*Warning: mild spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn’t read Stormbreaker or Point Blanc*
Anthony Horowitz’s first Alex Rider novel was first published 20 years ago – but two decades on, and the bestselling book series still attracts legions of devoted readers.
Fans of the fictional teen spy will be waiting with baited breath to see how faithful Amazon Prime Video’s upcoming adaptation, starring Otto Tarrant as Alex, will be to the original books. And while the show retains the spirit of the books, there are a few marked differences, including a brand new central character.
Read on for everything you need to know about how the TV show Alex Rider measures up to Horowitz’s books.
You can buy the 10-book collection on Amazon here.
Which Alex Rider book is the TV show based on?
The TV show borrows the opening elements from the first book, Stormbreaker, in which Alex Rider first finds out that his uncle Ian has died – and discovers that he wasn’t a banker at all, but was in reality a British secret service agent.
However, the bulk of the series follows the main storylines in Point Blanc, the second Alex Rider book, in which Alex goes undercover to attend an elite school (“Point Blanc”) in the French Alps, and investigates the mysterious links to several high-profile murders.
Speaking on-set to RadioTimes.com, author Anthony Horowitz explained: “This series, we very carefully stuck to Point Blanc [rather than Stormbreaker]; we obviously have to go into the origins of what happens, which we’ve slightly changed from sort of the books and from past stories, but it is still the same beats, it is still Ian Rider, it is still – the most important thing is, no he [Ian] wasn’t a bank manager, he was a spy.”
Some of those “change[s]” include removing the iconic scene where Alex Rider tracks down his uncle’s bullet-ridden car, discovering that Ian has been murdered – before narrowly escaping a car crusher.
Instead, the scene has been replaced with a frantic chase scene across London, after Alex manages to find his uncle’s car with the help of a phone app and his eccentric friend, Tom.
Was Alex’s uncle Ian Rider in the books?
Stormbreaker, the first book in the series, kicks off with Alex Rider and his housekeeper, Jack, discovering that Ian Rider has been killed in a car crash after forgetting to wear his seatbelt – something that immediately raises Alex’s suspicion.
In the show’s pilot episode, however, we get to meet Ian Rider and see him at work as a spy – and interacting with his nephew, Alex – before his untimely death.
The show has also slightly tweaked the excuse that Ian’s “bank colleagues” (all secret service agents) initially give Alex: that his uncle was ‘speeding’, instead of ‘driving without a seatbelt’.
Why doesn’t Alex Rider work for MI6?
In the books, it’s made clear that Alan Blunt, Mrs Jones, and eventually Alex Rider all work for MI6 – but in the show, that’s been changed, with Blunt now heading up a murky, secretive subdivision of the British secret service.
Screenwriter Guy Burt told RadioTimes.com: “The books are quite specific about Alex being employed by MI6 – I have made him employed by a department which is a sub section of MI6, and is variously referred to as a kind of rogue department or a usefully deniable asset by depending on who you ask, so the idea is that MI6 themselves perhaps wouldn’t go so far as to do this, but that Alan Blunt’s department – which is kind of hived off to one side and a different entity – would. And Blunt himself says of the department that they exist in order to do things that nobody else would.
He continued: “They’re just called ‘The Department’, and they are part of British secret service.”
Was the character Kyra in the books?
Screenwriter Guy Burt has created a brand new female character, Kyra, played by Marli Siu, and who wasn’t in the books.
“We’ve introduced a character who’s not in the book, called Kyra, [she] is a girl at Point Blanc, the school where Alex gets sent,” Burt told RadioTimes.com. “And… my vision for her was to have somebody who pretty much immediately doesn’t buy Alex’s cover story. So she sees through him.”
He continued: “I really wanted to have a female character who’s kind of not just a love interest, not just a sort of side character, but somebody central. So that’s Kyra, and she is a kind of slow burn character, she’s introduced to us about halfway through the series but she becomes more and more significant as the series goes on. And for me, partly because she’s entirely my creation, she’s not in the books at all, it’s been great fun trying to find a way to place her within this.
He added: “A kind of mental shorthand for her throughout has been a young version of Lisbeth Salander’s character from Girl With A Dragon Tattoo. If you can imagine her as a teenager.”
Wasn’t Point Blanc an all-boys school in the book?
In the book Point Blanc, the school of the same name is exclusively for the problem-sons of billionaires. Alex Rider attends the school while undercover as the son of a British businessman, and there meets various scions of wealthy families, including: James Sprintz, Hugo Vries, Tom McMorin, Nicholas Marc, Cassian James and Joe Canterbury.
However, we can guess from publicity shots and from screenwriter Guy Burt’s description of Kyra (“a girl at Point Blanc”) that in the TV show the school is now a mixed-school with both male and female students.
Will there be gadgets in the Alex Rider TV show?
Both Anthony Horowitz and Guy Burt have said that there will be fewer gadgets in the TV show.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com, Horowitz said that the show’s creators were all keen to steer clear of “childishness” in the show – and that includes the gadgets.
“There aren’t many gadgets in this at all, we’ve rather pulled back on the gadgets, because the gadget side of it makes it young again, you know if you’ve got a Rubik’s Cube that blows up, which is in one of the books, or the exploding ear stud… it gets a little bit back to childishness again,” he said.
Burt added: “I suppose it’s fair to say that we’ve been pulling it slightly away from the gadgets and gloss of James Bond, and more towards grittier reality that you might actually believe.”
That makes a marked difference from the book Point Blanc, in which Alex Rider is gifted numerous gadgets ahead of his assignment, including: an exploding ear stud, infrared ski goggles and bulletproof ski suit, a Sony Discman with a hidden buzzsaw, and a Harry Potter book equipped with a hidden tranquilliser dart.
Alex Rider will premiere on Amazon Prime Video in the UK on 4th June, with all eight episodes available for UK Prime members to stream. You can also read the book series here.
If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.