Sunday, 20 October 2013

What's in store for Young Bond 2?

As announced by Ian Fleming Publications, the adventures of Young Bond will be continued by children's author Steve Cole and pick up where Charlie Higson's first series left off, with James Bond expelled from Eton College and about to resume his education at Fettes in Edinburgh. We know something of Bond's life at Fettes from his obituary in You Only Live Twice, and in an interview for the regional UK newspaper The Bucks Herald, Steve Cole revealed that Bond will be aged 14 or 15, and that the stories will be set in the 1930s and describe Bond's encounters with the Secret Service and his uncle, a spy. But can we glean any further information about what to expect in the new series from Ian Fleming's own experiences and Steve Cole's work?

Bond's obituary (written by M) records that the atmosphere of Fettes was Calvinistic. Quite what this means in practice is unclear, but given the starting point of Calvinist teaching that humanity is totally depraved, and that no amount of good will redeem one in the eyes of God, the college's masters would probably have regarded all their charges as innately sinful, and presumably discipline would be strictly enforced to ensure that pupils' behaviour was acceptable (M hints at this when he describes standards as rigorous). In this oppressive atmosphere, the young Bond may become rebellious – if he was to be a sinner, he might as well have a proper bash at it and sin in style – just as Ian Fleming rebelled at Eton. Andrew Lycett records that Ian Fleming racked up a series of misdemeanours and was birched for them, and that after befriending Ivar Bryce (who would become a lifelong friend), he'd play truant and chase girls. Possibly young Bond's behaviour will mirror Fleming's to some extent.

According to the obituary, Bond was inclined to be solitary. This individualistic nature is reflected in the sports at which Bond excelled: athletics, boxing, and Judo. Like his creator (Fleming also excelled at athletics, winning a long-jump competition and a hurdles title at Eton, and achieving the very rare feat of becoming champion athlete or victor ludorum two years in a row), Bond is likely to eschew team sports and be happiest away from the classroom competing on the track or in the ring.

The information in the obituary that Bond set up a Judo club, the first for a British public school, is especially interesting. This reveals that Bond has a good knowledge of martial arts, and we should expect him to use it in the course of his adventures. But it also demonstrates natural authority, commitment, determination, and the ability to plan and think innovatively, possibly in the face of opposition (qualities that Fleming showed during his time in Naval Intelligence during the war).

So much for Bond's school life. Do Steve Cole's published books give any clue about the nature of his adventures? The author is probably best known for his Astrosaurs, Cows in Action and Slime Squad series. These are written for younger children, but his books for teenagers are just as acclaimed. One of his series for older children features a protagonist who has something of a Bondian quality about him. In the Tripwire series, teenager Felix Smith, avenging the death of his father at the hands of terrorists, is recruited into a secret service, Minos Chapter, and becomes a bomb-disposal expert. Each adventure pits Felix against a diabolical organisation with an evil plan, and sees him race against time to solve the clues and find and defuse the bomb set for devastation. Possibly the young Bond will also find himself racing against time to beat that ticking clock. Tripwire was co-written by bomb-disposal expert, Chris Hunter, demonstrating a desire for accuracy that would have pleased Ian Fleming, and we may expect the new Young Bond series include its fair share of technical and authentic details.

Z. Rex is another series for older children. In this, thinking, talking mutant dinosaurs are brought to life and threaten the world. Fourteen-year-old Adam Adler befriends one (Zed) and together they battle beasts – and the beasts' masters – intent on wreaking havoc. While the Young Bond series is likely to have little in common with Z. Rex, the use and abuse of science (an aspect of course touched upon in Fleming's Moonraker and On Her Majesty's Secret Service) might be a theme common to both. Steve Cole's The Wereling series, which is about a family of werewolves, seems much further removed from the type of adventures we can expect young Bond to have, although I wouldn't be surprised to see aspects of the occult creeping in from time to time (and indeed given Fleming's apparent interest in the subject, expressed for example in Live and Let Die, this too would not necessarily be un-Bondian).

As Steve Cole says in interview, the main source for Bond's teenage years is the obituary in You Only Live Twice. But taking a memetic perspective – acknowledging that authors writing about James Bond tend to look to Ian Fleming's experiences to fill gaps in Bond's, and suggesting that authors' interests and background are likely to influence their writing – we can put forward a few ideas about what we can expect in the forthcoming Young Bond series. I for one can't wait to read it!

Lycett, A, 1995, Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond, Turner

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