Point Blanc

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This article is about the book. For the ballistics term, see point-blank range.
Point Blank
First edition cover
UK cover
Author Anthony Horowitz
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Alex Rider series
Genre Adventure, spy, thriller
Publisher Walker Books
Publication date
4 September 2001 U.K April 15, 2002 N.A
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 288 pp (first edition, paperback)
ISBN ISBN 0-7445-5971-5 (first edition paperback)
OCLC 47149349
LC Class PZ7.H7875 Po 2001
Preceded by Stormbreaker
Followed by Skeleton Key
Alex Rider Stormbreaker Coverart.jpg
AlexRider.jpg
Stormbreakerbook.jpg

Point Blanc is the second book in the Alex Rider series, written by British author Anthony Horowitz. The book was released in the United Kingdom on September 3, 2001 and in North America on April 15, 2002, under the alternate title Point Blank.

In 2003, the novel was listed on the BBC's survey The Big Read.[1] In 2007, it was adapted into a graphic novel, written by Antony Johnston, and illustrated by Kanako Damerum and Yuzuru Takasaki.

Plot summary[edit]

The book opens with the death of American billionaire Michael J. Roscoe in New York, arranged by a reputable contract killer known only as The Gentleman. In London, Alex Rider ends up in trouble with the police for causing a large amount of damage to a new police headquarters by exposing a school drug dealer. In exchange for any potential charges being dropped, Alex is assigned by MI6 to investigate the mysterious deaths of Roscoe and another billionaire General Viktor Ivanov on the Black Sea. The only apparent connection between the two men is that they both had a son attending Point Blanc, an academy in the French Alps run by a South African scientist, Dr. Hugo Grief. Alan Blunt, who was contacted by a distressed Roscoe before his death, is suspicious, and so sends Alex to investigate. Alex's cover is that of the son of a supermarket magnate, Sir David Friend. Alex initially spends a week as a member of Friend's family and is required to memorize as much detail as possible about his cover. However, during his stay with the family, he receives a hard time from David's daughter Fiona. Alex even finds himself shot at by Fiona's rich friends when they go out shooting, only for Fiona to claim that it was "just a bit of fun", although Alex gains a small victory by ambushing and frightening one of Fiona's friends before throwing away his gun. The next day, when Alex and Fiona are out horse riding, Fiona falls off her horse in the middle of a railway tunnel. Alex goes back in on his horse and just manages to retrieve Fiona and jump off a bridge into a river before they are run over by a high speed train. Fiona apologises for her harsh behaviour, but is then insulted when Alex bluntly refuses to kiss her.

Grief's assistant Mrs. Stellenbosch, arrives at the Friend's house by helicopter. Smithers meets with Alex undercover as a farmer and provides him with some equipment and gadgets (including an electric saw disguised into a Sony Discman, an mini grenade disguised as an ear stud, a bulletproof ski suit, infrared ski goggles, and a single-shot tranquilizer gun disguised as a Harry potter book). Alex is forced to sacrifice his only weapon by tranquilizing Fiona with his book when she threatens to expose him to Stellenbosch out of spite. Alex is taken to a hotel in Paris, where his dinner drink is drugged. His bed is then transported where Mrs. Stellenbosch has Alex stripped completely, photographed, examined, and measured. After the examination, Alex's clothes are put back on and he is returned to his hotel room; Alex awakens knowing only that he has been drugged for some unknown purpose.

Upon arriving at Point Blanc, Alex meets the founder Dr Grief and later a student who goes by the name of James Sprintz as well as a group of other boys he gets to know through the week such as Hugo Vries, Tom McMorin, and Joe Canterbury. James thinks something is wrong with the academy because the other boys were rebellious before and then suddenly became complacent. During his showing Alex around the school, James reveals to him his plan to escape the academy. After sneaking out of his room using the Discman, Alex witnesses a boy being forcibly dragged downstairs and is convinced it is James. Yet Alex later sees James unharmed in his bedroom. The following day at breakfast, James' attitude towards his plan to escape seems to have changed, and Alex realizes he has become exactly like the other students. Alex climbs a chimney to examine the forbidden third and fourth floors. He discovers that the third and fourth floors are accurate replicas of the first and second floors respectively (for instance, replicas of the boys' rooms, with TV screens monitoring their behavior downstairs). Alex signals MI6 using the CD device provided to him by Smithers. This signal is received by the MI6 office, where Alan Blunt and Mrs. Jones debate whether to move in on the academy immediately. Blunt decides to prepare a unit on stand by.

Upon further investigation, Alex finds some boys locked in a basement jail, including James and the son of Michael J. Roscoe, Paul. Alex learns that James was indeed dragged downstairs and was replaced by a replica. Alex reveals the truth to James and Paul, his identity and the reason why he was sent to Point Blanc. Mrs. Stellenbosch is told of this after someone overhears it via a bug planted in the cell and knocks Alex unconscious, has him handcuffed to a chair, and turns him over to Dr. Grief, who then reveals his plan to take over the world, named "Project Gemini".

In the 1980s, Grief cloned sixteen copies of himself in his home country of South Africa (where he greatly supported the apartheid regime). While the real boys are at Point Blanc, a plastic surgeon named Baxter surgically alters Grief's 14-year-old clones to resemble them. Soon, the clone and the real boy are swapped. The replica rooms are used by the clones to imitate the boys' behavior so the parents will not notice that they have been swapped. When the parents die and pass on their inheritance, Dr. Grief will take the assets from the clones. Eventually, he will be the most powerful man in the world, and reinstate apartheid globally. The parents Roscoe and Ivanov were both killed because they became suspicious of their "sons'" behaviour.

Grief imprisons Alex, planning to dissect him alive the next day for a biology class. Alex uses his exploding ear-stud to escape his cage. He improvises a snowboard (using an ironing-board) to escape, but Grief sends his guards on snowmobiles with machine guns to take him down. During the pursuit, one snowmobile crashes into a tree because it could not fit through a small gap that Alex squeezed through. Another guard is knocked in the head by Alex's "snowboard" and ultimately falls. Alex almost makes it to the bottom of the mountain but a machine gunner previously prepared by Grief is waiting for him. Just as the man is about to fire, a train approaches in the way. Alex jumps on top of it but loses his balance, falls and passes out.

Alex is taken to a hospital in Grenoble, where a visiting Mrs Stellenbosch is told that Alex has died. However, it is revealed that Alex is alive, and MI6 then sends him out again with a team of SAS soldiers (among them is Wolf, an SAS soldier introduced in Stormbreaker) to help liberate the school. In the school, the SAS team take out several guards and go down to the basement to save the imprisoned boys. An on-going fire-fight ensues as the team encounter more guards. Wolf demands Alex to stay back. Alex goes into the dining room and sees Dr Grief about to escape in a helicopter. However, Mrs Stellenbosch appears who is surprised and disappointed that Alex is still alive. Despite Alex's efforts to fend her off, she overpowers him and pins him against a wall. She pulls out a gun and just as she points it at Alex, Wolf appears. Wolf is shot three times by Mrs Stellenbosch but manages to shoot the woman himself with his machine gun. Mrs Stellenbosch falls out a window, but manages to wound Wolf. Alex prevents Dr. Grief escaping by driving a snowmobile up a ramp and crashing it into Grief's helicopter, jumping off at the last second.

Alex is debriefed by MI6 and Mrs Jones tells him that all fifteen clones have been arrested. Alex later goes home where Jack Starbright informs him that his school headteacher wanted to see him. Alex goes to his school and to the headteachers office and is startled to find the sixteenth clone, who resembles, and avoided capture and escaped to England. The clone tries to shoot Alex, causing a fire in a laboratory. Alex runs up to the roof, only to be followed by the clone. The two fight ending with one of them falling into a hole in the roof following an explosion. It is later implied in Skeleton Key and confirmed in Scorpia Rising that it was the clone who fell.

Inspiration[edit]

The book Alex Rider: The Mission Files claims that Anthony Horowitz was inspired by the first successful clone, Dolly the sheep. Horowitz read about it in a newspaper one day, and this inspired the book Point Blanc; although the plot does seem to borrow somewhat from the Ian Fleming novel On Her Majesty's Secret Service.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

Reviewer Chris High said, "For first class spills, thrills, and adventure, Anthony Horowitz can be safely said to have cornered the modern market...influenced greatly by Ian Fleming's work."[3] Read Hot calls it a "must read for all teenagers".[4] The School Library Journal says, "Spy gadgets, chase scenes, mysteries, and a cliff-hanger ending will keep even reluctant readers interested in the second novel in this series." Booklist also says that Point Blanc is a great read for any reluctant teenager ready for a thrilling spy adventure.[5]

Awards[edit]

  • Shortlisted for the 2002 Children’s Book Award.
  • Winner of the 2004 Children's Book Awards.

References[edit]

See also[edit]