Point Blanc

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Point Blanc
Pointblanc.JPG
Second edition cover
Author Anthony Horowitz
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Alex Rider series
Genre Adventure, spy thriller, thriller
Publisher Walker Books (UK)
Publication date
4 September 2001 U.K April 15, 2002 N.A
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 288 pp (first edition, paperback)
ISBN 0-7445-5971-5 (first edition paperback)
OCLC 47149349
LC Class PZ7.H7875 Po 2001
Preceded by Stormbreaker
Followed by Skeleton Key

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 electronics billionaire Michael J. Roscoe in an elevator shaft, a friend of Blunt's from the University of Cambridge, in his New York City offices, 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 conference centre by exposing a school drug dealer. In exchange for any potential charges being dropped, Alex is assigned by MI6 to investigate the motive behind the mysterious deaths of Roscoe and another billionaire, former KGB agent and head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, General Viktor Ivanov, who died when his motorboat exploded on the Black Sea. The only apparent connection between the two men is that they both had a son attending Point Blanc, an academy for the problem sons of billionaires in the French Alps run by a South African scientist, Dr. Hugo Grief.

Alex's cover is that of "Alex Friend", supposedly the rebellious son of a supermarket magnate, Sir David Friend, and he spends a week as a member of Friend's family in order to build his cover. However, during his stay with the family, he receives a hard time from David's daughter Fiona. After his stay with the family, Grief's assistant Mrs. Stellenbosch, arrives at the Friend's house by helicopter. Meanwhile, Smithers meets with Alex, undercover as a farmer, and provides him with some equipment and gadgets (including an explosive ear stud, a bulletproof ski suit, infrared ski goggles, a Sony Discman equipped with a diamond-edged buzzsaw (the blade disguised as a Beethoven CD) and an inbuilt SOS signal, and a hardback Harry Potter book with a tranquilizer dart concealed in the spine). 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. When he passes out in his hotel room, his bed, along with the entire floor, is then transported to a laboratory where Mrs. Stellenbosch and Dr Walter Baxter have Alex examined. After the examination, Alex's clothes are put back on and he is returned to his hotel room.

Upon arriving at Point Blanc, Alex meets the founder and director, Dr Grief, and later a German student who goes by the name of James Sprintz, as well as a group of five other boys he gets to know through the week. James confides with Alex that he thinks something is wrong with the academy, because the other boys were rebellious before, due to their criminal records, and then suddenly became complaisant at some point. James also reveals to him his plan to escape the academy, using skis and then going back to either his parents or his friends. One night, Alex witnesses a boy being forcibly dragged downstairs and is convinced it is James. Yet Alex later sees James uninjured 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 largely 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 an SAS unit on stand by, and take action 24 hours later.

Upon further investigation the next day, Alex finds some boys locked in a basement jail, including Tom, General Ivanov's son Dimitry, 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. However, as the cell is bugged, Mrs. Stellenbosch comes 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".

Grief and Mrs Stellenbosch are both revealed to be supporters of the apartheid regime, as well as ex-agents of the fearsome Bureau Of State Security. Believing that the black population would not be able to run South Africa and seeing the rest of the world support them, Grief thinks he would be better suited to rule the entire world, and he cloned sixteen copies of himself during the 1980s using stolen money from the South African government. While the real boys are at Point Blanc, plastic surgeon Dr. Baxter surgically alters Grief's 14-year-old clones to resemble them. Soon, the clone and the real boy are swapped, with the replica rooms being used by the clones to imitate the boys' behaviour so that they can learn how to impersonate them, and the parents will not notice that they have been swapped. Dr. Grief and his clones will take their assets and eventually rule the world, taking over every field of human life, including media, government, finance, business, the military and mining, when their time comes. 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 explosive ear-stud to escape his cell. He improvises a snowboard (using an ironing-board) to escape, but Grief sends his guards on snowmobiles with machine guns to take him down. However, Alex manages to outwit the snowmobiles, and 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, acting as leader) 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 ongoing 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, surprised and disappointed that Alex is still alive. An ex-weightlifting champion (having earlier bent a two-inch thick metal fire poker into a knot without breaking a sweat), Mrs Stellenbosch proves impervious to Alex's attempts to subdue her and knocks him down. Just as she points her gun at Alex, Wolf appears. Wolf is shot by Mrs Stellenbosch but manages to shoot the woman himself with his machine gun, sending her crashing through a window. Alex prevents Dr. Grief escaping by driving a snowmobile up a ski jump and sending it on a collision course with Grief's helicopter, jumping off at the last second as it obliterates the doctor in a fiery explosion.

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 the headteachers office at school and is startled to find the sixteenth clone (Julius Grief in Scorpia Rising), who resembles Alex, had avoided capture and escaped to England. The clone tries to shoot Alex, causing a fire in a laboratory when he ruptures a Bunsen burner with a bullet. 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.

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."[2] Read Hot calls it a "must read for all teenagers".[3] 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.[4]

Awards[edit]

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

See also[edit]

References[edit]