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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

Ah ha, you saw the flaw in my arguments! To be fair, I think you might see an edit come up over the weekend.....

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

LR is my favourite Gardner by far, and a worthy entry.  I also enjoyed the next couple...but they start to tail off fairly sharply after that  ajb007/crap

"Blood & Ashes"...AVAILABLE on Amazon.co.uk: Get 'Jaded': Blood & Ashes: The Debut Oscar Jade Thriller
"I am not an entrant in the Shakespeare Stakes." - Ian Fleming
"Screw 'em." - Daniel Craig, The Best James Bond EverTM

28

Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

Loeffelholz wrote:

LR is my favourite Gardner by far, and a worthy entry.  I also enjoyed the next couple...but they start to tail off fairly sharply after that  ajb007/crap

I completely and entirely agree, I own the first edition of LR, really reminiscent of Flemings first edition covers, and probably Gardners best as Loeffelholz said. ajb007/cheers

"I take a ridiculous pleasure in what I eat and drink."                                   

~ Casino Royale, Ian Fleming

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

Napoleon Plural wrote:

A visual depiction of Licence Renewed, though I will replace it with the real one in due course. Well written but 8/10? It reminds me of Empire's review of DAD - two thirds slagging but three stars cos you can't officially diss a Bond film.

OK I need to clarify this:
I stated earlier that when I rated Gardner's novels, I would judge them on their own merit, not in relation to Fleming's work.
I applied the same criteria to Wood and Pearson's efforts.
This doesn't apply to the actual comments in the review. It's very hard not to summarise one's opinions of a continuation novel without relation to Fleming. The ratings are, if you like, pre-cursed as I believe they are all, by nature, inferior to Fleming's 14 originals.
After a lot of thought, and a bottle of Chianti, I stand by what I wrote. Yes, there are deficiencies in Gardner's style, but overall Licence Renewed is a very good follow up to Colonel Sun. It works well as a thriller and has many of the essential "Bond elements" we all expect to see, even if they tend to be inspired by the Eon franchise rather than the Fleming output. But, let's remember Chris Wood was equally adept at blending the movie Bond with the written one, and I rather liked JB, TSWLM.
As such, LR works well and, if I am not mistaken, is probably one of Gardner's better efforts. I have about 15 more novels to review and I am sure they won't all be rated "8" !!!
Hope you can find a nice cover illustration for me Napoleon!

P.S. 3/4/2010
Having read Icebreaker, I now consider 8 was too generous. Licence Renewed has just been downgraded to a 7...
It's rating won't change again.
Discussion is officially closed by me!

Last edited by chrisno1 (3rd Apr 2010 14:17)

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

Consider it done.  ajb007/smile

"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

j.blades wrote:
Loeffelholz wrote:

LR is my favourite Gardner by far, and a worthy entry.  I also enjoyed the next couple...but they start to tail off fairly sharply after that  ajb007/crap

I completely and entirely agree, I own the first edition of LR, really reminiscent of Flemings first edition covers, and probably Gardners best as Loeffelholz said. ajb007/cheers


100% with all of that

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

Sorry I've taken time over this. I've started work again and it seems to be getting in the way. For Special Services will get its review posted this week.

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

"Ah, there you are old man. I was wondering what had become of you."

http://imagecache2.allposters.com/images/pic/MMPH-E/172030~Robert-Shaw-Posters.jpg

"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

FOR SPECIAL SERVICES
24/3/2010

http://s3.postimage.org/u5q_0.jpg

1982

John Gardner’s second James Bond novel features, for me, his most Fleming-esque title, which is derived from a true story. During an official war time visit to New York, Fleming outlined to William Donovan the structure and function of a national secret service. Donovan used this as a template for the fledgling C.I.A. For his efforts, Fleming was presented with a .38 Colt revolver inscribed with the moniker ‘For Special Services.’

Having found probably his best title, Gardner also paints his most traditional Bond adventure, one which bears more than a passing resemblance to Fleming’s novels, as well as offering a few deferential nods to the movie franchise. For Special Services was also a number one best seller, but here the similarities between Fleming and Gardner seem to drift apart.

The story starts exceptionally well with a tense plane hijack, thwarted in suitably vicious style by 007. The reintroduction of SPECTRE seems entirely appropriate and the early sections evoke the opening of Thunderball, as the executive committee congregates at a clapboard house on the Louisiana Bayou. The Leader, who is mysteriously also called Blofeld, executes a hapless minion in a suitably macabre fashion: a giant python kills and then consumes him in “an obscene dance of death.”

From here, Gardner wings his merry way through a story of fake Hogarth prints, elaborate Texan ranches, car chases, drugged ice cream, particle beam satellites and a one breasted villainess. There are a few tense touches, including a free falling elevator, a bedroom infested by harvester ants, an escape on a monorail and a worthwhile battle at NORAD H.Q. in the Cheyenne Mountains. He even spends time dissecting Bond’s emotions as he reflects on “the greatest lust for another man’s blood he had ever experienced.” FSS also contains a fair amount of wit among the moments of sporadic action, but it’s let down by a succession of bland characters, a trio of them the major bad guys.

Gardner’s biggest error however is with his leading lady, Cedar. This sleeper agent ticks all the boxes; she’s young and sexy and Bond recognises her as a professional from the start; she shows “a tranquillity which belied a fast working mind, accurate and deadly.” Yet, as the story progresses, Cedar becomes little more than a foil for a running gag about a cradle snatching secret agent. Cedar, of course, is the daughter of Bond’s best friend, Felix Leiter. We sense Bond will never take this heroine to bed, even if his best friend seems to permit it.

As FSS misses a central love story, Gardner provides another even less successful romance between Bond and Nena Bismaquer. Bond knows becoming involved with Nena is madness, but isn’t inclined to fight her off in the same way he avoids Cedar’s advances. Eventually, the married and neglected Nena wins him over with “her smile... which seemed to go like a lance to his heart.” Nena is as deliberate and obvious as Cedar; “You are in my power,” she cryptically tells Bond, “I need a good man... There’s evil here... more evil than you could dream of.”

The most evil creation at the bizarre Rancho Bismaquer is Walter Luxor, whose name conjures up the pharaohs. He’s described like Caron, boatman of the River Styx, with “a face which looked like a skull over which transparent skin had been tightly stretched” and a smile that resembles “a grim joke of death.” Bond likens his handshake to “clasping the palm of a corpse.” This is a fine villainous portrait, but Gardner then equips him with a “high pitched squeak” of a voice and this negates the aura of evil. It seems unlikely that Luxor would shout furiously at the henchman Mike Mazzard and even less likely he’d do it within earshot of Cedar.

There is an air of the ridiculous to the trio of villains in FSS and it isn’t helped by the main protagonist being rather inadequate. Marcus Bismaquer reads like a larger version of Anton Murik. He’s bold, larger than life, splendidly rich and infuriatingly inept socially, but he doesn’t really contribute anything towards the main plot. To that end, it is Luxor who is always the most threatening. The monstrous deaf mute Criton isn’t utilised at all and the final climax, a desperate shoot out at the Bayou, is under whelming.

Here Gardner reveals a plot twist, clearing up many of the idiosyncrasies of his characters, but it’s a desperate contrivance and the reader is left wondering exactly how Bond feels about it all. Gardner doesn’t tell us and we are left to guess at his emotions regarding Nena and SPECTRE. It is an unsatisfactory end to a fairly exciting novel, as FSS reads very well.

Gardner has constructed a good story, using Goldfinger’s attack on Fort Knox as a basis for SPECTRE’s assault on Cheyenne Mountain, and Bond’s role in the plan is well thought out. However after the early shenanigans, the middle section of the novel flags badly, bogged down with byplay between Bond, Cedar and the uninteresting supporting characters. Gardner spices it up with a horrific encounter between Cedar and the ants, “a constantly moving sea of creatures,” and a sexually charged contretemps between Bond and Nena.

He saves his best until last. Bond anticipates “a deep velvet blue night, with stars like diamonds” but is instead forced to escape under “a steam bath of hot air, with the sky at war... great sheets of lightning sizzled and cracked as though heaven had taken a pre-emptive strike.” The storm mirrors the death of a guard against an electric fence which “danced with a flash of blue fire... jerking and kicking [the body] as the massive voltage poured through him.” Pre-emptive indeed! When Bond is captured, his world turns “darker and darker, until he seemed to hurtle into space... and all knowledge was blotted out.”

Gardner rarely writes as well as this in FSS. Most of his descriptions tend to be longwinded. He simply isn’t very concise and it slows down the telling of a fairly suspenseful story. That he resolves the adventure in only four chapters suggests he concentrated far too much on building up to the climax and not enough on the eventual denouement. None the less FSS is an admirable follow up to Licence Renewed and provides a solid reintroduction of SPECTRE. Its disappointing Gardner’s haphazard approach to his characters mars an otherwise splendid story.

7 from 10

Last edited by chrisno1 (4th Sep 2010 15:20)

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

http://www.mi6.co.uk/sections/literary/cover_art/for_special_services/uk_h.jpg

"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

ICEBREAKER
1/4/2010

http://s3.postimage.org/u5DsJ.jpg

1983

Icebreaker, John Gardner’s third continuation novel, starts at a cracking pace. The sinister fascist terrorist group the National Socialist Action Army (NSAA for short) assassinates a Soviet trade delegation in Tripoli and, a year later, James Bond is thrown to the wolves in an attempt to bring down its leader Count Konrad von Gloda.

The premise of the novel, that an aging Nazi is attempting to resurrect the glories of the Third Reich, has been touched on by authors before, but while James Bond has confronted terrorists, they’ve never had such an ideological slant. Gardner doesn’t quite make the most of this angle and the motive of his central villain remains somewhat obscure. We have to take the strength of his organisation at face value. Equally his perplexing plot, with cross and double cross, duplicity and secrecy does not bear close examination. The real success of the book is the frantic action and high drama, neither pausing for breath. It’s for that reason that Icebreaker is far and away Gardner’s most accomplished Bond novel to date.   

Set predominantly in Finland and the snowy wastes of the Arctic Circle, Bond is used by M (and it transpires almost everyone else) as bait to lure Count von Gloda out of hiding. Von Gloda has “star quality... charisma... glittering grey eyes [and] an arrogant tilt of the head.” He recognises Bond as a worthy opponent and offers him a “look of near tangible menace.” At times he becomes enraged by Bond’s insolence. He interprets everything in black and white and is a man “who imagines the world is his destiny.”  Von Gloda is a strong character, controlling the chess pieces of his espionage game from inside a hidden fortress, the Ice Palace.

The other pieces of the jigsaw are a quartet of spies, each of them an unreliable narrator. The aptly named Paula Vacker is a beautiful Finn, who shares a romantic past with Bond. This allows Gardner to dispense with a seduction scene. Instead our introduction to her is swift, concise and believable. We also learn something of Bond’s attitude’s towards women; during their courtship he steered clear of Paula until certain she is single, he tried (and failed) to impress her and became ruffled when the patron of a restaurant took a passing interest in her. Paula is occasionally vivacious, but not very enticing.

More tantalising is Rivke Ingber, an agent of Mossad. She is a delectable foil for Bond given to contradictory behaviour and changeable moods: “the possibility of friendship was offered and then withdrawn.” She’s armed with an “almost conscious sensuality” and a hypnotic “musical voice” that alters from “steel hard then back once more to softness.” Several times Bond considers she is an “ultra professional... a deadly young lady... copied from the Venus de Milo.” Bond’s encounters with her have an undercurrent of stealth and deliberate confusion. He correctly likens her to “a maze of secrets.”   

Kolya Mosolov, a KGB officer, is equally duplicitous. His “features were like the sea” and he switches sides as easily as he switches languages. We know he speaks several, but Gardner makes him sound American most of the time. Kolya meets a suitably vicious end.

The final spy, the CIA’s Brad Tirpitz, is the least interesting character and almost irrelevant to the plot. His double, or possibly triple, cross displays Gardner’s lack of succinct plotting and alongside Rivke’s bizarre double-life as a Jew is the most unsatisfying element of the story.

The web Gardner has weaved unravels badly at the end. He spends two whole chapters untying his knots (one of the episodes is even entitled “loose ends”) and Bond himself states “I find it hard to swallow.” It does seem odd that M sends his top agent to work without the full facts and even odder that the NSAA has been penetrated by several foreign agents who all wait for 007 to arrive before announcing their real interests. It’s odder still that von Gloda appears in broad daylight and no-one, not even Bond, makes a move on him.

Bond seems to be losing his touch. He ignores Kolya’s cryptic warning that Rivke will “reappear when she’s ready” and ultimately falls for the villainess in much the same way as he was seduced by Nena in the previous For Special Services. As his friends betray him, Bond pictures them with “feet of melting wax” and has flashes of “damoclean” foresight, of “silent ghosts passing into dead ground.”

Yet the untidy resolution hardly matters here. Icebreaker is full of excellent action sequences which absorb the reader from the off. There is a nasty fight in Helsinki, a roadside battle with three snowploughs, a night time raid on an arms depot, an air strike on the Ice Palace, a gunfight at Vantaa airport and a chase through the snow covered tundra on skidoos; Gardner’s writing is alive and kicking and he fills the pages with vivid and memorable descriptions.

Taking the shapes and sounds of winter for inspiration, Gardner’s snow storms are “slanting, stinging” and the air itself appears as if frozen: “you could almost see the cold... you could cut it with a knife.” Bond passes an icicle laden tree, “its sharp tower fingering the sky... like a white cowled monk clutching a glittering dagger,” seconds before confronting two knife wielding thugs. The cries of wild Arctic wolves, “a blood chilling howl,” are compared to “a jet whine... like a wail carried on the wind.” There is a sense of bleakness, of endless dazzling white, interrupted by eruptions of violent colour, of the “crimson heart” of explosions and spilt blood.

Gardner’s best prose is saved for a torture scene during which Bond is dunked into a subterranean ice lake. The frozen water is like an explosion to the senses and Gardner portrays its brutal agony brilliantly. He likens immersion to being “enveloped in an invisible coat of sharp needles.” Bond resists, “his body jerking... like a puppet controlled by a convulsive master,” and experiences black outs and “streaking pain” as if “tiny animals [were] gnawing and biting into the numbed flesh” and “vipers lashed at his brain.”

Bond’s glimmer of hope is in the memory of “a summer day... of grass and hay.” Later Gardner elicits this memory again as Bond dreams of Royale-les-Eaux “as it used to be... the tricolour beds of salvia, alyssum and lobelia bloomed in a riot of colour.” Like the ice dungeon with its “single black eye” cut in the floor, it is a “cold spot... a single cold object,” the silencer of a gun, which draws Bond back to reality.

Gardner hasn’t previously been as ebullient as this and his prose lifts Icebreaker out of the ordinary. While his first two efforts were almost conspicuously reverential, Icebreaker reads like a genuine adventure novel. It’s unhindered by long references to Bond’s past, lacks Gardner’s usual pithy humour and is fast, solid and exciting. If the convoluted plot is ultimately unsatisfying, it doesn’t seem to matter as the violence and suspense keeps us frantically turning the pages.

A big thumbs up.

9 from 10

Last edited by chrisno1 (4th Sep 2010 15:22)

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I think you have talked me into reading Gardner's Icebreaker ajb007/smile

"Oh look! Parachutes for the both of us! Whoops, not anymore!"
"You see Mr Bond. You can't kill my dreams. But my dreams can kill you!"
"Time to face destiny."
                                         -Gaustav Graves in Die Another Day-

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

Ask Dr No wrote:

I think you have talked me into reading Gardner's Icebreaker ajb007/smile

That's good - especially when you read what I have to say about the next one....
Icebreaker, however, is a very good novel.

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

ROLE OF HONOUR
5/4/2010

http://s3.postimage.org/u5PWr.jpg

1984

Role of Honour is a massive failure on almost every level.

John Gardner’s earliest 007 adventures mixed spurious violence with involving, clever plots; he drew us a fine central portrait of James Bond; and he wrote with a style worthy of fair critical consideration. While never rising to the standards of Ian Fleming, the three previous novels at least attested to the Bond legacy and with the most recent, Icebreaker, Gardner at last seemed to be finding his own platform. I had high hopes for Role of Honour when I first read it in 1985; I am still disappointed twenty five years on.

This book is dreadful. It starts with an ‘Italian Job’ style robbery, goes into horrendously dull detail about computer programs, war craft simulations and the EPOC nuclear arms systems (the latter could be half-true) and ends with a whimper in a hot air balloon.

James Bond hardly stretches his licence to kill in this one: there are a couple of half hearted car chases and a fairly exciting gunfight at a terrorist training camp, itself hindered by the feeling the set up is unnecessary. Still worse, Bond doesn’t even need to do any espionage. Everything is done for him by a succession of ‘deep cover’ agents, most of whom are not who they claim to be. One of the agents even turns out to be an old dalliance of Bond’s – so M’s had him under watch even when he’s off duty.

Towards the end of the story Gardner concocts a scene where the team comes together and hatches a plan to foil the bad guys. It reads like one of the scenes that end every episode of Scooby-Doo, where each character says ‘Oh I did this’ or ‘He did that’ and ‘I know what happens.’ There is something totally childlike about Role of Honour. While the story touches on adult themes of nuclear disarmament, computerized theft and terrorism, it is written in a simple, dispassionate style.

There is none of the flair Gardner displayed in Icebreaker and the action moves from scene to scene with the barest of creative style. There is no lyricism, no symbolism, no expressive similes; Role of Honour is spectacularly ordinary and there is hardly a quotable line in it. Gardner raises the bar briefly mid-novel with the brutal slow motion killing of four terrorists, the bullets “tearing through flesh, bone, arteries and sinews... leaving a cloud of fine pink and grey matter hanging in the air... a mushroom of blood and flesh,” but he seldom bothers to embellish the rest of the proceedings with such graphic sentences.

However, not content with dumbing down his prose, Gardner dumbs down all his characters. While Bond does precious little, he’s surrounded by a plethora of people who are all given childish alliterative rhyming names, like Percy Proud (this is a woman, believe it or not), Freddie Fortune (and so is this), Tigerbalm Balmer (curiously, this one is a man) and Harry Hopcraft. When he can’t make it rhyme, he provides a nick name: so Cindy Chalmer becomes Sinful Cindy, General Zwingli is called Rolling Joe and the chief architect of the piece, Dr Jay Autem Holy, is provided with a pseudonym, Jason St-John Finnes, and two monikers, Old Bald Eagle and Holy Terror. This is one of the poorest attempts of character building I’ve ever read, as if names are enough to tell us everything about a person.

In fairness Gardner tries to inject something more than the superficial into his main villains, Dr Holy and the terrorist Tamil Rahani. Holy is a computer genius who ultimately turns out to be something of an idealistic dreamer. At one point his “green eyes went bitterly cold, all sign of normal human life ebbing from them,” but as we’ve already seen him have a hissy fit, this menacing pose seems in direct contradiction to his earlier behaviour. Rahani, a businessman and the new leader of SPECTRE, is more interesting; given to military leanings, a “quiet calm” surrounds him, lending an air of “authority... an immense unflinching resolve.” Sadly that’s as interesting as these two get.   

There really isn’t much more to say about this novel, except it’s mercifully short. The story is open ended, so the ghost of SPECTRE is set for another come back, I just hope Gardner can rediscover some of his own form in time.

1 from 10

Last edited by chrisno1 (4th Sep 2010 15:23)

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_p4I9kL_myy0/SdKUxmDeGkI/AAAAAAAAB3s/72abKNvuZRY/s400/john+gardner+role+of+honour+james+bond.jpg

"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

chrisno1 wrote:

ROLE OF HONOUR
5/4/2010

Role of Honour is a massive failure on almost every level.

John Gardner’s earliest 007 adventures mixed spurious violence with involving, clever plots; he drew us a fine central portrait of James Bond; and he wrote with a style worthy of fair critical consideration. While never rising to the standards of Ian Fleming, the three previous novels at least attested to the Bond legacy and with the most recent, Icebreaker, Gardner at last seemed to be finding his own platform. I had high hopes for Role of Honour when I first read it in 1985; I am still disappointed twenty five years on.

This book is dreadful. It starts with an ‘Italian Job’ style robbery, goes into horrendously dull detail about computer programs, war craft simulations and the EPOC nuclear arms systems (the latter could be half-true) and ends with a whimper in a hot air balloon.

James Bond hardly stretches his licence to kill in this one: there are a couple of half hearted car chases and a fairly exciting gunfight at a terrorist training camp, itself hindered by the feeling the set up is unnecessary. Still worse, Bond doesn’t even need to do any espionage. Everything is done for him by a succession of ‘deep cover’ agents, most of whom are not who they claim to be. One of the agents even turns out to be an old dalliance of Bond’s – so M’s had him under watch even when he’s off duty.

Towards the end of the story Gardner concocts a scene where the team comes together and hatches a plan to foil the bad guys. It reads like one of the scenes that end every episode of Scooby-Doo, where each character says ‘Oh I did this’ or ‘He did that’ and ‘I know what happens.’ There is something totally childlike about Role of Honour. While the story touches on adult themes of nuclear disarmament, computerized theft and terrorism, it is written in a simple, dispassionate style.

There is none of the flair Gardner displayed in Icebreaker and the action moves from scene to scene with the barest of creative style. There is no lyricism, no symbolism, no expressive similes; Role of Honour is spectacularly ordinary and there is hardly a quotable line in it. Gardner raises the bar briefly mid-novel with the brutal slow motion killing of four terrorists, the bullets “tearing through flesh, bone, arteries and sinews... leaving a cloud of fine pink and grey matter hanging in the air... a mushroom of blood and flesh,” but he seldom bothers to embellish the rest of the proceedings with such graphic sentences.

However, not content with dumbing down his prose, Gardner dumbs down all his characters. While Bond does precious little, he’s surrounded by a plethora of people who are all given childish alliterative rhyming names, like Percy Proud (this is a woman, believe it or not), Freddie Fortune (and so is this), Tigerbalm Balmer (curiously, this one is a man) and Harry Hopcraft. When he can’t make it rhyme, he provides a nick name: so Cindy Chalmer becomes Sinful Cindy, General Zwingli is called Rolling Joe and the chief architect of the piece, Dr Jay Autem Holy, is provided with a pseudonym, Jason St-John Finnes, and two monikers, Old Bald Eagle and Holy Terror. This is one of the poorest attempts of character building I’ve ever read, as if names are enough to tell us everything about a person.

In fairness Gardner tries to inject something more than the superficial into his main villains, Dr Holy and the terrorist Tamil Rahani. Holy is a computer genius who ultimately turns out to be something of an idealistic dreamer. At one point his “green eyes went bitterly cold, all sign of normal human life ebbing from them,” but as we’ve already seen him have a hissy fit, this menacing pose seems in direct contradiction to his earlier behaviour. Rahani, a businessman and the new leader of SPECTRE, is more interesting; given to military leanings, a “quiet calm” surrounds him, lending an air of “authority... an immense unflinching resolve.” Sadly that’s as interesting as these two get.   

There really isn’t much more to say about this novel, except it’s mercifully short. The story is open ended, so the ghost of SPECTRE is set for another come back, I just hope Gardner can rediscover some of his own form in time.

1 from 10

ROH represents a major drop in quality but I think 1/10 is a bit harsh...and it leaves you nowhere to go with later books

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Ask Dr No wrote:

I think you have talked me into reading Gardner's Icebreaker ajb007/smile

all three of the early Gardner's are worthwhile reads imho

43

Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

chrisno1 wrote:

ROLE OF HONOUR
5/4/2010

Role of Honour is a massive failure on almost every level.

1 from 10


I quite like Role Of Honour...not Gardner's best....but up there with them - for me anyway. Sure...it has its faults....but not as many as some of the others.

If this scores 1 out of 10 - I can't wait to see the scores given to Seafire & ColdFall ajb007/lol

YNWA: Justice For The 96

The Joy Of 6

44

Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

Ouch. I always liked this-thought it was one of the better Gardners. Wonder what Nobody Lives Forever will get...

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NOBODY LIVES FOREVER
8/4/2010

http://s3.postimage.org/u5ZV0.jpg

1986

Towards the end of Nobody Lives Forever, James Bond attempts to reach the SPECTRE stronghold by embarking on a dangerous moonlight swim through shark infested waters. While this certainly has a touch of déjà vu about it (think LALD), John Gardner’s handling of the scene lacks most of the suspense, drama and sheer poetical gusto of Ian Fleming. Hence the oncoming climax stutters and starts and eventually falls a bit flat, much like the rest of this episodic and rather violent story. 

Nobody Lives Forever delivers more promises than Role of Honour, but is hamstrung by similar tendencies from its author. It lacks in-depth characterization, has little or no vivid detail and suffers from a less than engaging narrative. In this one, SPECTRE has put a price on Bond’s head and he embarks on a wild chase through Central Europe, avoiding assorted gangsters at every turn. Gardner complicates the plot with numerous cross and double cross and several unbelievable revelations; it has more holes in it than a sieve.

The story begins with Bond starting what turns into a nightmare of a holiday, but he really ought to know better and is already thinking his boss has set him up for a fall: “There was a sharp, steely look in his eyes that made Bond wonder whether something was being hidden from him.” 007’s definitely not the man he once was and his foibles haunt him throughout. We see the chink in his armour and so do the bad guys; “You’re an old fashioned gentleman...” says one, “You’d give your life to save a defenceless woman... the people you care for the most.” Bond knows it is true.

This is a rare moment of insight, but it is delivered in a rather obtuse fashion. Gardner doesn’t spend a lot of time describing anything here. He kicks off at breakneck speed and we’ve hardly paused for breath before Bond has saved a beautiful woman from a couple of hoodlums, avoided a bomb on the motorway and been implicated in the death of a Mafia hit man. This rapid fire storytelling has inherent problems which are evident as early as chapters one and two: everything happens so fast there is no time to build the tension, portray the main characters and untwist the plot.

I don’t care much for the people in this novel. There are two beautiful women, both of whom display a more than capable attitude to death and violence. They remain “buoyant, even elated, as though killing men was like swatting flies” and Bond is shocked and slightly resentful of their ambivalence. Neither Sukie nor Nannie is memorable. Their odd behaviour opens questions which are unsatisfactorily resolved very late in the novel.

It isn’t only the girls who prove to be not what they appear, for almost everyone Bond encounters is out to kill him. They perfect very elaborate schemes to do so, including lots of gun play and a rather nasty confrontation with a vampire bat. One of the better scrapes involves Paul Cordova, a dwarf assassin, who is killed by Lake Maggiore. Another features a corrupt and very creepy Austrian policeman known as Der Haken. He meets a suitably grisly demise impaled on a butcher’s hook. Both sequences lack any subtlety, but remain horrifically memorable.

Much better is the hoodwinking of Dr Kirchtum, a reluctant KGB operative who has been offered funding for his Salzburg clinic in exchange for favours, “the odd visitor to be kept under sedation... sometimes a body, occasionally some surgery.” Unlike most of the protagonists, Kirchtum has a desperate, genuine air to him. It was the only twist I didn’t see coming and even Bond remarks the doctor's acting is worth an Oscar. Generally though everyone is very black and white and grey in Nobody Lives Forever; it lacks technicolor portraits.

Even when Bond comes face to face with SPECTRE’s kingpin on the aptly named Shark Island, the scene lacks high level suspense and intrigue because Gardner has reduced Bond’s nemesis to a rotting, reticent husk. Tamil Rahani is suffering from terminal cancer; Bond remembers him as being “dark skinned, muscular, radiating dynamism... a ruthless powerful leader” but now he’s “reduced to a human doll... the shrunken face with skin the colour of parchment.” Rahani hardly says a word and his portrait is as thin as his skin.

The novel climaxes in a fierce gun battle accompanied by copious explosions. It’s rather well depicted, has plenty of bite and contains several quite fearful images; disappointingly it is also very swift.

Nobody Lives Forever won’t win many prizes for imagination and originality, but it’s okay as far as it goes. The problem is: it doesn’t go far enough. Gardner falls far short of the standard he set with Icebreaker. He is also beginning to reference himself. The story is blatantly repetitious in terms of ideas, characters and literary content. While not as bereft of style as Role of Honour, it is badly in need of some narrative deftness, realistic personas and a different descriptive colour to monochrome.

3 from 10

Last edited by chrisno1 (4th Sep 2010 15:25)

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

http://old.commanderbond.net/resources/sections/news/images/nobody_lives_forever/nlf_uk.jpg

"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

I'm going to have to agree with some of that. Despite not having read ROH yet, from the description given, it sounds pretty awful. You said something about half-hearted car chases. That just puts me off plain and simple. For me, the car chases or what ever sort of chases, are my favorite scenes, and a half effort doesn't sound very appealing.

"Oh look! Parachutes for the both of us! Whoops, not anymore!"
"You see Mr Bond. You can't kill my dreams. But my dreams can kill you!"
"Time to face destiny."
                                         -Gaustav Graves in Die Another Day-

48

Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

Having just read the Nobody Lives Forever review, I can picture a style that is off from a Bond novel. It seems to be more of a typical action movie like Ronin or Slow Burn than a spy Bond movie.
Also, the use of SPECTRE is odd. Because in YOLT, Blofeld is using the members of Black Dragon. It sort of signals that SPECTRE was destroyed at the end of OHMSS.

"Oh look! Parachutes for the both of us! Whoops, not anymore!"
"You see Mr Bond. You can't kill my dreams. But my dreams can kill you!"
"Time to face destiny."
                                         -Gaustav Graves in Die Another Day-

49

Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

Ask Dr No wrote:

Having just read the Nobody Lives Forever review, I can picture a style that is off from a Bond novel. It seems to be more of a typical action movie like Ronin or Slow Burn than a spy Bond movie.
Also, the use of SPECTRE is odd. Because in YOLT, Blofeld is using the members of Black Dragon. It sort of signals that SPECTRE was destroyed at the end of OHMSS.

That's a good analogy re: Ronin etc.

As I understand it, Gardner deliberately chose to alter the standard Bond formula (e.g. Bond meets a girl, infiltrates the villain's lair, finds out the plot is bigger and more world threatening than first thought, kills the villain and gets the girl) because he was already bored with it. This after only 4 novels!

I also read that he was seriously ill while he wrote ROH and while not wishing to strike a man when he's been down, I think he should have had the guts to stand up to Glidrose and say "I'm too ill to write."

I'd agree with you re: SPECTRE. I don't touch on them much in the reviews because frankly their inclusion adds nothing nor takes anything from the stories. While SPECTRE's return in FSS was nicely handled, with these two Gardner could just as easily have called the organisation QUANTUM, THRUSH, YANNIS, STENCH, ___________ (fill in the blank) etc.

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

I also read that he was seriously ill while he wrote ROH and while not wishing to strike a man when he's been down, I think he should have had the guts to stand up to Glidrose and say "I'm too ill to write."

I'd agree with you re: SPECTRE. I don't touch on them much in the reviews because frankly their inclusion adds nothing nor takes anything from the stories. While SPECTRE's return in FSS was nicely handled, with these two Gardner could just as easily have called the organisation QUANTUM, THRUSH, YANNIS, STENCH, ___________ (fill in the blank) etc.

Well said. ajb007/cheers

"Oh look! Parachutes for the both of us! Whoops, not anymore!"
"You see Mr Bond. You can't kill my dreams. But my dreams can kill you!"
"Time to face destiny."
                                         -Gaustav Graves in Die Another Day-