MI6 reviews Blood Fever - the second book in the
Young James Bond series by Charlie Higson...
Young Bond: Blood Fever - Review
24th March 2006
"Blood Fever" by Charlie Higson; 384 pages; £6.99;
Puffin January 2006
Book review by Lynne Yeagers
Blood Fever, this second adventure story of young James Bond's
life is encapsulated in a stunning, eye-catching cover. The appropriateness
of the cover and title become apparent in chapter 24. The story
quickly gets under your skin and it is difficult to put the book
down. There were moments that I had to remind myself to breathe,
as I was totally engrossed in the danger and anticipation James
experienced. Yes, I did laugh aloud in public whilst reading this;
a measure of a truly good book. I anxiously await the third Young
Bond adventure early in 2007.
Like 'SilverFin', the opening text sets
the scene for the action that follows and the importance
of Zoltan the Magyar. We again are faced with a traumatic
situation for a young person to be dealing with as Mark
Goodenough's family are missing at sea.
Chapter 1, Danger Society, shows how as a young Etonian,
James Bond needs to escape from the stifling routine and
has worked like a prisoner to find a passageway to freedom.
He thrives on the exhilaration of his membership to the
Danger Society, a secret society, and we only truly discover
the real importance of what he sees on his nocturnal excursions
as the book unfolds. We discover that not only the boys
have a secret society but masters too, we have an inkling
of this when we read that he spied upon masters secretly
meeting; a clue is presented to us as Bond realizes that
the language being spoken is Latin.
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Above: Young James Bond
Higson's writing style gives attention to detail, be it
of the rooms, countryside, weather, the description instantly
envelopes the reader; you are there sensing the sights, sounds,
smell etc, of the specific scene.
We are educated as we read a diverse range of facts about the
Romans, various geographical locations both as settings for the
adventures and as part of the embellishment of Aunt Charmain the
much traveled anthropologist; life at Eton including the fact
that it was a multicultural educational establishment in Bond's
day as he "messed with" (shared a room) Pritpal Nandra
and Tommy Chong. The list could go on but you will become aware
of this dimension of Higson's writing as you pass through the
adventures with James.
Similarly, new inventions of the era are introduced to us and
at the time we, as readers, possibly do not appreciate the true
value to James of a snorkel, goggles and flippers.
When stopped by the police whilst driving the black and white
Bamford and Martin, James's reply to the question:' What is your
name?' was the customary 'Bond. James Bond' of 007 format, a small,
but clever nonetheless link by Higson between the writing style
of Fleming and his own.
Mister Cooper-ffrench is introduced on page 44 and is still being
given mention on page 348 (some 304 pages later). He has a considerable
disagreement with Aunt Charmain regarding the value of learning
Latin with him being a fierce proponent as he holds the position
of president of the Latin Society at Eton whilst she wants to
know "...would a knowledge of Latin help [James] if he was faced
with gangsters, diamond smugglers or a man with a bomb?" At this
point Cooper-ffench replies patronizingly that he felt a career
in banking, insurance or law was the pathway for James rather
than a life of high adventure. How wrong could he be! Little do
we realize how important this Latin master is until the plot unravels.
Peter 'Love-Haight's' presence is made known on page 57 and I
endured it for 307 pages; will you feel likewise I wonder?
Art treasures, burglaries and combat are
all present for our eyes and minds. The latter involves
boxing (a sport familiar to James from life at Eton) in
the sports' stadium with Bond's opponent, Tony Fitzpaine
reminding us of the anxious moments experienced by James
in 'Silver Fin' when he was faced with the cheating George
Hellebore and his father. The links are subtle but help
us as readers to develop an understanding of James in his
formative years. How to deal with such a situation presents
the class teacher with a scenario for debate.
A completely different art form that of tattooing also
presents itself for discussion in class as well as being
integral to the plot. Aunt Charmain reveals the history
of tattooing as James tries to unravel the mystery of the
significance of the double M tattoo. The revelation as to
whom the tattoo belongs is surprising for some readers and
it is this constant questioning as a reader that makes the
reading of the book so compulsive. A clue to the identity
is given on page 170 but do not spoil things and peep!
Much of the story is set in Sardinia where we discover
facts ranging from the scenery and geography of the island,
to how to deal with the poisonous effects of the black sea
urchins. It is here that James forges a valuable friendship
with Stefan, Mauro and Vendetta.
Our education continues as we discover the intricacies of how
a funicular railway works on a counter-weight system (page 179).
'SilverFin' taught us how a 4-stroke engine works; again event
the least mechanically-minded of us can understand the physics.
We learn that a .45 calibre bullet travels at '...roughly 920
feet per second...' as opposed to the '...roughly 80 feet per
second...' of a knife thrown by a strong man! There is detail
of frequent combat in the story and it is such events that lead
us to read the description of how a Thompson machine gun works
(pages 315-6). It is this type of information that only adds to
the all round quality of Higson's writing; he captivates his readers'
interest. There is something for everyone whatever your individual
Higson brings a wealth of well-researched information to his
readers and unlike many other popular novels for the youth market
his adventures include the slightly unrealistic yet totally believable
escapades, rather than witches and wizardry. The reader's interest
is sustained throughout. Adult and younger reader alike cannot
fail to be intrigued as to whether or not the young James Bond
gets the girl in the end as he metamorphoses into 007. I know
the answer...you must read Blood Fever to find out.
Readers are likely to eagerly await the second Young Bond Adventure
due out soon.
Reviewer Lynne Yeagers has been teaching English for over
thirty years to 9-18 year-olds in Lincolnshire, UK. This review
was based on the British edition published by Puffin.