It was the summer of 2002 when I first meet Alex Rider. I was on holiday in Grenada with my family and was enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the Caribbean. When we weren’t at the beach, discovering the island’s rich history of nutmeg farming or generally lounging about, I found my attention hooked not by my Game Boy Pocket, but by the inaugural adventure of this teenage spy.
Alex Rider was created by British author Anthony Horowitz – whose work was a big influence in making me realise reading could actually be enjoyable when I was young. Beginning with the death of his uncle, 14-year-old Alex is soon embroiled in an MI6 operation to investigate Sayle Enterprise’s research facility in Cornwall. What followed was a mesmerising spy adventure that had me reading chapter after chapter, oblivious to the heat of the Caribbean Sun. It wasn’t just the adventure itself, however, I quickly warmed to Alex as character, and over these 10 years he’s become my closest literary hero.
The reason I identify with Alex is because I see some of him in me, but he is also someone I could never be and possesses qualities and skills I wish I had. He’s courageous, intelligent, athletic, streetwise, selfless, multilingual, a proficient martial artist, confident, witty, claim, friendly and loyal. And yet, he is manipulated by MI6 and all kinds of people throughout the series. He is living a frightening, brutal life and because of this I came to sympathise with him all the more. It makes him all the more human. He feels fear, anger, regret, love and hate. Characters in the books doubt him because of his age, and I’m sure real adults do too, but there’s so much more to Alex.
An author once said something to the effect of “there’s no friend like a good book,” (wish I could recall the exact quote) and I’d have to agree. When I’ve been on my way to the Lake District, waiting for my train at Victoria station, lounging on my bed in Nottingham trying to take my mind off work and countless other places, Alex and his adventures have been with me even when others have not. The books have never failed to keep my attention held even in the most disruptive of environments, and it all goes back to Alex’s character and the finesse with which Horowitz constructs his stories. Alex is relieved to return home to the grey clouds and red buses of London after a narrow escape in the south of France. You feel his exasperation as he desperately tries to convince Sabina, one of his few friends and perhaps something more, that the Royal & General is an MI6 cover, when the organisation refuses to help him. And you feel his vengefulness when he discovers the whereabouts of the shady organisation, Scorpia, that killed his father.
I genuinely care about Alex, and I felt this more prominently than ever on the afternoon I finished reading Scorpia, the fifth book which deals with Alex’s parents and past, for the first time. The entirety of the final chapter is a steady build up to a defiant act of revenge. Alex is shot in the chest by a sniper. I could feel the moment coming as I read. I began to hang on to each sentence as if cling to the final moments of a friend’s passing. With the last few words, “Alex Rider smiled and closed his eyes,” I closed the book. That was the last I assumed I’d hear of my silent friend, and it very nearly brought me to tears.
But, no. It seems Horowitz hadn’t been about to kill off Alex – not yet at least. Since Scorpia, Alex has return in another three books (to discover how he survived the shooting I encourage you to read Ark Angel), and now his ninth and final adventure is upon us. In Scorpia Rising, 15-year-old Alex faces the international crime syndicate once again. Ever since Scorpia, I’ve approach every Alex Rider book as if it’s my last. I’m tremendously excited to see how Horowitz closes Alex’s saga. Having first spotted the books in primary school, read them all through high school and college, this final book is arriving at a time of great change for me as I prepare to finish my degree and move onto a new phase in my life. Alex has been with me from my childhood to the end of my teenage years, and as another landmark transition approaches for me, I look forward to join him on his final adventure.