time and travels you will find here. I'm assuming this detailed research is by credited compiler A.Li with special items like learning to survive an avalanche and a stinging scorpion. Near the end a three page index is added for easy reference. The book closes with a two page advert for SilverFin - The Graphic Novel and a final page for the official website.
Definitely worth a purchase priced at £7.99 or library hire as Walker's artwork continues to bring Higson's adventures to life in an interesting way. Minor point slightly disappointed/puzzled by choice of Walker's artwork to show Young Bond on the silver cover in a weird position - with better choices inside.