Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Alex Rider: Revolution (Immortal) 9

The fifth Alex Rider [1] novel, Scorpia, penned by Anthony Horowitz, is an odd book; the focus switches from a youthful James Bond pastiche to a darker form of conspiracy fiction. In any case, the teenaged MI6 operative quickly gets in over his head when he attempts to uncover the organization his father worked for: Scorpia. However, for the Farmer-fan this novel takes on new dimensions. The whole organization of Scorpia seems to be closely modeled off of PJF’s the Nine and, from a Wold Newton perspective, slides neatly into the Nine saga.

The ruling council of Scorpia consists of nine people from different nations: an old German, an Israeli, a Welsh, a Chinese and several of unknown nationalities. As readers of the Nine Trilogy remember, there were several Germanics on the council of the Nine, as well as an Israeli. [2]

During the discussion that follows, it is uncovered that this group prefers the firearms built by the FN company (the weapon of choice for the candidates of the Nine), and that “Only nine were left. One had died of cancer. Two had been murdered” (page 5). This statement fits nicely with the body count from the Nine Trilogy. Xauxaz died of extreme old age [3]; Mubaniga and Jiizfan died at the hands of Lord Grandrith. The death that runs counter to this theory is Iwaldi, a traitor to the Nine who had perfected an immortality drug that not only retarded aging, but caused the user to de-age to his physical prime. However, as stated, he was a traitor, making unlikely the Nine would count him as a member in their histories.

Later in the novel, Rider attempts to sneak into a several hundred year old castle [4] where Scorpia is holding a meeting of all its members. As Rider goes poking about back rooms, he comes upon a white Bengal Tiger in a richly furnished bed room. The animal attacks him until a guard comes in the room and flips a switch on a remote control. “And then the impossible happened….[the tiger] slumped and lay still on the floor....and then it was asleep, it’s stomach rising and falling, its eyes closed.” This devise as described in the novel is nearly identical to the invention from The Mad Goblin which made implanted animals into somewhat autonomous soldiers by alternatively stroking their brain’s anger or fear impulses with a radio-wave machine.

After several minor adventures, Alex Rider is inveigled into joining the organization in memory of his father. After which he is then carted off to an island school for assassinations. During his stay on this small Italian isle, two events of note take place. The first is that in one of the classes, all of the other students were learning a lesson about cigar boxes (for more on the use of cigars in the Nine, I direct my reader to Christopher Paul Carey’s article “The Green Eyes Have It—Or Are They Blue?” contained in Myths for the Modern Age, Monkey Brain Books, 2005).

The much more important event of note is Rider’s mental health examination by a Dr. Karl Steiner. Another Dr. Karl has quite an interesting history, but at the moment we are only concerned with two of his many cover identities. During the first world war, he posed as Baron Karl von Hessel, the captain of the prison camp Loki (in Farmer’s Escape from Loki, Bantam, 1992). There he was obsessed with finding a potion for immortality; ultimately his efforts were destroyed by a young Doc Savage. The second moment of interest is from the final Doc Savage novel Up from Earth’s Center, where Karl poses as a psychologist in order to fulfill his goals (for complete information on these two adventures of Doc Savage and a fuller account of Dr. Karl please again look to Carey’s “The Green Eyes Have It—Or Are They Blue”). It is my belief that both of these Dr. Karls are one and the same man.

During the examination, Dr. Karl injects Rider with what he calls a “vitamin boost,” an amber colored elixir of unknown effect. Later in the novel Rider suspects that he has been injected full of a nanotech soup intended to kill him—but why would an organization that has spent so much money and time to develop a boy into a skilled killer wish to murder him during an unrelated a terror attack on London? Far more likely he was injected with the same strain of elixir that caused insanity in both Caliban and Grandrith—as will be seen below.

Immediately following his “vitamin boost” Rider is sent to murder one of his bosses at MI6, something he attempts willingly, despite it going against his character. This echoes Doc Caliban’s sufferings from the immortality potion throughout A Feast Unknown. The injection did not affect Rider in the same extreme ways, but it must be remembered that he is a pubescent boy and probably would not be physically able to exhibit some of the symptoms. His talk with his boss right before he tries to kill her plays like an encore to the finale of Feast where Grandrith attempts to talk Caliban down.

He is captured by government agents and sleeps off the effect of wanting to kill his boss. Within the context of the novel, this makes no sense as he wanted to murder her out of a mixture of revenge and hate. But within the context of the Nine trilogy, this makes perfect sense. A wounded Caliban slept off the effects of the potion after a nervous break down.

The final item of note is the goal of Scorpia. According to Horowitz, Scorpia is under contract by a Middle Eastern sheik to decimate the school age population of England and, possibly, cause war between England and America in the fallout. This seems plausible, but it is troubling that aside from three mentions, two by Scorpia and one by a British agent, no one seems to mention or care about this backer. I find it more likely that Scorpia, aka the Nine, were themselves responsible for this. Consider what the Nine wanted during the events of Lord of the Trees/The Mad Goblin: to return the earth to its ancient population levels. What better way to do this than start wars between two major countries?

Alex Rider was successful in his bid to end this Nine threat. After a lengthy recuperation from the mental and physical tortures of this mission he was forced into a return match against the Nine—thus time against their deadliest member: the immortal Dr. Fu Manchu. However, this battle goes far beyond the scope of this essay. (For complete information, please see my forthcoming article on the Alex Rider series.)

The ultimate question asked of this article is, did Anthony Horowitz knowing include all these seeming references to the Nine trilogy in homage to Philip José Farmer? This I leave for the reader to decide.

[1] It is worth noting that the Alex Rider series is filled with hints that it not only takes place within the same universe as the James Bond novels but that Rider is the grandson of James Bond by Honeychile Rider (the Bond girl from Doctor No). In The Man With the Golden Gun, Bond notes that Honeychile had twins some years before with a doctor from Philadelphia. Alex Rider’s father and his brother were twins. Two objections to this theory exist. The first is that the twins would have the same last name as Honey’s husband; this possibly resolved in Pearson’s Authorized Biography of 007 when Honey states that she is divorced, thus we may assume that her children took up the RIder name. The second objection is the question of whether Bond could have fathered the twins before Honey married and still leave her husband thinking the children are his own. Considering that Bond was going to take Honey to see an American doctor to fix her broken nose at the end of Doctor No, it is possible that she could have had a whirlwind romance and been married inside of a month.

Please see my forthcoming article on the Alex Rider series for a complete listing of the hints within the Alex Rider novels about Bond.

[2] Strangely, the Israeli wears an eye patch; the novel notes that he “accidentally” shot his eye out with his FN pistol. Perhaps with the death of Xauxaz in A Feast Unknown a new symbolic Odin was needed for the religious rights of the Nine.

[3] Death by old age is no longer recognized as a cause of death in the United States because there is always some deeper cause. It is possible that Xauxaz did die of cancer.

[4] It is worth noting that the castle was lit by candle power, perhaps they were used in place of torches to pass the immortality drug to the candidates. See Christopher Paul Carey’s “The Green Eyes Have it—or Are They Blue” (Myths for the Modern Age, 2004) for more information.

James Bojaciuk

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