Blood Fever
Charlie Higson

Review of Book
OK, so I'm not aged between 9 and 12, or even a James Bond devotee, but this didn't stop me enjoying the first in the 'Young Bond' books, namely Silverfin. For me it was a refreshing change; just the right mix of danger, excitement and lighter moments in a well told, 'Boy's Own' adventure story.

So with Blood Fever, I really wanted to get involved with James, as I did in Silverfin, in his unwitting entanglement with a secret criminal society, ruthless pirates, bandits and devious school masters. I wanted to cheer James on, as I did in Silverfin, after his mysterious attack of vertigo, in his agony from treading on a sea urchin, being knocked unconscious by art thieves, tortured at the hands of a would-be emperor with a touch of OCD - or as he was merely running for his life!

But my problem with Blood Fever started quite early on. Charlie Higson has included many excellent descriptive passages, so you're able to imagine for example, James' first experience of the underwater wildlife as he uses a snorkel for the very first time. And I particularly appreciated the clever and plentiful use of foreshadowing. Brilliant.

Yet in spite of beginning promisingly enough for the first few chapters, as the story settles on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, the gruesome, gory, grisly, and at times just plain stomach-churning, details are unremitting.

Now in Silverfin, as I recall, there was merely a handful of deaths? In Blood Fever I literally lost count of the number of cold-blooded murders perpetrated with anything from knives and cutlasses to whaling harpoons and sub-machine guns.

Music to the ears of most young (and not so young!) boys I don't doubt, but it was well outside my comfort zone. And among a cast of not quite thousands, there were no more than perhaps three characters that were the slightest bit interesting; most were, at best, weak and really annoying, at worst just pointless.

And just when you think all the above is finally coming to an end, it goes on some more…and then some more…and then some more. Which is strange, because there are exactly the same number of pages to Blood Fever as there are to Silverfin. But because there's no light relief anywhere, the menace and violence seem never ending. I was just impatient to be done with it all, and afterwards found myself sorely in need of the comforting humour of an Artemis Fowl…!

Review of Nat's Reading
A story's feeling never ending is obviously not an issue when it comes to listening to Nat reading it, however!

As in all his audiobooks, there's that distinctive classy style; accuracy, clarity and fluency. His composed, comfortable and seemingly effortless manner means the listener can simply sit back, relax and enjoy (in Blood Fever, that's relatively speaking..!) as Nat does the work.

As the story opens, his tone captures perfectly the peaceful and serene, almost idyllic carefree summer in the Aegean. After things very quickly take a sinister turn, the action switches to England where Nat has you experiencing the same pounding heart as James who, bored with the routine and restrictions of school life, indulges in a spot of risk-taking across the rooftops of Eton College.

Though there are lots of them, I have to say that no particular accents or voices stood out for me this time. There is, I suppose, the somewhat effeminate lisping Ugo Carnifex; irritating though it is, it does suit the megalomaniac and all-round numpty rather well. James says at one point that he's "… sick of the sound of Ugo's voice.." - yah, I know what he means! Actually, Nat's excitable stammering for James' fellow pupil, Perry m-m-Mandeville, is quite fun.

Once again he switches seamlessly between the various accents, say from Glaswegian to Hungarian and back again. And, as I mentioned in the review for The Sixth Lamentation, and though I can't quite put my finger on why it should be, it is especially pleasant to hear Nat's pronunciation of Italian words…

But I was, I have to say, a tad miffed that he'd dropped the correct soft Scottish accent for Aunt Charmian that he used in Silverfin - tsk tsk! But Nat more than made up for it with his characterisation of another of James' school chums; the grieving, anxious and despairing Mark Goodenough - left me quite wrung out it did…

Whether he's reading scenes of rapid action and drama, or moments of great sensitivity, his breath control is fabulous, and he's obviously right there in the scene, involved emotionally. And I'm never sorry if there are long passages of narrative for him to read in his own voice, as they're a wonderful foil to the dialogue and all the intense bits.

I always marvel at Nat's ability to concentrate for so long and the sheer stamina needed in recording so many hours of reading - how does he do it?! As he explained in the 'Q & A' section on the Home page, he does put a lot of effort into the preparation, and it shows. The quality of his reading and performance stays consistently high from the beginning right through to the end.

Published by
Listening Library
ISBN CDs - 9780739338933
April 2007
Running time - 8 hours, 43 minutes

Internet Links
Young Bond Dossier

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