Anthony Horowitz set out to make a living in one of the most difficult ways to imagine: writing books that young boys would want to read. But with more than 14,000,000 books sold, most of them to young boys, he’s done pretty well.
His books are about topics that appeal to young boys: in Groosham Grange, a youngster remembers his schoolboy hijinks; in South by Southeast, The Falcon’s Malteser, and The French Confection, the Diamond Brothers solve crimes; and in the Power of Five series, four boys and a girl fight the forces of evil: “demons, witches, devils, and politicians.” But his most popular series is the Alex Rider series, which features a hero that has saved the world many times over.
The series resembles the James Bond movies in that they involve international intrigue, lots of cool gadgets, and memorable villains. In fact, Horowitz was motivated to begin this series after seeing A View to a Kill, in which, as Horowitz remembers it, the Bond series had gone stale, with “the 57 year old Roger Moore shooting his cool electronic gadgets from his walker.” His reaction was to return this type of fun to young people.
The Alex Rider series is nothing if not fun. The books typically involve serious world issues (e.g., resurgence of Russia, human cloning, and foreign terrorists) while never letting it intrude on the fun and non-stop action. Accordingly, the books have sold millions of copies and been translated into 35 languages.
One of the fans of this series is Ryan Brim, who is uniquely qualified to comment on the books. Mr. Brim has read eight of the nine books in the series, and is looking forward to reading the ninth and final book, Scorpia Rising. Moreover, Brim recently attended Horowitz’s final lecture on the Rider series, where he was able to meet the author.
What follows is an email interview with Ryan Brim about the Rider Series.
Q: How did Alex Rider get involved in the spy business?
A: Both his dad and uncle were field agents for MI6. Alex was secretly trained in espionage by his uncle. When both his uncle and dad were killed, the MI6 recruited Rider for his skills and his youth which, on this mission, would be a big help.
Q: You’ve read eight of Rider’s books. What was his most interesting mission?
A: On Alex’s first mission, he meets the evil Herod Sayle and goes undercover to test out a new computer game by the name of Stormbreaker. Alex learns that Sayle’s game is really part of a sinister plot to destroy children in England. Alex risks his life but stops Sayle and keeps readers on the edge of their seats.
Q: Like James Bond, Rider has lots of cool gadgets. Can you describe a couple of his gadgets that he uses to get out of scrapes?
A: On each mission, Rider is given gadgets that will help him escape from any scrape that he might get into. My two personal favorite gadgets are the CD player and the pens. The CD player is actually a saw that Alex uses in book two, Point Blank, to cut off the bars from a window. In his eighth book, Rider uses two pens, red and black, that are actually bombs. The bombs are activated by twisting them for fifteen seconds, then pulling the plunger up. In both missions, these devices save the day.
Q: What do you think is so appealing about Alex Rider to young people, particularly young boys?
A: I think that the young boys like the Alex Rider books because of his experiences, missions, and the gadgets. He manages to save the world several times, has many different skills, and he travels the world. He encounters mad men in a lot of the books, or sometimes just someone who wants power and money. But with the help of Smithers, an agent working for MI6, he has all sorts of gadgets that get him out of trouble.
Q: You’ve read two books by Horowitz that did not involve Alex Rider: Myths and Legends and the Switch. Would you recommend those to other young people?
A: Yes, I would recommend both of those books to other readers. I would recommend Myths and Legends to anybody who enjoys reading about mythology.
The Alex Rider series can be found at Hastings and the Huntsville Public Library.