I'm reading them out of order, but I'd still started on Casino Royale which was great, I really liked the romance between Bond and Vesper, the plot was realistic, one of Fleming's strongest novels. The story, it's near perfect, Bond does actual spying, Le Chiffre was a great and scary villain, he's full of menace, Vesper was a great Bond girl, ahead of her time, competent, complex, almost like Bond himself, they are the mirrors and reflections of each, they're cut from the same cloth, a perfect match, the ending was heartbreaking. One of Fleming's best. The film was also great, but I'm still leaning on the novel because it's not that much action oriented, the 50's noir spy thriller drama (almost Hitchcockian) type of thriller and story. But I liked both, but the novel has that special feel to me.
Moonraker is the Bond novel I'm re-reading the most, a perfect Bond novel, Fleming was firing all of his cylinders here, all were top notch from Gala Brand, the realistic plot, Hugo Drax, and the scenes. The most entertaining Bond novel, the most fun, the most thrilling, the most exciting, you can't go wrong with this novel, Fleming's absolute Best, it's such a roller coaster ride of a Bond novel, a great experience. The number one in my novel rankings.
Then Diamonds Are Forever, though I'd think this one was severely underrated, Tiffany Case is one of the best Bond Girls, her romance with Bond was realistic, believable and fleshed out, yes the villains didn't have much of a presence, but everything in this book is good, the henchmen (Wint and Kidd), the SPECTREVILLE lair, it's a good novel.
My favorite will always be Thunderball, I'd found it even better than the film, it has the combination of action, comedy, thrill, intrigue and suspense. The best of the Blofeld Trilogy for me. The plot was realistic, menacing villains, fully fleshed out characters and great descriptions.
The weakest of the trilogy? Sorry, but OHMSS for me. But there's so many things in that book that didn't feel right, granted, Fleming's writing is great, but there so many issues I've had with this book.
I'm starting on the big one, Tracy, yes it's her character what keeps this book down for me, she's annoying, whiny, more of baggage for Bond, a liability than an asset, she's problematic. I know that she has a backstory but I felt that the backstory was too much, it's very OTT, like all of that happened to her, how unlucky was she, was she born on Friday the 13th to happen all of that things to her?, Tiffany Case's backstory was so much better because it's realistic, simple and not over the top tragic, with Tracy, like Fleming had put all of the problems in the world in her backstory, it's a bit too much, over the top tragedy.
She's the typical damaged woman that Bond needs to cure and cling to him after that. She's weepy, the way she treats Bond, I just didn't liked it, Bond loves her for sure, but I'm not sure if Tracy does the same, if she also love Bond, based on my reading, no, she didn't. She didn't served anything to the story, what did she do? Nothing. She's just like a drama queen who arrived at the story and when Bond is in trouble she didn't helped him, the car escape? It's only a coincidence, she even just drives him out of the situation, then she's gone again for many pages. Her inclusion was only an afterthought because Bond needs to fall in love, that's all, but she didn't served any purpose. Then after her lost of presence for the majority of pages, she returned only to be a subservient character, she's weak she's devoid of personality, then she's killed. Do I felt any emotion? I felt pity for Bond, but their romance, I didn't feel anything.
And don't get me started on some of her dialogues like "Treat me like the lowest whore in creation?" I can't believe that she could tell something like that to a stranger, to a man that she didn't know that much?
And that's why of the many reasons I truly loved the film so much, Diana Rigg's Tracy is so much better, she played it with inner fire, vulnerable yet competent, her participation in the story, her presence, great.
Another one is Blofeld's plot in the book, I'd get it, Biological warfare, but his plan was only aimed at UK when he's making this very wide plot? He's brainwashing Irish and British women, like really? It lacked realism that I liked in the previous novels, Blofeld's description here was a bit of a let down.
It's the same as in the film, but at least in the film, it's international and his plot was aimed at worldwide, making the stakes higher.
There's also a bunch of foreign words like German, Swiss and French that's very hard for me to understand, and don't get me started on the repetitive use of exclamation points.
It's an overrated novel for me, but an underrated and divisive film.
You Only Live Twice? It's a great novel, the characters are great compared to OHMSS, where the characters only functioned as plot devices, here, they felt like real people. Blofeld's description here was again like in Thunderball, he's menacing again here. It's the most darkest Bond novel I've read, Fleming's writing was really great probably one of the best. I was so disappointed of how No Time To Die wasted those elements from this novel, but here's hoping that they could use it again and much better im the future Bond films.
I'm continuing my review of other Bond novels.
Early in the year I fizzled out a bit with my reading and didn't make as much progress, but now I'm back on the wagon again, and overall I'm still doing good with my quest to read through every Bond novel in order. Currently on Goldfinger.
Dr. No has been my favourite so far. More fantastical than the others, but that's what I enjoyed about it. A tense, epic adventure, and surprisingly heartfelt too.
I'm almost halfway through Brokenclaw. Began with Forever And a Day last August 2022.
On His Majesty's Secret Service - so far, so good.
I am currently reading the Dark Horse comic book story "Light Of My Death" by Das Petrou which was published in 1993. It took me a while to find all of the issues, but I am glad that I have all of them at last. I have only read the first issue so far, but I am enjoying the 1960's Cold War setting and the artwork.
Just reread Icebreaker. I had a positive memory before this new reading and I can confirm it was justified. We have here a genuine spy thriller like FRWL and there are several common points between the two plots. The actual reason why the Soviets launch this operation and contact MI6 is to have Bond assigned and standing near the Finland-Russia border, then he can be captured easily, which reminds me the Smersh Konspiratsia. Furthermore, the way Mosolov gets killed with the phone of the Saab is very similar to the way Bond gets rid of Grant with the throwing knife of the briefcase on the Orient Express.
The story is not particularly original but the characters of Paula, Rivke, Brad and Kolya are very well written. The fact we don't know anything about their real identities/intentions until the last third of the book is very enjoyable. I also like the way Gardner describes Lapland and the Arctic landscapes. Cold can be seen as a character here (the torture part is such a great moment !) and the atmosphere suits very well with the stakes.
The main issue of the novel is von Glöda, who should have been much more cunning. He's described as a charismatic leader who doesn't trust anyone while all the people he deals with double-cross him eventually, which is not very credible considering he's supposed to be a mastermind. Creating strong villains is probably Gardner's biggest weakness while it was Fleming's biggest strength...
What about you guys ? Do you appreciate Icebreaker ?
Finished reading "Light Of My Death" over this weekend. Despite the short length, it was a pretty decent story overall. Especially when you compare it to some of the later Daily Express newspaper comic strips which were original stories. The biggest surprise for me was that despite the return of Tatiana Romanova from Fleming's From Russia With Love story, she and James Bond only interact twice in the span of the whole story. Also, given that this story was included in an anthology with other Dark Horse titles, I cannot but wonder if the author was under pressure to kept his story at a shorter length. Indeed, there are only some short action sequences and the mastermind of the whole scheme, a Mr. Amos is not captured or killed at the climax. Rather M tells Bond that MI6 will be keeping tabs on him, since he is still at large in spite of Bond stopping his plans to disrupt a trade summit of countries sending financial aid to Southeast Asia.
Still I will say that I enjoyed it more than some of the other original stories by the continuation authors in both novel form and some of the comic book stories from both Dark Horse and Dynamite comics.
Got my copy of On His Majesty's Secret Service today, looking forward to reading it once I finish working on The Last Adventures Of James Bond. Sounds like it will be a fun read even if it the length of the story is short.
Loved Icebreaker. I actually logged in to see if anyone was currently reading any Gardner novels so this is good timing.
Just started Role of Honor for the first time as I'm working my way through some of the Gardner novels I've missed over the years.
Icebreaker is actually one of my favorite post-Fleming novels.
I don't know if you're familiar with Calvin Dyson's YouTube channel, but among other great content he's reading and reviewing the Bond novel in publishing order. He has just reviewed Never Send Flowers.
I've enjoyed seeing Calvin's journey through the Bond novels on Youtube. It's good that such a well known Bond fan is giving them some attentiom which seldom seems to happen outside forums like this. Unfortunately many of the reviews will probably put potential readers off giving Gardner a try. At least he does give Gardner some credit for being entertaining at times, as in the case of Never Send Flowers. I'm curious what his reaction the Raymond Benson books will be when he gets round to those.
I've just finished reading Never Dream of Dying. For a long time the final two Benson books have been the only two of the main line of continuation novels that I haven't read. One of the reasons I've left this book unread for so long was because I liked the idea of always having a couple of Bond novels still to read. The other reason was that I've read extremely negative reviews of NDoD on this forum so I was afraid that one of my last Bond novels to read was going to be terrible and leave me feeling a bit depressed.
After reading it, I'd agree that it is among the weaker Bond novels but I'm nonetheless pleased to say that I had a reasonably enjoyable time reading it and was entertained. It was a bit like watching Die Another Day (my least favourite Bond film but still fun to watch from time to time). Raymond Benson made a contentious choice in this novel with regards to one of Ian Fleming's original supporting characters, and I have to say that didn't really bother me much. I remember reading Benson's explanation of this when he was interviewed by our very own Barbel for this site and I'm inclined to agree that it was not an unreasonable path for the character to take. More bothersome was the often uninteresting prose, which felt more like reading the descriptions in a film script, as well as some unnecessarily graphic and tacky attempts at erotic scenes.
Much of the story also takes place around the world of film and celebrity culture, with Bond even landing up on the cover of Paris Match at one point, which I found a disconcerting scenario for Bond to be in. On the other hand, setting the story in the world of film was also kind of fun, because that appeals to my personal interest in movies. It may have been my imagination, but it seemed that Benson was doing a lot of injokes, naming chartacters after people associated with the Bond films in some capacity. An obvious one is a character called David Worrall. But there were some others that I thought might have been sneaky little references, like a stuntman called Rick (named after Rick Sylvester perhaps) . I think there were a couple more but I can't remember them now. These were a bit distracting and felt unnecessary.
On the plus side, I thought the character of Tylyn Mignonne was one of the more memorable female characters in the continuation series. I often find that the female characters and sometime the villains in the continuation books are easily forgettable and there are very few Bond girls from these books whose names I can even remember. NDoD at least has a decent Bond girl and a memorable villain (it helps that this is the end of a trilogy featuring Le Gerant and The Union as the antagonists). The helicopter assault on the island at the end also brought back pleasant memories of the attack on Piz Gloria in OHMSS. So, NDoD turned out to be not as bad as I'd often been led to believe, but I certainly won't be recommending this book to anyone as a must-read Bond novel, unless you really want to read them all.
I agree. Icebreaker is a very strong novel. I have big issues with the way Gardner made Fleming's universe his own but this one was a big surprise considering I discovered it after For Special Services, Role of Honour, Scorpius, Win, Lose or Die, Brokenclaw, The Man from Barbarossa...
I didn't really appreciate any of these, and when I started reading Icebreaker, I had the feeling it was completely different from what I was used to with this author. I also liked Licence renewed which reminded me Moonraker in some way (espacially the part in Murik's castle).
My personal top 5 post-Fleming novels ranking is:
I think the main problem of NDoD is the plot. It's very weak and Benson uses no geopolitical context to develop the Union threat. The beginning is not so bad but from the moment Bond goes to France, the book is not a spy thriller anymore, it becomes a crime novel, and a pretty average one. The chapter where Bond tries to escape from the TV studios in Paris is probably one of the most ridiculous moments in the entire literary universe (the Benny Hill gags with the dogs are absurd and do not fit with the stakes).
It's a shame because I think Benson did a very good job with his first novels, especially Zero Minus Ten which remains a very strong one in my opinion (the way Hong Kong is described is absolutely amazing). Unfortunately, I belong to those who don't appreciate the Union Trilogy, precisely because of its lack of originality. What Fleming did with SPECTRE and Blofeld is something unique and I just don't buy the concept here.