James Bond is, without doubt, the daddy of all literary spies. His name is synonymous with intrigue and adventure, action and old-fashioned derring-do. So Silverfin, the first in a series of Charlie Higson’s fully authorised prequels to the most famous of all British Secret Service agents, has mightily big boots to fill. Fortunately, Higson is a genuine Bond aficionado who has remained true to the style of Ian Fleming’s creation, and his legend, to create an authentic story featuring a teenage Bond that should not disappoint other equally appreciative fans.
After a supremely scary opening sequence featuring some terrifying mutated eels and a gruesome death, Bond’s early days at Eton in the 30’s as a thirteen-year-old are the focus for the first third of the book. Since the death of his parents in a climbing accident, James had previously been educated at home by his aunt. The alien world of this infamous public school is a new world for him and he makes enemies immediately. But young James is not without a backbone of his own, and he soon begins to win small victories against those who choose to bully him.
It is, however, when James is in Scotland for the rest of book, at the remote home of his Aunt Charmian and Uncle Max, that his first great adventure, and mystery to solve, truly takes shape. A local Laird, in his ominous castle nearby, is conducting horrific scientific experiments that prove he is very mad indeed and a threat to society who must be defeated. Before this excitement is over, James has a date with some killer eels.
The author, well known for his comedic exploits on television in The Fast Show and for adult thrillers such as King of the Ants and Full Whack is without doubt a skilled writer. Bond purists might wince a little, that such an extension of Fleming’s legacy was needed at all, but despite being shackled by the constraints of its period setting, Silverfin is an intriguing read.