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Young Bond: SilverFin receives positive press reviews

06-Mar-2005 • Young Bond

The first Young Bond book by author Charlie Higson - SilverFin - has received positive reviews in the British press. The review below comes from The Guardian newspaper.

Philip Ardagh
I really didn't know what to expect when it was announced that The Fast Show's Charlie Higson would be writing a series of books about the young James Bond. The idea of following the adventures of a boy Bond seemed intriguing enough, it was just that Higson had made such a pig's ear out of "updating" Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) for television, and, more importantly, had once written a column in which he claimed that a bay leaf adds nothing to the flavour of spaghetti bolognese. Would Bond be safe in such a man's hands?

When Kingsley Amis wrote Colonel Sun (under the nom de plume Robert Markham), the first officially sanctioned Bond novel not from the pen of Ian Fleming himself, some die-hard fans were appalled at the very thought of it, while others pored over the text in search of errors. I suspect that Higson's Bond will be put under a similar microscope. Even before publication, debates have been raging on the internet.

Higson has been licensed to write five books by Ian Fleming Publications, holders of the copyright to the character in print. His young Bond has nothing to do with the animated "James Bond Jnr" spin-off from the Bond films or RD Mascott's much-praised 1967 cult classic James Bond Junior 003, both of which concern Bond's "nephew". True to Fleming, Higson's boy Bond is educated at Eton sometime in the 1930s (before his expulsion). This also prevents Higson's young Bond being just a pale imitation of Alex Rider, the hero of Anthony Horowitz's wildly successful series of children's books, which in themselves nod in the direction of the Bond films. (Life can be very complicated sometimes.)

In a sense, a young Bond can never be the "real" Bond because adult readers won't believe that the real Bond would have had such childhood adventures. But as an introduction to the character for young readers, SilverFin is very satisfying. Higson, it transpires, is a longstanding Bond fan, and already has some dark adult thrillers under his belt. This is a well-crafted page-turner with substance. It couldn't be further from the gadget-ridden world of the likes of Spy Kids, which it might so easily have been, and is all the better for it (though I dare say some children would actually prefer the escapist Alex Rider/ Agent Cody Banks approach).

After a truly gruesome and gripping prologue, the book soon settles into a good old-fashioned boarding school yarn, with new-boy James coming across as a bit of a loner who plays by the rules. Then, after befriending sidekick "Red" Kelly (so called on account of the colour of his hair and the fact that it sounds a bit like Ned), the action moves to Scotland, resulting in death, violence, the obligatory mad scientist unveiling his preposterous scheme, and a very satisfying ending.

This is a most enjoyable, well-written book which is well worth a read even if you're not a James Bond fan. There are a few in-jokes (the "female interest", Wilder Lawless, has a horse called Martini, for example), but Higson is sparing with these and very skilfully melds the known elements of Bond's childhood with those of his own invention. In SilverFin, Higson gives us that little extra something ... in much the same way that, say, a bay leaf does to a bolognese sauce. Nice one, Charlie.

Thanks to `JP` for the alert.

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