Literary 007 fans are in for a real surprise with Charlie Higson’s Blood Fever. A dark and intense story awaits readers and the result is thrilling and enjoyable. In my case, I received Blood Fever in the mail after ordering a copy off of eBay, but was apprehensive about starting it. When I had obtained Higson’s first novel, SilverFin, I had immediately jumped into it, excited and curious. With Blood Fever, I was worried that I would be slightly disappointed; that the success of SilverFin might have just been a one time deal. It turns out that I could not have been further wrong. Blood Fever is a fast-paced, exciting, well-crafted, and mature James Bond novel.
SilverFin started to clear up the many, many rumours that this new Young Bond series would only appeal to young readers or the Harry Potter crowd, but Blood Fever wipes the slate clean. This is a darker and tougher James Bond novel than anticipated. Where there were some decidedly cute aspects of SilverFin, such as the horse being called “Martini,” Blood Fever is devoid of such moments. The maturity, both of Bond and overall, is much more pronounced in this story.
One way this new level of maturity is obtained is in the development of the characters. Many of them are standouts in this novel, starting first with the villain, Count Ugo Carnifex. Villains, both in the Bond novels and films, have to be above par to create an interesting enough challenge for Bond, and Carnifex meets the requirements. He is ruthless and cruel; Higson’s characterization of this villain is full of details; and… of course, where would a good villain be without a well-designed and dangerous lair? An improvement over Lord Randolph Hellebore of the previous novel, SilverFin. The other obligatory character is the Bond girl–in this case, the determined and efficient Amy Goodenough. Again, as in the case of the villains, the improvement from SilverFin to Blood Fever is clearly evident. Amy is introduced early on in the story and Higson allows the character plenty of time to develop and become someone that readers actually care about. She is the perfect candidate to be the girl who needs rescuing. Her interaction with James is handled wonderfully and very believable for the reader.
The darkness of Blood Fever is accented by the violence, which seems to have been increased for this second novel. James Bond is much more agent 007 than Young Bond in Blood Fever. In SilverFin, he was unsure, but determined and not willing to give up. Even with those qualities, it was evident that this character wasclearly no 007… yet. Blood Fever now takes James Bond on the path to 007. Even the first line, ‘James Bond hated feeling trapped,’ shows that this boy is restless and one that does not take the common path in life. He must know that there is an exit where ever he may be, and his real ambition is to be free. He realizes that he does not fit in with Eton, the so-called common path. This boy is different from the others. All of this essential information about the back round to this character is presented on the first page describing him alone (pg 15 UK first edition paperback).
One standout scene of Blood Fever (and one that was certainly anticipated before the release of the novel) is the torture sequence involving James Bond. The form of torture is the deadliest animal in the world: mosquitoes. As Ugo Carnifex says, ‘they are a nuisance, aren’t they?’ The scene is written magnificently, from the lack of mutual respect between James Bond and Ugo Carnifex to the sense of hopelessness James feels after he is left alone. Blood drips from the uncountable bites on his body and the creatures are relentless and ruthless in their mass attack. Help eventually comes, but not after James experiences a world of agony and pain. In a way, this scene (which succeeds wonderfully) represents a transition from young Bond to the adult 007. Charlie Higson proves he can make a scene like this work very well. The violence is increased, but sex still remains very PG. Bond tries to resist Vendetta’s uncontrollable attempts to kiss him, thinking the action to be embarrassing. He does however kiss her ‘hard on the mouth’ when trying to get a point across, but the idea of Amy as a girlfriend is ‘nonsense’ to him.
Do not resist this second Young Bond novel if you did of SilverFin because the idea seemed too childish or silly. Charlie Higson is an accomplished writer and his work on Blood Fever is definitely deserving of praise. This is the best kind of Bond novel–young or old. It grips you from the start and truly does not let go until the conclusion. The characterization is deep and rich, the settings described in detail, and the plot interesting and exciting. Equally as important, there is a point: Blood Fever continues young James Bond on the road to 007. Both James Bond and the readers are in for quite the journey.