Tuesday, March 21, 2017

James Bond for the YA Crowd?

It has long been impossible to pay much attention to contemporary science fiction and fantasy and not be hugely aware of the presence of young adult fiction within it. The historic commercial success of such franchises as Harry Potter, Twilight, Percy Jackson, The Hunger Games and Divergent (among others) has loomed large within not just the genre landscape, but popular culture as a whole. Indeed, Game of Thrones apart, virtually every really major publishing success of the genre has been a YA phenomenon. And while the esteem for such works among the hard core of science fiction and fantasy fans, and especially the "higherbrow" among them, has not been on a par with their commercial success, YA has attracted the attention of such critical darlings as Cory Doctorow, Paul di Filippo and Scott Westerfeld, each writing heavily in this area in recent years, and even getting some critical recognition for the results, as with the Hugo nomination Doctorow got for Little Brother.

The same cannot be said of other genres. Indeed, science fiction and fantasy have done as well as they have in YA because of the lingering prejudice that they are kid's stuff anyway, and ironically, because of the way in which the adult stuff has become so adult--so involved, so dense, so literary, often at the same time, that someone who has not been a longtime reader of contemporary science fiction and fantasy has a hard time getting into it, or even getting it at all. (That a book like The Hunger Games is so apt to seem derivative and undemanding and unimpressive to someone who reads full-blown literary science fiction for grown-ups is an asset, not a liability, in the marketplace.)

By contrast, a YA thriller is necessarily a toned-down thriller--which does not mean that it cannot be entertaining, but must eschew the easier ways of achieving its effects by being restrained in handling its violence and other, rougher fare. All the same, writers do write thrillers aimed at the YA market, and that has long included spin-offs of 007--going all the way back at least to R.D. Mascott's The Adventures of James Bond Junior 003 1/2 (1967)--as well as imitations, one of the more successful of which has been the Alex Rider novels of Anthony Horowitz, of which there are presently ten in print, with an eleventh reportedly on the way this year.

Personally I have taken little interest in these efforts, giving them only cursory attention even while tracking down and reading every one of the regular continuation novels. Still, having recently reviewed Horowoitz's Bond continuation novel Trigger Mortis (2015), I decided to give the first Alex Rider book, Stormbreaker, a look, not because I thought he had done anything really new with the concept (the tradition was already well-worn when Fleming came up with Bond, just an update of a half century of clubland heroes), but because I was curious as to how he would cram Bondian adventure into the life of a young adult, and whether very much of such adventure would remain in it when he was done. You can read my thoughts on that book here.

My Posts on Anthony Horowitz's Trigger Mortis
Just Out . . . (The Many Lives and Deaths of James Bond, 2nd edition)
The Post-Ian Fleming James Bond Novels
Just Out. . . (James Bond's Evolution)
Just Out . . . (The Forgotten James Bond)
My Posts on James Bond

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