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.

Above: 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 standpoint.

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.

Young Bond Novels
Blood Fever
Double Or Die
Hurricane Gold
By Royal Command
Shoot To Kill

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SilverFin : 01 - 02 - 03 - 04 - 05 - 06
Blood Fever : 01 - 02 - 03 - 04
Double Or Die : 01 - 02 - 03
Hurricane Gold : 01 - 02 - 03 - 04 - 05
By Royal Command : 01 - 02 - 03