51

Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

NO DEALS, MR BOND
15/4/2010

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1987

Once you get past the terrible title, No Deals, Mr Bond is a rip-snorter of a novel. John Gardner follows the path he laid in his previous opus, but while Nobody Lives Forever felt underwritten, episodic and therefore slightly stilted, this time he succeeds in creating an involving and exciting story with strong characters and well constructed scenarios.

Bond has been abandoned by the Secret Service again. M orders him to trace three repatriated agents, who were part of an aborted undercover operation entitled Cream Cake, and in the process unmask a traitor. Two other agents have already died in grisly circumstances, but M can’t allow Bond to operate officially; the Cream Cake affair is a closed book. Both M and Bond recognise that he needs “a great deal more than good luck.”

The ensuing story is a good old fashioned chase thriller. Bond tracks down first one female agent and then another and the locations shift from Mayfair to Dublin and Ireland to Paris and finally Hong Kong. At every turn Bond is pursued the bad guys, mallet wielding heavies, Garda police, SMERSH agents, Chinese thugs and lastly four gladiatorial thugs armed to the teeth and dangerous to a man.

The action is suitably brisk and thoroughly entertaining. The novel kicks off with an explosive prologue and hardly lets up. Early on Bond rescues the sophisticated Heather Dare from a vicious attacker who “came at her like a human typhoon... the shattered mirror reflected the gory patches and the great star shaped cracks produced a kaleidoscope of black and red.” There are a couple of chases, a battle with two devil dogs with “stale stinking breath” and latterly a furiously gruesome slow motion encounter with a hit man whose dead body flips “as though he were some grotesque jack-in-the-box.”   
 
The most rewarding feature of No Deals, Mr Bond is the sense of period. Published in 1987, the Cold War, while thawing, was still upper most in people’s minds. There was a genuine fear of the Soviet Union and its ambitions. The closeted, secretive Russian espionage world finally makes an appearance in Gardner’s writing and he rewards us with some well observed passages about spies and spying.

Bond’s daily life is remarked upon and when a mission beckons he anticipates it with “an extraordinary sinking in the pit of his stomach.” This Bond has an odd turn of phrase (“old love... dear sweet lucky Heather”) but he feels much more real than at any time since possibly Licence Renewed. He displays a touch of arrogance; he’s also irritable and prone to moments of almost panic as well as clarity. There is confusion in this man’s psyche and it gives him an edgy vulnerability unseen before. He’s also got his sense of humour back and Gardner’s one liners are something of a treat. He even has a little pop at his own authorship (or possibly the up and coming Timothy Dalton) by claiming Bond was “resurrected against much criticism.”

The two opposing department heads, M and Chernov, are seen as polar opposites, but as the latter points out, M is equally callous: “These little girls were used by your own cold blooded operations planners.” Bond constantly queries his bosses motives, decides not to trust anyone and, when confronted by the defecting Maxim Smolin, he muses that “in this business coincidence was a dirty word... there was no such thing.” By the end of the adventure he’s quite fed up with all the betrayal and is “tired of being the odd one out.” When Bond meets one of his adversaries, the villain suggests they’ve been “following each other in office paper chases.” It's a palpably real world.

In that respect the two Soviet Generals, Smolin and Chernov, are solid, believable characters. They share a manic idealism inside a cool exterior. Chernov, in particular has an air of menace and superiority about him that Gardner has seldom reached with his bad guys. “A wisp of a smile” is all he needs to tell us Chernov is humourless; he’s sleek and powerful with a tone of voice “usually quiet and calm [which] made him even more sinister.” He recognises the quality of his opponent, talks “as though he genuinely liked Bond” and is put out when 007 refuses to shake his hand. Aptly he’s codenamed Black Friar.
 
The girls are less successful. Heather Dare is a clever early foil, but she’s saddled with an unlikely love affair to service the plot. At the very moment Heather should become interesting she is sidelined in favour of the tiresome Ebbie Heritage. Ebbie is seductive, sexy and precocious, yet this means she amounts to little more than a stroppy young woman. At times she pouts and argues like a teenager. So exasperated is Bond he even “realises he’s talking to her like a child.” It doesn’t stop him having plenty of enthusiastic sex with her though, the old rogue.

As always with Gardner, he shows a tendency to over elaborate his narrative. There are too many double agents, too many nick-names and too many knots to unravel. He spends a lot of time explaining the same things. It’s as heavy going for the reader, as it is for 007. The final twist is utterly preposterous and serves no purpose to the story. It almost ruins the whole novel.

And that’s a shame because the last third of the adventure, the Hong Kong section, is very good. There is a real sense of the city and its bustle of people, the harbour where “junks and sampans ploughed” and new stylised buildings with “porthole windows... designed by an optician” keeping watch over the streets below. Bond likens it to a futuristic vision, “the elusive familiarity... came from Fritz Lang’s Metroplois.”

However even in modern Hong Kong, the Officer’s Club resides with tales of “boozy majors” and Bond is pursued by traditional nasty gangsters. His contact is the unscrupulous carrion Big Thumb Chang. He is one of the novel’s most durable characters. Chang received the peculiar nick-name because of his elongated thumbs, which the locals claim “had grown like this from counting the large sums of money that came his way.” He’s a weasely, chatty, pirate, “a toy with a spring in its neck.” It is also in Hong Kong where Bond meets the operative Swift. Something of an enigma, Swift dips into the tale and flies out again. He’s as studious and calm as Chernov; when Bond sees his corpse it’s as if the man is alive: “there was a terrible stillness about him and the grey eyes looked steady and sightless into the sky above.”
       
There really isn’t a lot wrong with No Deals, Mr Bond. Yes, it’s overpopulated and overcomplicated, but what Gardner does well is bring his focus back onto the world of James Bond: the spies and spy masters, the skull duggery, the lies and the deceptions, the careful planning, the serendipitous errors, the sickening violence and the inevitability of death. If it isn’t quite up to the standards of Icebreaker, it certainly gives the impression Gardner was coasting for a year or two and hopefully, thankfully, he’s now back on track.

7 from 10

Last edited by chrisno1 (4th Sep 2010 15:26)

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

I seem to remember liking that one as well, Chris; nice review  ajb007/martini  But you're right---it's the worst title ever.

"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

53

Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

SCORPIUS
21/4/2010

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1988

In Scorpius James Bond confronts an idealistic terrorist organisation called The Society of the Meek Ones. Set predominantly in Britain during an election campaign the novel has a contemporary as well as a modern relevance. Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister in 1988, had herself narrowly escaped death during a terror attack in Brighton and the IRA was still prevalent in Northern Ireland. Now international terrorism from the likes of Al Qaeda has catapulted recent atrocities to the top of the news headlines. The difference between these organisations and John Gardner’s fictional creation is that while the real life groups have a clear philosophy to their violent acts, this fictional one does not.

Led by a demented religious maniac, Father Valentine, formerly known as Vladimir Scorpius, an arms dealer, the Meek Ones are a mixture of suicide bombers, death wishers, purity worshippers, bizarre cultists, mesmerist, brainwashers, drug runners and technological bank robbers. Gardner is touching on too many themes. Worse, he never explains properly why Scorpius is involved in disrupting the British, and later the American, elections. He mentions he’s being paid to do it, but we never learn by whom.

While this is frustrating enough, Gardner then has to try to explain it all; in doing so he fractures the narrative and we sit through endless meetings between M, Bond, Tanner and numerous other secret service or medical personnel. There are a few neat references to Bond’s spying world, particularly when he trades identities at a branch of Barclay’s bank, but precious little excitement, aside from an early car chase and a couple of gunfights. Most of the rest of the action takes place ‘off the page’ as it were. Scorpius is a slow plod.

With little or no thrills to spice up the tale it is left to the characters to try and carry the plot. Bond is at his arrogant worst here. He seems to be getting more callous with every novel. He’s at his most relaxed in his Chelsea flat. Gardner painstakingly describes Bond’s breakfast routine. Bond may be chilled out, but I was experiencing acute déjà vu. I think it’s the fifth time I’ve read about eggs being boiled for “three and one third minutes” and I’m fed up with it. Gardner is re-cycling his own literature merely to increase the page count.

Bond has never sounded as pompous as in Scorpius. He inspects the heroine’s flat and notes “two good prints [a Frink and a Hockney] which must have belonged to her, for no landlord would ever have left them in a rented apartment.” Later on he is appalled by the mess of fashions at the villain’s hideout, all “vulgarity and pretensions” and wonders why Scorpius is “obsessed by reproductions... an odd attitude from one who could afford the originals twice over.” While hiding in a safe house Bond is angry that the suits come from Marks and Spencer and the wine from the local supermarket, “he fussed and grumbled over the lack of sartorial taste.” This from the man Fleming had drinking Old Granddad bourbon! There is huge snobbery attached to these passages and it sits uncomfortably with the familiar character of Bond. He always liked the good life, but he could slum it too. Gardner seems not to agree.

Bond isn’t alone. M and Tanner, both military types, express similarly unrefined opinions about an uncouth SAS man, the American intelligence services and some rich upper class bankers. One of the characters is constantly referred to as the “Hon Trilby Shrivenham,” as if giving her a title means we’ll care more about her fate (which we don’t). M has an outburst of pique when witnessing a television broadcast of a bombing “My God! My God! ... Get them, James! Kill them! Wipe them off the face of the earth!” I wondered who was more demented for a moment, Scorpius or M.

At the finale, Bond also acts like a lunatic. His inappropriately named amour Harriet Horner has been killed. Bond doesn’t care much for her until the last chapters, when Gardner invents a fake wedding and virtually forces them to have sex. Suddenly Bond’s filled with grief stricken madness and pursues the villain with an uncommon zeal, shooting him in the hands and feet before leaving him to the “wriggling squirming mass” of water moccasins. Scorpius ends up pleading for his life. It’s an unedifying end to a rather good antagonist, for one of the few things Gardner has got right is his portrait of Vladimir Scorpius / Father Valentine.

Scorpius is a sinister intense villain. His “eyes glittered, as though fires lay deep within them” and he is “cursed with a strong will, combined with overdeveloped hypnotic strength.” He inhabits a topsy-turvy world where “evil became good, wrong became right... obscene and horrific deeds were works of goodness and charity.” Bond likens him to Cesar Borgia; he commands his underlings with “the gesture of a medieval prince” and is slick and ghoulish, “a voice of honey and milk, mixed with strychnine.” Scorpius’ hidden retreat is camouflaged among the unreal oasis of Hilton Head, South Carolina, “Spanish moss dripping down towards the verges... a place for the lotus eater.” It’s far away from dreary grey dangerous London and the perfect place for the torture of souls.

Bond’s route to Ten Pines is rather unlikely, snatching a glimpse of Scorpius / Valentine on television and then being kidnapped by an over enthusiastic SAS officer Pearlman. Bond suspects Pearlman for a traitor, but the man is only out to rescue his daughter. Small reward for him: by the book’s end Bond expects the poor man to kill his own offspring. Our hero seems to have lost all semblances of humanity; much like his adversary.

Pearlman does provide a moment of sanity among the nonsense: “This is a bloody time for the world. Like the Bible says, there’s a time for living and a time for dying. We live in an age when it’s a time for dying suddenly, most often by war, or the hands of terrorists striking in the streets. People such as us were born to die that way.” For once Bond sagely agrees.

None the less the sense of disbelief continues to the very end as Gardner provides another unlikely twist involving Chief Superintendent Bailey. The Special Branch officer’s downfall is constructed in a completely abstract manner and while it fits the profile of the story, it is telling that Gardner doesn’t bother to explain how Bailey came under the influence of the Meek Ones. We don’t believe it for a second.

And that’s the main problem with Scorpius. Gardner isn’t breaking any new ground here, despite a better than average premise. He tries to put too much flesh on the bones of the narrative and subsequently it becomes a flabby mess.
It’s a pity for the novel starts very well as a missing girl wanders to her death in London. The only clue to her intentions is Bond’s telephone number, yet we are later told he wasn’t necessarily the prime target. That 007’s involvement seems to be a case of wicked serendipity makes the eventual linear narrative somewhat implausible and only serves to highlight how difficult Gardner has made things for himself.

Perhaps the last word should go to the flustered and confused hero himself: “Nothing else made sense in Scorpius’ nightmare world.”        

4 from 10

Last edited by chrisno1 (4th Sep 2010 15:28)

54

Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

LICENCE TO KILL
24/4/2010

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1989

John Gardner’s movie tie-in novel Licence To Kill has moments of interest, but generally it follows the line of all movie adaptations: offer a straight forward, no frills, written interpretation of what the audience sees on screen.

There is none of the character insight we were treated to in Christopher Wood’s James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me; nor does Gardner dramatically change any of the action sequences or the narrative. The story of Licence To Kill needs no explanation and Gardner recreates it faithfully, with a few twists.

Perhaps his most interesting ploy is to alter the cinematic point of view. A brilliant example is where Gardner has Bond plant a miniature bugging device in Sanchez’s office. This was not included in the film, but it allows Gardner to explain the true purpose of Professor Joe’s fundraising activities (a point never made expressly clear in the film) and also makes Bond’s assassination attempt more professional (Bond can listen to the conversations in the office, so he knows when everyone is in another room). Whether the sequences were originally written like this, I couldn’t tell, but Gardner’s take shifts the emphasis of those scenes onto James Bond and away from Franz Sanchez. Later on, particularly at the Meditation Centre, he struggles to continue the ploy, but it is a manful attempt to keep 007 centre-stage.

Equally he doesn’t forget the history of the literary Bond and tries to intertwine this piece with his own continuation novels. So Felix Leiter, who has already had his arm and leg eaten by a shark in Live and Let Die, gets to experience it all over again in a chapter entitled “Lightning Sometimes Strikes Twice.” Della’s demise is treated with some care, as Bond recalls the death of his own wife. There is even a clever little sequence where Bond flies a Beaver bi-plane to the isolated Key West home of an old associate, David Wolkovsky, the CIA man from Scorpius. It’s unfortunate then that the character of Milton Krest plays such a large part, along with his yacht Wavekrest, because Bond of course has already met one Milton Krest, in The Hildebrand Rarity. It wouldn’t have taken much for Gardner to have changed a name, a spelling, or dropped a hint Bond remembered meeting a man with a similar name and yacht.   
   
Occasionally Gardner embellishes the dialogue we see on screen and this works well on most occasions. The dialogue generally falls flat at the same moments as it does in the film: the love scenes. Seduction and sex hasn’t been Gardner’s forte anyway, but as lifted from the movie, they are cringe worthy moments when written down here. Bond and Pam’s prickly romance is even more unlikely on the page than it was in the cinema. At one point Bond asks: “Why could he never resist a beautiful girl?” Why indeed. More concerning is Gardner’s attempts to lampoon the movies.

It’s good that he cuts out the opening sky dive into a wedding, but from here Gardner seems to be gently poking fun at the franchise. He refers to a stripper as dancing “in a manner that would make it fun to watch paint dry;” he mocks Sanchez’s city state, saying the policemen “look as if they are straight from Ruritania,” the latter of course is the famous imaginary country in ‘The Prisoner of Zenda,’ a place as unreal as Isthmus; he recognises the silliness in the bar room brawl, considering “all it needed was a pianist who didn’t stop playing;” and he overplays Pam Bouvier’s stroppiness and Q’s favourite uncle routine. Yet these shenanigans, while quite humorous, sit ill next to the complex character of Franz Sanchez.

Gardner doesn’t spend a lot of time describing anyone’s persona in this novel; the girls are gorgeous, the men threatening. Sanchez however is given the appropriate space: “Bond thought he was probably one of the most callous people he had ever met... On the surface Sanchez was a calm calculating man... behind the lazy charm lay complete indifference to suffering... the terrible cloak of despair, self-loathing, deceit and crime which he activated from afar.” There is something distant about Sanchez, something overpowering and other worldly, the tentacles reaching out to cover the world. Robert Davi captured this brilliantly in the film, but there is something missing on the page. A few well scribed passages can’t make up for the glibness of lines like: “[he] became still, like a snake or some other dangerous creature.”

Bond, who in the film starts to resemble Sanchez in his heightened, impulsive state, is described with hardly a word of interest. We understand what he wants to achieve, but the revenge motive seems very weak in the novel. It needs Dalton’s acerbic expressions to bring those motivations alive. Licence To Kill isn’t a bad novel, but it is very, very ordinary.

3 from 10

Last edited by chrisno1 (4th Sep 2010 15:29)

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

You're going to think me strange, but I disagree with much of this consensus (but differing opinion's make life interesting, of course).

I didn't think much of either Licence Renewed, For Special Services or Icebreaker (feeling the latter, in particular, was a touch too long). I loved Role of Honour (but would recommend starting from page 100 as the computer stuff bogs the beginning down considerably). I also loved Nobody Lives Forever, but from No Deals, Mr Bond painfully dull and skipped to the end. That was about eight months ago, and I'm currently taking a break before tackling the rest of Gardner's series.

My Top 10 Bonds: Octopussy, Goldeneye, From Russia With Love, Tomorrow Never Dies, Licence to Kill, For Your Eyes Only, The Living Daylights, Moonraker, Goldfinger and The Spy Who Loved Me.

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

DavidJones wrote:

You're going to think me strange, but I disagree with much of this consensus (but differing opinion's make life interesting, of course).

I didn't think much of either Licence Renewed, For Special Services or Icebreaker (feeling the latter, in particular, was a touch too long). I loved Role of Honour (but would recommend starting from page 100 as the computer stuff bogs the beginning down considerably). I also loved Nobody Lives Forever, but from No Deals, Mr Bond painfully dull and skipped to the end. That was about eight months ago, and I'm currently taking a break before tackling the rest of Gardner's series.

Nothing wrong with differing opinions.
I'm surprised you considered Icebreaker too long, although I agree the early scenes in Maderia are unnecessary. The action sequences in LR, FSS & IB are excellent and very well realised, the plots are coherent and the characters well drawn. These are the focus point sof any good novel, so I'm surprised you prefer the sketchy ROH.

I don't understand how you can claim to love a novel that you start reading from half way in. That suggests you consider the first half as rubbish, so you don't want to read it.

ROH is a poor book IMO because the first 100 pages IS DULL and the personas featured during this section ARE VERY THIN and SHOW MINIMAL TO ZERO CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. Gardner has nothing interesting to say about any character in ROH. You won't convince me.

My review for NLF clearly states I was disappointed with the plot, which is very one-dimensional and only gets interesting in the final few chapters. While Gardner has tried to break the 007 formula with this one, I feel he struggles to create strong characters (similar problems as with ROH). His villain is particularly poor.

NDMB has many detractors (based chiefly on its title!) but it's interesting you find it dull as the 'chase' scenario featured here is much better realised than in NLF, the cast is better drawn (excepting the heroine) and the locations have a menace to them which is missing in the picture postcard world of NLF. Again, you say you skipped sections of this book, so I'm not entirely convinced you are offering valid feedback.

Like you I am taking a short break. I will resume the final wrasp of John Gardner novels in July.

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

Maybe I should give No Deals another go. It was the seventh consecutive Gardner I read, so was probably getting a bit complacent.

My Top 10 Bonds: Octopussy, Goldeneye, From Russia With Love, Tomorrow Never Dies, Licence to Kill, For Your Eyes Only, The Living Daylights, Moonraker, Goldfinger and The Spy Who Loved Me.

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

DavidJones wrote:

Maybe I should give No Deals another go. It was the seventh consecutive Gardner I read, so was probably getting a bit complacent.

For me it was the one and only. Although a good spy novel it didn't feel very "Bond." I much prefer just reading Fleming...even Amis' Colonel Sun left me wanting, not to mention Devil May Care. I will keep trying with the continuation novels, but nobody's come close to matching Fleming IMHO.

"We have all the time in the world..."

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

Been rather busy of late, however as late summer kicks in, here are my reviews for the final Gardner novels for your consideration

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

WIN, LOSE OR DIE
27/7/2010

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1989

Published in 1989, Win, Lose or Die was John Gardner’s ninth 007 novel. As with his previous few adventures, Gardner tries to twist his established formula, but it’s already creaking with age. There are interesting parallels with Broccoli’s film productions, which took on an increasingly weary look in the 1980s. The films tended to be episodic and long winded, substituting big set pieces and conundrum-like plots for good characters and a clear narrative. Gardner suffers a similar fate here.

Briefly, Bond is sent back to the Royal Navy as a Captain, so he can oversee security on a NATO training exercise called Landsea, which is a ridiculously elaborate front for a peace conference between the PM and the US and USSR Presidents. We don’t learn this until the end of the book and how we get there takes an awfully long time. Bond is also left unaware of the full details of his mission. This leaves him doing a certain amount of unnecessary detective work and is a wearisome repetition of a plot device Gardner has already used in Nobody Lives Forever and No Deals Mr Bond.

The most striking illustration of this is when Bond is sent “on a Christmas holiday” to Ischia, essentially as a stalking horse to tempt one of the villians into assassinating him. Gardner wastes a lot of time here, introducing a mawkish love story with the rather fetching Beatrice, a girl who has rediscovered the lost art of kissing and "practised the craft in a way that had been hidden for centuries." It ends in sudden tragedy, as befalls every heroine who falls madly in love with Bond. After this 007 ends up spending a whole week being debriefed by the villians, who rather than kill him, disguise themselves as good guys and send him back into the fray. When, towards the end of the novel, Bond is told the truth, he begins to wonder (as we do) why no-one kills anyone straight off any more. There is an explanation but it’s hopelessly preposterous.

Subsequently almost every chapter has a plot hole which Gardner has to spend time filling. The list is endless, but perhaps most tellingly he never bothers to explain how MI6 came across the recognition tagline “Health depends on strength.” It’s a remarkable stroke of ill-luck that the chief villain forgets to use it near the climax and avoids detection for another thirty pages.

The narrative is confused further by Gardner’s inability to restrict the number of character’s he creates. There must be almost thirty of them and they all have his usual silly names and even dafter nick-names. He gives us three women who are all described like naive, blushing innocents, when each one is a trained killer. The worst offender here is a Russian called Nikola Ratnikov. She’s a body guard to the President, but gets hysterical when confronted with a dead body and ends up making love to Bond because she “feels so alone, so afraid.” It’s a ridiculous characterisation. The others fare equally badly.

The less said about the main villain, the impossible to pronounce Bassam Baradj, the better. This is a man of a hundred aliases whose sole aim is to procure $600 billion for no reason other than his own personal greed. To do this he’s funded and trained a team of expendable terrorists coined BAST, the Brotherhood of Anarchy and Secret Terror. Bond likens to SPECTRE. But they have none of SPECTRE’s panache; even their acronym is rubbish. Never has a protagonist’s motive been less involving.

Even James Bond is bland and uninteresting. Since M never briefs his top agent properly 007 becomes (again) little more than an excitable pawn in a world of spies governed by sharks in suits. There is a line, early in the novel, where Bond disputes that espionage is dead “because these days it’s all done by satellites.” Yet there is something about Gardner’s stories which actually seems to back up the statement. Bond doesn’t do a lot of spying any more. He just gets moved around to where the action is – like a chess piece. His dialogue has become equally trite. When not issuing pithy knock backs to silly girls or offering Mills & Boon romantic gestures, he becomes rather hectoring, admitting “he sounded like a headmaster who had summoned a recalcitrant boy to his study.”

Gardner does provide one or two fine descriptive passages, especially during the sojourn to Naples. (“In summer the earth red houses and terracotta roofs soaked up the sun and filled the streets with dust; in winter the same walls seemed to blot up the rain so the buildings took on an even more crumbling look, as if they might turn to sludge and slide into the sea.”) But he also baffles us with technical jargon, and that dulls his story telling, which plods enough as it is. Even the few moments of genuine excitement seem slow and methodical. There is one neat hark back to Fleming as the infiltrators on board an aircraft carrier drug the food supply. But even this device (stolen from Goldfinger) was already reused by the author in For Special Services

Overall Win, Lose or Die is complicated and dull. Gardner has a good idea at the core of his story, but like the films of this time, he has seen fit to embellish it with so much more than is necessary. He is obviously repeating himself, but even worse, he isn’t adding anything significantly new. Gardner’s James Bond may be a man for the modern age, but his author is losing his modern touch.

2 from 10

Last edited by chrisno1 (4th Sep 2010 15:30)

61

Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

BROKENCLAW
3/8/2010

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1990

Brokenclaw starts in Victoria, British Colombia, and James Bond isn’t endeared to his surroundings. Bored, he’s intrigued by the sudden appearance of the half-Chinese half-Native American Brokenclaw Lee. Gifted with a twisted left hand and psychopathic tendencies, Lee ought to be interesting. That he is not comes as a result of Gardner’s over familiar and cliché ridden narrative.

The nearest the author comes to originality is in chapter six, where the delectable U.S. Naval Intelligence agent Wanda Hing becomes the focus of the story. Clearly a confused girl, she allows Lee to seduce her, hiding a multitude of reservations, yet unable to “deny a tiny electric thrill as she felt his hand touch her thigh.” It’s a one of several sordid interludes that pepper the story and interrupts a briefing and preamble that takes up almost a third of the book.

This is dull as ditch water stuff. The plot involves a submarine tracking device which is a blatant steal from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). During his marathon briefing, even “Bond sounded irritated” by the slow pace. Towards the end one of the plethora of intelligence big-wigs summaries the whole of the first seven chapters in a succinct four pages. How I wish he’d done so earlier.

The numerous characters in this tale are a blunt bunch saddled with dispensable code-names and unbelievable dialogue that borders on teenage slapstick and sea-side innuendo. Bond’s new best friend, Ed Rushia, is an Iowa huckster who makes Willard Whyte sound positively Harvard. 007 has probably the book’s worst line: when confronted by a spaced out rock star, he says: “We thought it was kind of humongously awesome ourselves.” Never has our hero sounded triter and less modern than this. I was almost ashamed to be reading it.

The afore mentioned Wanda is the most interesting character, displaying sexual dexterity as well as physical and mental fortitude, but she’s relegated to the background in favour of the beautiful novice agent Chi-Chi. Initially she too seems more than competent as “beneath the fragility she was as hard as tempered steel.” Later on Chi-Chi's reduced to sobbing and making increasingly mawkish passes at Bond, who does well to resist them until the last few pages.

Brokenclaw Lee himself is as feeble a villain as you can get. He might be “an appalling aberration locked within a human body,” but his attitude is still that of “the son of a Chinese tailor and a Blackfoot whore,” for he displays “voyeuristic habits... like a lecherous schoolboy” and is prone to talk in maxims without any real depth or meaning.

At the climax Lee challenges Bond to a gruesome Native Indian ritual, “The O-Kee-Pa,” which is possibly the most grisly and distasteful thing I’ve ever read in Bond novel. Gardner cranks up the blood and thunder here, but I was hardly holding my breath, and the whole sorry episode ends with Chi-Chi cracking a very bad joke at Bond’s expense.

I was glad when the whole thing finished. Like her jest, Brokenclaw is simply dreadful.
       
2 from 10

Last edited by chrisno1 (4th Sep 2010 15:31)

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews

THE MAN FROM BARBAROSSA
13/8/2010

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1991

There is a moment in The Man From Barbarossa when James Bond feels his mission has “no shape, no form, no logic.” The same could be decreed of this novel, John Gardner’s eleventh stab at the 007 legacy.

I must hold up my hand and say I had never read this novel before. I’m rather disappointed I’ve read it now. The whole project seems bogged down in a conundrum like plot which owes more to Le Carre than Fleming.

Gardner’s tale nominally involves a strange terrorist organisation called The Scales of Justice. Based in a glasnost crazy Russia, this splinter cell seeks retribution for war crimes and have targeted a turncoat Ukrainian Josif Vorontsov, a mass killer of Jews in Kiev during the Second World War. The suspicions of various intelligence agencies are aroused, not least when it becomes apparent the terrorists have kidnapped the wrong man. What starts out as an attempt to destabilise the USSR becomes an international crisis revolving around the Gulf War. I was reminded of the film Octopussy, whose plot is similarly convoluted, and whose rogue bad guys have similar aims.

Bond is assigned to investigate and travels to Moscow along with Pete Natkowitz from Mossad and Nina Bibikova of the KGB. It’s a set up reminiscent of Icebreaker. Later two French agents become involved and the inevitable double crosses and duplicitous behaviours abound. Gardner spends almost the entire novel explaining how every single character in his story fits neatly into the narrative. This is done in a series of extremely tiresome briefings, first in London, then in Moscow, then another in Finland.

There is hardly a single thrill in The Man From Barbarossa. After a good start involving two kidnaps and some gentle spying, I read the words “stalking horses” and my heart sank. Gardner proceeds to rehash much of what he’d already created for Brokenclaw, including sunken houses, mistaken identities and a villain (Yevgeny Yuskovich) who has a preoccupation with nubile young women. Towards the end the tempo lifts, but the author telegraphs “the death of 007” and his hero’s resurrection is in a tired and uninteresting fashion.

Gardner’s shift away from gory action isn’t, in isolation, a bad idea. The world of espionage is multi-faceted and there is no reason why Bond shouldn’t do some cloak-and-dagger counter-spying. The problem is, other than one or two brief instances, Gardner has reduced Fleming’s man of action to an inactive passenger who listens to everyone talking and spends half the novel impersonating a cameraman at a bogus war crimes trial.

The whole exercise is a worn out attempt to disguise miscellaneous familiar twists and turns which, rather than exciting the reader and drawing us in, leaves us perplexed and frustrated. So dense is the plotting that the eventual revelations hardly shock us. Nothing surprises in Gardner’s world of incestuous spies and everyone, and every country, seems to be in bed with their rivals and allies. Some might say this is realistic, but Gardner embellishes it with little more than charcoal sketches. The Man From Barbarossa is no oil painting. It’s horrendously bland.

Occasionally Gardner provides goblets of interest. During an unexpected assault, the villains become statuesque; even “the liquids seemed solidified in a click of time.” His descriptions of a wintery Moscow are particularly fine: “The road ahead looked bleak, rather than romantic... Flakes the size of silver dollars drifted sluggishly in the night air... bundled up people trudged along the pavements.” While these incidental details are good they get lost between pages of dreary narration. It’s indicative of Gardner’s storytelling technique that he’s made the travails of a minor character like Nigsy Meadows or the life-history of Michael Brooks more interesting than what’s happening to James Bond.

“Field agents and airline pilots suffer from the same occupational hazard – nine tenths boredom followed by one tenth sheer terror,” recalls James Bond. That’s how I felt digesting The Man From Barbarossa; spies, plants and double agents crawl out the woodwork at every turn and do very little of any interest. This is less a spider’s web and more a mountain of impenetrable muddle.

2 from 10

Last edited by chrisno1 (4th Sep 2010 15:33)

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EDIT:

To comment on Chris's review on Licence Review, I am surprised the high rating you are giving that rather flacid book. Was Murik's life or his plot that intriguing ? He's one the dullest villians in the Bond universe. This passion for safe nuclear reactors is one of the most inconsequential I have read about the series. Sexual infactuations with gold and hating the english I can understand but safe nuclear energy is something too dull to motivate a James Bond villians. The pace of the novels runs alright but very few highlights in-between IMO, the torture was pretty good and some of the action is fine but it's all very forgetable once you put down the book; It can't compare to running around Doctor No's Island or the Beau Desert. Also you seem to neglect how watered down this Bond really is. He is more the empty shell scene in the films with inconsistences that would later plague Licence To Kill when Timothy Dalton. No, Licenced Renewed, like all of Gardner's tiolet paper, should be ranked pretty low in the literary canon. I've given multiple chances with For Special Services, Win, Loose, or Die, and The Man from Barbarossa. He either over uses the "not who they seem" cliche, too much mundane politics, action reflecting the films, or a combo of all three. I think a lot of his work would have been better off as films co-writing with Richard Maibaum and Micheal G. Wilson.

Last edited by Ricardo C. (14th Aug 2010 02:20)

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At the risk of sounding rude, the forum is for my reviews, which people are entitled to comment on. My opening post does state "my continuing series."
Ricardo, if you can edit the post to offer less of an actual review and more of a commentary on my review / opinions, I'd be very happy.
That's not to say your review isn't valid, but it is a review and not a comment.
The flow of the thread will be disrupted if everyone starts to post reviews!
Thanks.
Chris

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chrisno1 wrote:

At the risk of sounding rude, the forum is for my reviews, which people are entitled to comment on. My opening post does state "my continuing series."
Ricardo, if you can edit the post to offer less of an actual review and more of a commentary on my review / opinions, I'd be very happy.
That's not to say your review isn't valid, but it is a review and not a comment.
The flow of the thread will be disrupted if everyone starts to post reviews!
Thanks.
Chris


Sorry about that, edited my post.

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Ricardo C. wrote:

EDIT:

To comment on Chris's review on Licence Review, I am surprised the high rating you are giving that rather flacid book. Was Murik's life or his plot that intriguing ? He's one the dullest villians in the Bond universe. This passion for safe nuclear reactors is one of the most inconsequential I have read about the series. Sexual infactuations with gold and hating the english I can understand but safe nuclear energy is something too dull to motivate a James Bond villians. The pace of the novels runs alright but very few highlights in-between IMO, the torture was pretty good and some of the action is fine but it's all very forgetable once you put down the book; It can't compare to running around Doctor No's Island or the Beau Desert. Also you seem to neglect how watered down this Bond really is. He is more the empty shell scene in the films with inconsistences that would later plague Licence To Kill when Timothy Dalton. No, Licenced Renewed, like all of Gardner's tiolet paper, should be ranked pretty low in the literary canon. I've given multiple chances with For Special Services, Win, Loose, or Die, and The Man from Barbarossa. He either over uses the "not who they seem" cliche, too much mundane politics, action reflecting the films, or a combo of all three. I think a lot of his work would have been better off as films co-writing with Richard Maibaum and Micheal G. Wilson.

Thanks, Ricardo. ajb007/smile

I did re-review the rating for LR, and I lowered it. I guess if I am honest, I have probably still over-rated it. I think that's because I have great memories of this novel from 1982. It genuinely excited and enthralled me at the time, and I get a flush of good memories from my formative years. So despite my generally unpassioned appreciation [and disdain] for Gardner, I find it very hard to dislike LR. Sorry, it just can't be helped.

I think Murik's plan, while not spectacular, regime threatening or 'end of the world' does have merits and remains relevant in the current climate of impending fuel shortages. I agree he's basically having an extended hissy fit, but he is looking to monopolise the world's nuclear fuel processing, which would bring him riches and world influence [at least we thought so in 1982!] Yes, his appearance is at odds with our perception of a Bond villain, but no stranger than Dr No's seven foot worm or Goldfinger's five foot rotund carrot-top.

I think I mention that the action in Perpignon is most well realised sequence in LR, and while I agree it isn't a patch on Dr No, I'm also not expecting it to be. Some action scenes are very effective and the strangeness of the Mulcaldy chapters, all garters, sporrons and kilts, is less bizarre than Jack Spang's wild west town or Blofeld's samurai outfit (though equally unlikely!). Bond's escape from Castle Mulcaldy is one of the finest pieces of action Gardner ever wrote, straightforward, taut and exciting.

I'm very clear that this is not Fleming's Bond. Gardner does tend to be influenced more by the 'Brocolli Bond', hence the long drawn out finale and the jokey, token love interest at the start. In that respect your suggestion Gardner's novel's might work as film scripts has some credance (and many supporters, not least at Eon where they regularly dived into his canon for ideas).

The slow preamble is important in LR because it is laying the foundations of Gardner's 007 interpretation, whether that's good or bad. Certainly 007 has been watered down and I acknowledge that. The most noticable trait of all Gardner's writing is how poor his characterisations are. I attest, as you do, that they are almost without exception bland and uninteresting and saddled with horrendous names. Having said that I'm quite partial to Lavender Peacock; she is the most 'damsel-in-distress' of Gardner's heroines, very Fleming-esque in that respect. All his other heroines are secret agents. 

Lastly, I can only offer my own summary by stating "Gardner has hit the ground running with a solid adventure yarn." That isn't high praise but it isn't bad. Yes, 7 marks might be a bit OTT, but I've just read Brokenclaw and The Man from Barbarossa and in comparison, LR is streets ahead for me. There is nothing solid about those flabby, self-important and muddled endurance tests.

Chris

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chrisno1 wrote:

I think Murik's plan, while not spectacular, regime threatening or 'end of the world' does have merits and remains relevant in the current climate of impending fuel shortages. I agree he's basically having an extended hissy fit, but he is looking to monopolise the world's nuclear fuel processing, which would bring him riches and world influence [at least we thought so in 1982!] Yes, his appearance is at odds with our perception of a Bond villain, but no stranger than Dr No's seven foot worm or Goldfinger's five foot rotund carrot-top.


I don't have any problem with his physical appearance, I just think he's a boring villian with a boring plot. Also I am glad you brought up the fact that Gardner's books were used in the films because Licence Renewed  was the template for The World is Not Enough. When they adapted this plot they made the same mistake again, the less interesting villian is the focus here. They should have just let the terrorist become the main villian, that would made things slightly more interesting.

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DEATH IS FOREVER
17/8/2010

http://s3.postimage.org/u7R8J.jpg

1992

Death Is Forever is clearly based on John Gardner’s own 007 adventure No Deals, Mr Bond. Once you shake your disbelieving head past that, James Bond appears to be back to something like his old self, taking on the bad guys with a mixture of earnestness and mirth through a series of nasty, well inscribed scrapes.

I say ‘appears to be.’

That he is not, is entirely the fault of the author of this schizophrenic novel that veers alarmingly from the straightforward to the convoluted, from the comic to the horrific and onto the romantic, from the spectacular to the bland. Quite what Gardner thought he was doing here, I’m not sure. He doesn’t plant his feet firmly into any corner and the novel, while at times startlingly effective, is bogged down with intricate detail, has a collection of poorly described characters and is littered with unnecessary throwaway puns.

It starts of very well. Two deep cover agents are assassinated and their demise is framed in an oblique fashion: “In the moment before his death, Puxley... realised the man near the row of taxis had raised his hand... the registration was fouled with mud... and he went into oblivion cursing himself [and] how well it was being done.” I was instantly intrigued, but by the end of chapter two the rot had set in. 

Bond is searching for the remnants of a Cold War spy ring codenamed Cabal. The members of the team are being systematically wiped out and it’s his job to reach the survivors before the assassins. Death Is Forever develops into another pan-European chase, but it’s tremendously dense and features a long cast list, every one of whom is given an irrelevant nick name. Gardner has done this before, most notably in Role of Honour, and it adds nothing to the personas of his people. His lead villain, the alliterative Wolfgang Weisen, even shares a moniker with a character from Nobody Lives Forever, “The Poison Dwarf.” That he is not a dwarf is hardly a surprise, but this Stalinist madman is a smooth talking Dickensian dandy with his “moon-like pink rosy cheeks... and a chubby, cherubic benevolence.” He elicits no fascination. Even his assassination plot is a trifle, an inconsequential orderless prelude to a hastily constructed denouement in the Channel Tunnel. The whole exercise becomes irrelevant and so does the Poison Dwarf.

Gardner provides a high staple of excellent violent images to go with his impenetrable plot and this is the redeeming feature of Death Is Forever. Early on there is a nasty incident with spider infested salmon sandwiches, “the swarm of tiny Fiddlebacks... and in their midst two bloated creeping adult females, forcing their way upward through bread, meat and fish... hungry for some other delicacy.”

While travelling on a train, Bond is forced to kill two hit men. He does so in a suitably grimfaced manner, “he had no conscience, no compunction about the work... This was how it happened... You can go from life to death in the twinkling of an eye... This was the law of the jungle of secret Europe.”

Later Bond electrocutes his antagonists on a live rail: “Weisen’s face became a twitching macabre mask... it looked as though someone was slowly melting black wax across his pink head.” The conclusion features a viciously barbed knife fight with a henchwoman, recalling the bleak Cold War days of Ian Fleming.

Best of all are a clutch of night time assaults in and around the villain’s bolt-hole, a Venetian palace, close to the Rialto and the Grand Canal. Gardner evokes the shifting scenes of Venice well and the impending struggle has the intrigue and suspense sadly missing from much of his recent work. Bond has just spent two days avoiding capture in Paris, and leaves on “a misty morning... of autumnal colours” but his arrival in Italy is equally opaque, “the mist was patchy with a swirl-like thin smoke... the houses looked eerily shrouded, their lights refracted through the damp clouds.” The death and destruction Bond and his daftly named accomplice August [Gus] Whimper impart in Venice has an edge unseen in much of Gardner’s recent output. These two agents strike up a partnership not unlike Bond and Felix Leiter, though no where near as serious. Their escapades are written in a no-nonsense style and show what Gardner can achieve when he restricts his cast of characters and condenses the action in and around his main protagonists.

Unfortunately the nature of the beast that is Death Is Forever means this story isn’t just about 007 and Gus, and here Gardner loses his way completely. I lost count of the number of people in the novel and I cared not one iota for any of them. Gardner’s characterisations are flimsy at best. The repetitive pronunciations and puzzling nick-names add nothing to their personalities. When Gardner attempts to inject anything resembling character development, the effect is wooden and clunks like an armour plated cloak.   

The prime offender here is his heroine, a comely CIA operative, a pouting prissy little madam called Elizabeth Zara St. John, E-Zee for short, or as its written “Easy.” This is hardly the belter of a double entendre. It’s possibly the most immature, ridiculous and insulting name Gardner has ever come up with. Quite why any self respecting woman, especially one working in the intelligence community where anonymity abounds, would allow herself to be saddled with such a derogatory title seems to have completely passed him by. That she swaps attitudes alarmingly doesn’t help. Easy first appears as a straight laced condescending officious woman, then a helpless, horrified waif and lastly a perky, provocative, feminine sexual animal. Bond has to nurse maid this ineffectual agent through the whole story and their romance is leaden footed and weak.

Towards the story’s end Bond declares his love for this daft woman: “He felt his own emotions well up as he realised... this was the woman for him... He knew nothing of her background and all the other things one should know. Yet there he was looking at her and loving her.” This spur of the moment decision sits ill with what we know about James Bond, a man untouched by love, whose one great romance was cruelly shattered in a matter of hours. That Easy St. John lacks the independence, intelligence and mystery of Tracy makes the triteness of Bond’s declaration even more galling. It doesn’t sound like he really cares and this Mills & Boon interlude seems created solely to provide Bond with an excuse to exact revenge.

The less said about the other insignificant players the better; suffice to say they all share a line in dreadfully pithy dialogue. Humour has a place in James Bond’s world, but this tale is bumper full of asides and witticisms that are sometimes funny, often inappropriate and generally tedious. At one point, Bond and Easy share a whole page of banter with two policemen which would not be out of place on a children’s television show. I had images of shamefaced mugging as “Easy spoke clearly and very distinctly, ‘Paris. We – go – to – Paris’,” while Bond confuses the words “snatch” and “snitch.” Oh, dear.

The jokes come too thick and very fast and provide an uneasy background to the brutal mayhem. It has echoes of Cary Grant in ‘North by Northwest,’ but it lacks all his subtlety. This playful 007 is at odds with the sinister world he inhabits. Perhaps Gardner was attempting to pastiche his hero, for at the end the joke sits squarely with Bond; he’s been dodging bullets and dealing death around Europe, but learns the Poison Dwarf has no interest in eliminating him and was trying to spare his life. Weisen’s eventual plan reads like an inadequate afterthought.   

At times Death Is Forever gives us the best of Gardner’s writing. The sequences in Venice are exceptional. When Bond is back in the environment we like to see him in, dealing with spies and spy-masters and dishing out the rough with the smooth, Gardner’s very effective. But the unsophisticated humour he mercilessly flogs and the empty facades of every single one of his characters show probably the nadir of his output. Sadly this split personality of a novel never gives itself a chance to succeed on either level.       

3 from 10

Last edited by chrisno1 (4th Sep 2010 15:36)

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Seems that everything Gardner touches turns to suck. ajb007/lol

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NEVER SEND FLOWERS
25/8/2010

http://s3.postimage.org/u7YD9.jpg

1993

Mercifully short, Never Send Flowers adds nothing to John Gardner’s litany of Bondage. It has all his familiar hallmarks: people are not who they seem, M goes into the field, information is with-held for no good reason, there is an over reliance on page after page of tepid dialogue to explain everything not once but twice, every woman is gorgeous and desirable, the humour is forced and school-boyish, the action takes ages in coming and proves relatively unexciting, the plot is convoluted and uninteresting and it all takes place on a sort of whistle stop tour of Europe. Oh, and this time the villain wants to assassinate members of the Royal Family.

I’d like to start with the villain, the alliteratively named David Dragonpol. This is undoubtedly Gardner’s weirdest creation. A great actor, a master of disguise, an obsessive-compulsive and an unhinged killer, Dragonpol, while being well short of normal, has possibly the most random motive of any Bond baddie: he gets a thrill from the organisation, preparation and execution of a sophisticated assassination. His targets are random, though they are all high profile, and he has no motive other than to act out the murders he has plotted. In that respect, he’s hardly a candidate for topping the ‘League of Great Bond Villains.’ He first appears with a hunchback, fake fingers and stage make up re-enacting his interpretation of Shakespeare’s Richard III. There’s nothing remotely spooky about this Richard of Gloucester; he’s simply barking mad. And so are his family and friends, who seem to condone his killings by failing to have him locked up in a lunatic asylum. This chameleon lives in a bizarre fantasy German castle that has all the tricks of Euro-Disney, where co-incidentally the climax of this novel takes place. It’s quite fitting because the impression I had was that Dragonpol is a man who never really grew up, he merely grew deranged. Gardner’s portrait of him is paper thin. I haven’t one decent line to quote about Dragonpol because the facade is so barren.     

Indeed, most of Never Send Flowers is equally unquotable. It’s a turgid enterprise from start to finish. When not describing glamorous hotels, expensive meals and the fairy tale fortress of Schloss Drache, Gardner is developing another series of unmemorable characters. There is of course a gorgeous female agent (surprise, bloody surprise). She’s given the impossible name of Flicka von Grusse and while Bond considers her to be “not beautiful by any standard,” it doesn’t stop him copulating with her at every possible opportunity. Flicka’s seduction technique is indescribably obvious, so Gardner hardly bothers:  “ ‘I must have some comfort tonight, please,’ she whispered; the last word was not a plea but something else which came from deep within her.” Ugh.

Throughout it all Gardner injects his unsophisticated puns and witticisms. But he’s forgotten to put in any action and when it does come it hardly makes your toes curl. This is a book by numbers in the worst sense and Gardner does his reputation no favours by repeating, after a fashion, scenes and situations he’s already included in many of his earlier 007 novels. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the novel is its lack of a double cross!

I was tremendously disappointed with Never Send Flowers. It’s a slack story all round. I think Gardner was probably disappointed too and, at the novels end, he seems prepared to throw in the 007 towel. Bond appears to have fallen in love with Flicka. Even his redoubtable Scots housekeeper May thinks she’s “a pleasant lass” – though that’s not a word I’d use to describe a girl who can break a man’s arm with karate chop – and M suspects marriage is on the cards.

More tellingly, the curmudgeonly old Admiral intones: “Changes are in the air...The job’s changing with the world, though I personally believe the world’s a more dangerous place than it was when we had a cut-and-dried cold war... which is why the powers that be are demanding a complete reorganisation. It’s going to affect me and it’s particularly going to affect you.”

This reads like a farewell from Gardner to his readers, opening the way for a fresh pen and a new inquisitive mind to continue the adventures of Ian Fleming’s hero. Sadly, as I have three more of the author’s novels to go, that clearly wasn’t to be the case.

1 from 10

Last edited by chrisno1 (4th Sep 2010 15:37)

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This is my first time posting to the forum, but I wanted to say chrisno 1, that I agree full on with your reviews, both of the Fleming works and the continuation novels.  I started out really enjoying the Gardner series, but after Icebreaker it just went down hill completely.  You could really tell Gardner had had his fill by that point, and the work shows.  While I do look forward to the reviews of SeaFire, Goldeneye, and Cold (Fall), I am particularly excited to see what you have to say about the Benson novels.  While Gardner's selection was far from perfect, they feel like works of art compared to Benson's.  Keep up the good work!

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You should read about Gardner's history with Bond at the author's website. It's really just a long explanation about how Gardner didn't even want to write Bond and he thought the series was terrible in the first place. Gee, I wonder why his novels were so bad.


dlb007 wrote:

While Gardner's selection was far from perfect, they feel like works of art compared to Benson's.  Keep up the good work!

I'll give Benson some credit and say that his ideas were a lot more fun however his writing technique is akin to a teenager creating fan-fiction for his or her dumb friends.

Last edited by Ricardo C. (26th Aug 2010 16:52)

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You're right there.  His plots were pretty interesting, although poorly written.  IFP must have truly been hard up for someone to continue the Bond series.

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dlb007 wrote:

This is my first time posting to the forum, but I wanted to say chrisno 1, that I agree full on with your reviews, both of the Fleming works and the continuation novels.  I started out really enjoying the Gardner series, but after Icebreaker it just went down hill completely.  You could really tell Gardner had had his fill by that point, and the work shows.  While I do look forward to the reviews of SeaFire, Goldeneye, and Cold (Fall), I am particularly excited to see what you have to say about the Benson novels.  While Gardner's selection was far from perfect, they feel like works of art compared to Benson's.  Keep up the good work!

Thanks for the good words! We are not alone in thinking it all goes downhill from Icebreaker!!!!
I certainly do get the impression of tiredness; from NDMB Gardner is basically rehashing all the same ideas.
Pity.

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Ricardo C. wrote:

You should read about Gardner's history with Bond at the author's website. It's really just a long explanation about how Gardner didn't even want to write Bond and he thought the series was terrible in the first place. Gee, I wonder why his novels were so bad.

While not having read those thoughts for a long time (I thought theyw ere published somewhere?) I am aware of Gardner's reluctance to continue with Bond. He was ill in 1984/85 and felt compelled by Gildrose to write 2 novels when he really wasn't interested. Equally he championed TMFB, but got negative feedback and created that dastardly confection DIF, almost to spite his publisher! What I fail to understand is why he continued to write these novels when he wasn't interested in the product (money? reputation?) Surely he should have been in a position to just say "No!"