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The Guardian reviews Young Bond `Double or Die`

11-Feb-2007 • Young Bond

The Guardian has reviewed the third Young Bond novel by author Charlie Higson - "Double or Die".

It is hard to imagine anyone less troubled by an inner life than James Bond, a figure exquisitely defined by the appurtenances and demands of his trade. The exploding cufflinks, the aesthetic sensibilities, the skills in the field, the predatory instincts (even for women) are all super-functional. His core virtues - courage, endurance, single-mindedness - are moulded to the job. He is unburdened by friendships, suffers no existential doubts or moral dilemmas.

In Charlie Higson's redrawing of 007 as a 16-year-old at Eton in the Thirties, there's early evidence of that grit and appetite for danger. But the boy has a heart too. He has a gang of schoolchums to eat toast with. He has second thoughts about everything. Sure, he's good at games and drives a car like a maniac, and one senses a modicum of emotional damage as a result of his being an orphan, but you do wonder if it really matters two hoots whether he's going to be James Bond when he grows up or not. It doesn't seem to.

This third in Higson's bestselling series of 'Young Bond' stories, a superbly wrought old-fashioned adventure about a kidnapped English boffin who leaves a twisting trail of cryptic clues in a letter, is cranked up with heart-stopping action and climaxes and terrifying villains and people having their ears blown off. Though the final chase seems to go on for months, the novel barely stops to draw breath.

I did keep asking myself, like James's less gung-ho friends, why he doesn't just tell the headmaster what's going on, but it's hardly the Eton way to blab on one's psychopathic pursuers.

It is all very Bond, though, with Russians and a casino scene and a car chase and a bloody slew of near-death experiences. As the clock ticks down, James even gets the girl, though admittedly, when he does, it all goes a bit Famous Five. What's the boy waiting for, I wondered - a licence to snog?

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