Alex Rider: A Teen-aged Version of 007

Alex Rider, 14, has been raised most of his life by his uncle Ian after his parents died. He goes to school, but otherwise lives an extraordinary life as his uncle takes him on “business” trips while helping the boy become an expert in self defense, surfing, skiing, bicycling and more.

One day Alex is told that his uncle has died in a car crash because he was not wearing a seat belt. “Not possible,” Alex thinks. “He always wore his seat belt.”

His suspicions lead him on a mission to find out what really happened to his uncle and he discovers that the man he loved like a father was an agent for British secret intelligence and was murdered in the line of duty. What Alex does not know at first is that he is being watched closely, by the people who killed his uncle and by Alan Blunt, the head of special operations for MI6. And Alex eventually realizes his uncle has made sure the boy learned special skills because his uncle suspected they would save his life many times.

British author Anthony Horowitz is riding a wave of success with the Alex Rider books and their adaptation to a popular television program that is almost certainly going to be renewed for its third season. The 12-book series was written with the teen-aged audience in mind, but I think Horowitz knew it would also appeal to adults who can’t resist spy thrillers.

In each of the four books I have read, Alex reminds me of a young 007, keeping me on the edge of my seat as he faces near impossible odds of survival. Just as in the James Bond films, I am enthralled by his narrow escapes just as I chuckle at the ridiculous ways he eludes and defeats his enemies. Instead of a specially equipped sports car, Alex rides a uniquely powered bike in Eagle Strike. Of course, there is an MI6 operative who provides Alex with special “toys.” Like 007, the magic is not whether Alex will win in the end, but how he will defeat evil. (By the way, Horowitz has also written three James Bond novels.)

Alex’s MI6 handler, Mrs. Jones, and his guardian Jack, think Alex should live the life of an ordinary teen-ager. But Blunt needs Alex to handle special assignments tailored for a kid. And Alex has inherited a compulsion to save the world. Yes, there is a girl involved in his life. And a best friend–Tom–who plays a major role from the beginning in the TV series, but later in the books.

Alex is 16 years old in the Amazon Prime and Amazon IMDb series, which recently posted its second season, adapted from the fourth book, Eagle Strike. Book two, Point Blank, was adapted for season one. The first book, Stormbreaker, was made into a 2006 motion picture, also available on Amazon TV. I highly recommend the TV series, but the movie is marginal despite its all-star cast.

I have to go now. It is time to download the fifth book, Scorpia.

The President Becomes a Superhero

What if the world wide web disappeared? And all its data on every device was gone? Your bank accounts. The power grid. Medical records. Everything online. Backups erased. No way to bring any of it back.

In The President is Missing, President Jonathan Duncan goes undercover in a desperate attempt to save the world from cyberterrorists.

Impossible? In Bill Clinton’s and James Patterson’s thriller, the plot has enough plausibility to make the book a page turner.

The former president created the leader he wished he could be. War hero. James Bond-like tactician. A man who could not be distracted from his purpose.

Duncan battles the death of his wife, a nagging disease, and a speaker of the House who plots to have him removed from office. The Russians are bad guys and the plot involves the Saudi royal family. There is also an enemy within, a traitor in the president’s inner circle.

If you are a James Patterson fan, you will recognize the storytelling style. I was drawn to the idea that the president of the United States could transform himself into an unrecognizable character who could use his or her talents to do good outside of the political world.

A president by day. A superhero by night?