Unlike his fellow reluctant agents Palmer and Callan, however, Alex Rider tends to find himself on missions of Bondian proportions, getting into scrapes that only daring stunts and improbable physics could get him out of. (In this entry, Alex plunges to the bottom of an icy Scottish Loch in an SUV, tangles with crocodiles and blows up a giant dam–while he's standing on it–to catalog just a few of his many amazing feats.) In fact, the first two Alex Rider novels had plots borrowed wholesale from Ian Fleming. Stormbreaker was a loose retelling of Fleming’s Moonraker (very different from the Roger Moore film version, and therefore unlikely to be known by Young Adult readers), and Point Blanc (Point Blank in America, where the art of the pun is under-appreciated) rather brilliantly drew on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Even the flaws in Horowitz’s books can be traced to Fleming. Crocodile Tears, like Goldfinger, relies far too much on coincidence. (Numerous instances of it, no less.) I’m of two minds about all of this. On the one hand, Horowitz shows good taste in his literary influences, and he very creatively reworks the stories for children. On the other, though, I hate to think that the Alex Rider books might spoil Fleming for young readers. Like many of my generation and even more of the few that came before it, I suspect, I was already reading the real thing at the 12-15 year-old "Young Adult" age that Horowitz’s novels are geared toward, under the covers in bed with a flashlight. Will readers of this generation discover Moonraker one day and lose interest because they’ve seen it all before? I hope not. I prefer to think things will go the other way, and Alex Rider will provide a good stepping stone from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to 007. In any case, Horowitz abandoned the practice of directly basing his story structures on those of Fleming after the second book, instead opting to borrow certain elements here and there for subsequent volumes. Overall, I like that approach better.
Alex Rider took one last glance in the mirror, then stopped and looked a second time. It was strange, but he wondered if he recognized the boy who was looking back. There were the thin lips, the slightly chiseled nose and chin, the light brown hair hanging in two strands over the very dark brown eyes. He raised a hand and, obediently, his reflection did the same. But there was something different about this other Alex Rider. It wasn’t quite him.
Of course, the clothes he was wearing didn’t help. In a few minutes, he would be leaving for a New Year’s Eve party being held at a castle on the banks of Loch Arkaig in the Highlands of Scotland–and the invitation had been clear. Dress: black tie. Reluctantly, Alex had gone out and rented the entire outfit . . . dinner jacket, black trousers, and a white shirt with a wing collar that was too tight and squeezed his neck. The one thing he had refused to do was put on the polished leather shoes that the shopkeeper had insisted would make the outfit complete. Black sneakers would have to do. What did it all make him look like? he wondered as he straightened the bow tie for the tenth time. A young James Bond. He hated the comparison, but he couldn’t avoid it.