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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

DOUBLESHOT
22/2/2011

http://s4.postimage.org/1pcvrpqsk/image.jpg

2000

Tactfully ignoring The World Is Not Enough, Raymond Benson continues the adventures of James Bond with the second book in what became his ‘Union Trilogy.’ This novel takes Bond to Morocco where he becomes embroiled in the ambition of the maverick Spanish politician Domingo Espada to take over by popular force the British enclave of Gibraltar.

The narrative of Doubleshot is remarkably simple. In fact it’s rather obvious; the title itself gives away the central premise that Bond is haunted by a doppelganger and Benson does little to hide the central revelation of his story, even creating a short prologue which virtually gives away the ending before we’ve even started. It is surprising then that Benson succeeds with this novel where previously he failed.

The difference between Doubleshot and all that came before is that Benson finally seems to be interested in James Bond and not simply the violence, sex and comedy which he thinks ought to surround him. There is markedly less action in this adventure and while we know Bond is going to solve the crisis with a quip and a severe injury, it doesn’t feel such a painful hardship getting there.

Forced to take a three month medical sabbatical after his mission to the Himalayas, Bond is drinking heavily and beginning to hallucinate. He’s experiencing blackouts and, desperate, he seeks the attention of Dr Kimberley Feare, who is gruesomely murdered after a night of ill-advised passion. On a slender lead, Bond travels incognito to Tangier, on the hunt for two Union associates.

Benson takes the time to paint a picture of a very troubled 007: “His heart began to pound mercilessly and a blanket of dread enveloped him... for a moment he thought he was having a heart attack.” These symptoms occur time and again. “Blinding headaches” and severe terrifying blackouts (“the dark curtain fell with a crash”) plague Bond throughout the story and lend physical depth to his emotional torment. Finally vulnerable, this Bond is more than “the blunt instrument of death... shut off from every possible emotion.” He’s scared and he’s worried and he’s concerned: “This is personal” he says several times and the Union wishes to make it more so, by employing the psychopath Peredur Glyn to impersonate Bond and discredit MI6.

The idea of a double is a not unfamiliar ruse in thrillers, indeed there was one in Thunderball, the novel/film which most seems to influence Benson, but knowing there is one doesn’t spoil the narrative of Doubleshot. There is a lot of well constructed traditional espionage going on much of it lacking the author’s usual gadgets and visual silliness. In Tangier Bond meets a rough and ready SIS agent, Latif Reggab, who bears a resemblance to past cohorts, like Darko Kerim. This is a studied, jovial and realistic character, a far cry from the one dimensional fare we usually read.

Their journey through Berber country to the blue city of Chaouen is beautifully evocative, “ghostly, luminescent structures floating above ground,” and for once Benson gives us rhetoric which does full justice to the surroundings, concentrating on the incidentals to build the wider picture: “the countryside was hilly and green, dotted with the occasional shepherd... Tangier was famous for its unique decaying character...makeshift shops and food stalls filled the air with smells, noise and spectacle... children were kicking a ball back and forth... navigation by foot, bicycle , motorcycle or donkey cart were the only options in this labyrinth of narrow passages.”

This makes a change from the usual travelogue of blood and thunder and there’s even time to sketch a palpably real villain. Domingo Espada, is a powerful self made politician, who happens to be a despicable underworld kingpin, pimp and racketeer. An ex-matador obsessed by fame, he’s also given to wild hallucinations and spends his evenings “alone in his study, dressed in costume, standing and staring at the stuffed bull’s heads... He could hear the tumultuous applause and cheers, he could see them standing... The empty seats projected the same amount of noise and excitement as if they had been packed full of spectators.”

While Espada’s antics are often distasteful, Benson is at pains to stress his charisma and authority, “devilishly handsome... [with] a Mephistophelean appearance.” He isn’t as pantomime as the previous Roland Marquis. Accompanying him is Margareta Piel, commonly known as the “Mantis Religiosa,” who, like Fiona Volpe, insists on making love to her victims before killing them. She makes a laudable henchwoman, although Benson is preoccupied with her sexual antics rather than her motives.

Bond also encounters the Taunt twins, Heidi and Hedy, two desirable and lissom CIA agents. While their inclusion is diverting it doesn’t serve any narrative purpose. The idea of Bond making love to identical sisters merely seems to tickle the author’s erotic fancy. As such neither twin is given much in the way of personality.

Eventually it is Bond’s (and by definition Benson’s) preoccupation with sexual matters which leads him into further danger, but one feels it didn’t quite have to be that way. Additionally, Bond’s blackouts always occur at the least helpful moment, conveniently allowing the story to alter without explanation. So by the time we reach the climatic shoot out, which is a well devised homage to the Wild West, it’s all a bit of an anti-climax.   

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the novel is its focus on the nature of twins. The girls get away with being jokey sex objects, although they approach men with opposing methods, chalk and cheese as it were, but Bond shares a deeper understanding with the matador Javier Rojo: “There is a duality between the matador and the bull... The matador must become the bull, and in many ways, the bull does the same... With every pass the bull learns from his mistakes... It is up to the matador to predict what the bull is going to do... It is a dance. In the ring, the bull becomes the matador’s mirror image.”

Peredur Glyn has watched his victim’s every move and is so associated with the original that he insists on being called James Bond. The two of them have been enacting a dance macabre for weeks and are ultimately fatally entwined in the corrida.

However, one can’t hide from the impending insanity forever: even the true power behind The Union, a mystical blind Berber called Le Gerant, retreats into a private four walled domain, like an inmate at a lunatic asylum, touching unseen photographs of 007 “to absorb the subject’s essence.”

There is plenty to absorb here. Amongst all the usual nauseous ugliness of death, the beauty of Doubleshot, is that through Benson’s lucid, unlingering telling James Bond, Domingo Espada and Peredur Glyn all appear at some point to be going slightly mad and it’s a disturbing scenario no amount of strategically placed double entendres can withhold.

6 from 10

Last edited by chrisno1 (23rd Feb 2011 15:09)

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

I agree with your review of High Time to Kill.  I enjoyed the change in scenery, but that was about it.  I realize that the character of James Bond is one who often has sexual encounters while on the job, but I really felt this novel could have done without that.  Other than that it felt like a bland repetition of stuff we'd seen before.

The novelization of The World is Not Enough was equally poor.  Benson's Bond is an emotionless creature who merely climbs into bed with random women and kills without pause.  It's about as entertaining as the Bond portrayed by Pierce Brosnan. 

I actually disagree with you Chris in regards to Doubleshot.  Throughout I often felt as though I were going to experience massive headaches and eventually blackout.  The main question I kept asking myself was why?  Why have twins?  Why not just shoot Bond instead of trying to drive him crazy?  Why keep reading this novel?  I will agree that it's the first novel of Benson's where Bond is not a simple one-dimensional character.  Sadly, this is probably the high point of the Benson catalog.  Like a previous poster mentioned, Never Dream of Dying and The Man with the Red Tattoo are downright abysmal.  I need not mention the novelization of Die Another Day.

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

Thanks for the feedback, dbl and polarbear.
I've just started NDOD ajb007/insane

Regards the comments on Doubleshot above I also asked the question "why twins?" (I assume you mean the Truant twins, not the doppleganger double).
As I said, having twin CIA agents in Tangier doesn't serve any purpose to the plot. While Benson creates a worthwhile explanation, twins are not required for the novel. At no point does the girl's moniker Hazel Truant ever need to be seen in two places at once. As I said, their sole purpose is to foster Benson's sexual kinks.
Additionally one of the sisters (I forget which - they're identical right? ajb007/lol ) is severely wounded towards the end, yet makes a miraculous recovery. There is no mention of her life threatening injuries in the coda.
This was the aspect of the novel which most disapppointed me. While Benson tied up the doppleganger aspect quite well, his treatment of the twins is comic book stuff, almost misogynist.
Incidently, while I enjoyed the chase in Tangier, did you (like me) see the essence of TLD '87, where Bond is chased by the police over the rooftops and rescued by two sexy CIA agents who also have a boat moored in the harbour? Benson even quotes Fleming (again) "Probably scared the living dyalights out of him"
Benson's constant hugging of the film franchise and the Bond mythology is downright wierd. I don't understand why he thinks he needs to do this. If he's trying to show us how much he knows about 007 history, all he appears to be doing is showing off and diluting the standard of his own product by borrowing from other sources. While these didn't influence my overall view of Doublshot, it is a trait that is gregariously obvious and distinctly unsatisfying. To this reader anyway.

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

Ha, yes I did mean the CIA twins.  I couldn't agree more that it seems they were included just because Benson found the idea erotic.  The doppelganger idea is only slightly interesting to me.  In all honestly, aren't all the goons gunning after Bond his virtual equal?  I mean, besides the fact that their shots never do any damage while he kills them all.  I believe NDOD is the novel that Benson gives very scientific descriptions during a sex scene, thus removing any and all eroticism.  Apparently, he wasn't clued in that during sex scenes less is more.  Enjoy laughing as you finish each page.  I know I did.

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

dlb007 wrote:

The doppelganger idea is only slightly interesting to me.  In all honestly, aren't all the goons gunning after Bond his virtual equal?  I mean, besides the fact that their shots never do any damage while he kills them all.  I believe NDOD is the novel that Benson gives very scientific descriptions during a sex scene, thus removing any and all eroticism.  Apparently, he wasn't clued in that during sex scenes less is more.  Enjoy laughing as you finish each page.  I know I did.

Well, i'm not sure all the goons are his equal, that isn't suggested in the novel at all. They may be capable, but Bond is the expert. That's kind of what I meant by the Wild West homage: the hero eliminates the baddies without a scratch. I really warmed to the doppelganger angle; it works very well. I like the idea of Bond - or rather a double Bond - being deliberately entrapped into a political power-play. It has overtones of FRWL, but brings Fleming's 1950's idea bang up to date.

Regards sex scenes... I'll let you know. I'm worried about "scientific descriptions" already........

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

I have to admitt, I've re-read The Fleming & Gardner Books many times ( But I'm no Expert ) But the Benson's I've read Once and have no desire to ever read again. ajb007/crap

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

True, all the goons aren't his equal, but they are of the same profession, i.e., professional killers.  I guess it just seems a bit of a rehash from Goldeneye, where 006 is virtually an evil 007.  I don't necessarily mind the Wild West angle, because nearly all action-oriented plots, be it film or literature, have an ending where good trumps evil quite easily, but I do hate that Benson's Bond never seems worried about this prospect.  He just simply goes in the room and kills everyone without a hint of emotion. 

Yes, the sex scenes read like an anatomy book or a play-by-play commentary.  Very interesting.


Thunderpussy, I share your thoughts.  I can see myself rereading Fleming and Gardner but Benson . . . no chance in hell.

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

Breaking News:

After reading "NDOD", Chrisno1 has checked himself into "Shrublands2-The Benson Institute for the Literary Insane".   Chrisno1 will be under 24 hour watch and exposed to significant electric shock therapy in the hope of restoring his sanity and in preparation for his very brave future attempt at reading "MWTRT".  ajb007/crap

This is where we leave you Mr. Bond. (Pilot, Apollo Airlines)

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

Not so!!!!!!

ajb007/bond

Not yet!!!!!

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

NEVER DREAM OF DYING
25/2/2011

http://s1.postimage.org/nxfjcxms/4157_X9_XA55_L_SS500_1.jpg

2001

To say that Never Dream of Dying is a bad novel doesn’t quite sum it up. It is far worse than that.

So appalling is Raymond Benson’s seventh attempt to continue the James Bond saga that, unusually, I cannot find any aspect of the piece worthy of praise. There is not a single iota of thought or substance taken over this adventure. It is dreadful at the beginning, seeks out the depths of unbelievable crassness in the middle and plummets to insultingly comic book violence at its climax.

There may be a love story. There may be a vendetta. There may be the continuing saga of The Union and its mysterious "mazzere" leader Le Gerant. The string which binds these subjects together is a bomb threat to the Cannes Film Festival and a lot of messing about on a movie set. It's hopelessly loose, so floppy and long winded that the string may as well not exist at all. It’s very hard to believe I managed to digest all 341 pages of such a distasteful mess, peppered as it is with B-movie dialogue and soap opera situations. Benson desperately tries to inject some thrills into his work, but the endless ridiculous chases and fights slow the action to a crawl, so poorly inscribed as to be neither believable nor fantastical. One of the fights even occurs during the recording of a television game show. Never Dream of Dying really is that bad.

The novel fails on so many levels for three distinct reasons.

Firstly, and most noticeably, is the generally poor standard to prose. Supported [if that’s the right word] by laboured humour and a predictable travel brochure guide to Corsica and the Cote d’Azur, the author creates no tension and precious little intrigue. Even his characters, which in Doubleshot showed signs of coming alive, are devoid of reasonable personas.

Benson can hardly string a decent descriptive sentence together. Extracts like “with an unexpected lurch and the spring of a cobra” with its mixture of contradictory nouns and metaphors are so common it becomes disheartening. When Benson isn’t being over generous with his less than entrancing wordplay, he’s being deliberately blunt: “Too many times the women he [Bond] had grown close to had met with... bad luck.” Yes, he really does insert the pause dots. The writing is frighteningly childlike in its execution. At one point, when introducing the heroine Tylyn, Benson even has the audacity to tell us how to pronounce her name.

As if I wasn’t flabbergasted enough by such a condescending tone, Benson, who apparently is a world authority on James Bond, seems to have completely misread the legacy of Ian Fleming. As always he harks back to James Bond’s past, both literary and cinematic; old friends materialize, scenarios are re-run, quotes are lifted; the whole exercise is a piece meal attempt at re-imagining James Bond.

The prime offence however, is to turn Marc Ange Draco, one of Bond’s greatest allies, into his enemy. This tinkering with the personality of a major and popular character from the original novels is both insulting to the intelligence of the readers, who are predominantly fans well versed in Bond history, and to the creativity of Ian Fleming, who I hope didn’t turn too roughly in his grave. It doesn’t matter how cleverly the author tries to justify such an action, he leaves a very sour taste in the mouth. Dressing the confrontation up with lines from The Man With The Golden Gun, one of Fleming’s lesser works, merely adds injury to the insult.

Finally, Benson’s obsession with sex and school boy pornography has sunk to its lowest level. He genuinely appears to have confused the words ‘exploitation’ and ‘eroticism.’ There is an ill judged sex scene which leaves nothing to the imagination and is more akin to Jackie Collins than James Bond. As if this isn’t bad enough – and it is really, really bad, not even being particularly good pornography – Benson again rekindles the flames of Thunderball by reinforcing an analogy between horses and women:

“I like to get on Commander, my favourite horse,” says Tylyn, “and ride for hours.”
“Bond mused that he knew a certain commander who would like a ride.”

I honestly don’t know why Benson thinks this is sort of thing is appropriate. Reprising the famous egg-spines scene, Bond pulls a splinter form Tylyn’s eye and she falls into his arms, “a catharsis of sorts... noisy animalistic love.” It doesn’t help that Benson makes her the aggressor and these scenes are devoid of any grace and subtlety. As such they fit in rather well with the other cheap tricks surrounding them.   

Never Dream of Dying is a massive step back for Raymond Benson. So paltry are his efforts I don’t even consider it worth rating. The only good thing to be said is that the author can’t possibly sink any lower.

0 from 10

Last edited by chrisno1 (26th Feb 2011 02:25)

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

The prime offence however, is to turn Marc Ange Draco, one of Bond’s greatest allies, into his enemy. This tinkering with the personality of a major and popular character from the original novels is both insulting to the intelligence of the readers, who are predominantly fans well versed in Bond history, and to the creativity of Ian Fleming, who I hope didn’t turn too roughly in his grave. It doesn’t matter how cleverly the author tries to justify such an action, he leaves a very sour taste in the mouth. Dressing the confrontation up with lines from The Man With The Golden Gun, one of Fleming’s lesser works, merely adds injury to the insult.

I cannot agree more. While there was already plenty to dislike about Benson's efforts (like his horrid prose), this was really the last straw. Never read another Benson novel after this one.

—Le Samourai

A Gent in Training.... A blog about my continuing efforts to be improve myself, be a better person, and lead a good life. It incorporates such far flung topics as fitness, self defense, music, style, food and drink, and personal philosophy.
Agent In Training

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

The only good thing to be said is that the author can’t possibly sink any lower.

If only that were true Chris.  Just wait.

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

I think your review says everything Chrisno1.  We've all had a bit of a chuckle about how bad it is.  Truth be said, it really is an outrage to the legacy of Fleming and the character/series he created.  I am baffled that anyone with any sense allowed this to be published.  A big fat zero really sums it up.........X-(

This is where we leave you Mr. Bond. (Pilot, Apollo Airlines)

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

when are you reviewing the young bond novels?

“The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. "
-Casino Royale, Ian Fleming

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

Actually... I have to read this.  ajb007/biggrin

"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

Up next: The Man with the Red Tattoo . . .

Chris, you deserve a well-earned vacation after this and perhaps some therapy.  The important thing is you're only two books away from freedom.  God speed.

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

Hang on... Never Dream gets four stars out of five on Amazon. And plenty of positive reviews.  ajb007/insane

"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Napoleon Plural wrote:

Hang on... Never Dream gets four stars out of five on Amazon. And plenty of positive reviews.  ajb007/insane


Don't be fooled by the reviews on Amazon, Nap - NDOD is AWFUL !!

YNWA: Justice For The 96

Sometimes no news is just bad news taking it's fvcking time

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Napoleon Plural wrote:

Hang on... Never Dream gets four stars out of five on Amazon. And plenty of positive reviews.  ajb007/insane

Well, everyone is entitled to their opinions  ajb007/shifty
I could have been generous and given NDOD a mark of 1 from 10, but honestly, this was a dreadful enterprise. It shows Benson's worst attributes at their very worst: bad sex, silly action scenes, petty dialogue, terrible characters, an awful plot, constant revisiting of 007s adventures, pithy humour, appalling prose, etc etc.
The Draco thing was the straw that broke the camel's back. Perhaps what made this turn of events (a Gardner double cross if ever their was one) so risible is that it deflected the emphasis of villainy away from the more interesting personality of Le Gerant. Whatever you say about the betrayal of 007s Fleming roots - and that is bad enough - to actually change the focus up of your finale for nothing more than a cheap and unnecessary double cross is frankly untenable.
I'd never read NDOD before and I was shocked by its simplicity. I'm not planning to read it again soon.
A lot of people do like it. They have thier reasons. I don't and I have mine.

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Was casting aspersions over amazon's reliability rather than that of chrisno1...  ajb007/smile

"This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

Sorry, Napoleon, slight misunderstanding!
Mind you, IMO Amazon's has a rather over enthusiastic rating system...

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

THE MAN WITH THE RED TATTOO
1/3/2011

http://s4.postimage.org/2o5086e5g/n52397_1.jpg

2002

The Man with the Red Tattoo is Goro Yoshida, exiled nationalist, international terrorist and the power behind one of Japan’s criminal organisations, the Ryujin-kai or Yakuza. Yoshida was briefly introduced in Raymond Benson’s previous opus, Never Dream of Dying, but he’s given a much deeper focus here, being compared to the great post war patriot Mishima and, less clinically, Darth Vader from Star Wars: “Yoshida possessed an enlightened intelligence... a mystique among the yakuza as a man with persuasive charisma and a tangible inner strength that seemed to transcend the earthly plain of existence... the Yami Shogun, the dark lord.”

Benson doesn’t stress the other-worldly aspects too much, as he concentrated on those at some length with Le Gerant in his earlier books, but his portrait of the deluded and logically blinded Yoshida is very close to that of the sightless leader of The Union. Like Le Gerant, Yoshida suffers from a recurring nightmare, this time of his attempted suicide, the ritual seppuku. Yoshida dwells on the lost opportunity of his youth, when Mishima expelled him from his apostles, and still mourns the public suicide of his mentor, to the point he is obsessed by it, imagining “plunging the dagger into his belly as the bright disc of the sun soared up and exploded behind his eyelids.” 

Yoshida is very effective, and would make an exceptional villain, if it wasn’t that he feels so old fashioned. He’s definitely the closest Benson has come to a genuine Fleming malefactor, a powerful man sitting in his underground bunker, planning his vile schemes with his secret army and displaying a demented grasp of modern politics. Stranded on his secluded island he’s a sort of Fu Manchu figure, who doesn’t get involved in the nitty gritty work of his underlings. As such he’s beholden to their failings, despite offering a commanding presence. It’s disappointing that Bond’s confrontation with him is restricted to a video-link and a climatic gory, though uninspired, samurai sword fight in a hotel room. Goro Yoshida deserved better than this.

Indeed, the whole novel deserves much better than that. Benson returns Bond to the Far East, a region he had some success describing in Zero Minus Ten and Tomorrow Never Dies. He brilliantly conjures the sights and sounds of twenty first Tokyo: “bursting with energy... Bond could feel it in the air... a constant hustle and bustle, it never slept and the lights were always bright.” For once I felt as if I was right there with Bond experiencing the hubbub of the city and its steamy, claustrophobic environment. It is another of those rare times when the author proves he can write creatively. Lines like “the neon was blinding, the billboards were bright and colourful, the traffic was dense and the noise and clamour bombarded the senses” may be sparse but they share maximum effect.

Unfortunately for all the effort made describing the locale, Benson has let us down by fashioning a distinctly second rate and rather bizarre master plan for his baddie: an attempt to infect the G8 summit with a potent strain of the West Nile virus via genetically mutated mosquitoes. Basically a re-hash of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, I didn’t believe it for a second, and even chuckled during a scene on the Sapporo express where Bond’s lissom accomplice Reiko tries to chase infected mosquitoes through the carriages. There is a replaying of this scene at the end, where Bond is also swatting the obdurate insects. Daft.

The story starts off very well, with a mysterious death on an airliner, but quickly descends into Benson’s standard fare of gun battles and fist fights coupled with bouts of sex (thankfully less prominent than usual) and a little detective work. Bond is involved in all the violence, taking one horrific beating after another. There is always another guard to be hit, felled, blasted or dispatched, all in Benson’s atypical manner: “Bond swung out from behind a tree and fired. One of them jerked and fell... The Walther recoiled with a satisfying jolt.” You know the sort of thing.

Due to his carefreeness Bond is constantly in trouble with the police for causing a public affray. Luckily his old mate Tiger Tanaka is on hand is smooth things over. While Tiger gets better treatment than Marc Ange Draco did last time out, the character is somewhat low key. As the two men already know and respect each other there is none of the tension and emotional rhetoric which enlivened You Only Live Twice. It is a very informal, almost nonchalant partnership and Tiger stays in the background for much of the novel. It’s very similar to Bond’s attachment to Felix Leiter. He even starts to sound like the American; at one point, Bond remarks that Tiger has picked up “too many of those western colloquialisms” only for the Japanese to reply “Whatever.”     
         
Tiger’s place as chief tourist guide is taken instead by Reiko Tamura, a more than capable female agent, whose manner is both modern and alluring: “Reiko was a professional... it was difficult to discern whether [she] was serious in her flirting or not.” Seduced, Bond offers to take her on holiday to Hawaii, a sure fire way to ensure her demise. Hence Reiko is killed midway through the book.

Her place is taken by Mayumi, a spoilt half-British wild child who has become a successful high class whore for the Yakuza. Mayumi bears striking similarities to Benson’s other prostitute made good, Sunni Pei from Zero Minus Ten, being able to shoot people and make energetic love, while staying terribly naive and screaming a lot. Hardly central to Yoshida’s plot, Mayumi is a dated damsel in distress and not nearly as memorable as Reiko. The comparison is somewhat similar to that which critics often make between Kissy and Aki from the movie version of You Only Live Twice.

Bond of course doesn’t do much detecting. Most of the routine investigating is done by a series of agents and contacts who all exhibit a remarkable ability to avoid detection and stay alive until Bond meets them. 007 is merely a receptacle out to extract revenge. Full of rage and faced with Reiko’s death, he again has doubts about his profession, but receives reassurance from an imaginary Kissy Suzuki, “You travel in a dark and dangerous world... [Death] is merely the hand of fate. You could not exist in another world.” Like Yoshida, Bond’s dreams are a haunting from his past.

This reflective interlude is a rare pause for breath amongst the action, most of which is rather lack lustre. The most notable scene comes as Bond and Mayumi flee across the mud geysers of Jingokudani “the Valley of Hell... small bubbling pools of sulphurous water dotted the landscape... a faint beating coming from the ground as if someone were hitting a drum.” But Benson doesn’t give us enough of this Hades and the escapees are quickly and miraculously saved by a pair of marauding brown bears. I kid you not.

Even more disappointing is a scene at a research centre where Bond and Mayumi are about to be fed to the hungry mosquitoes. Having built the tension palpably well, Benson has the temerity to tell us exactly how Bond plans to escape. This is a true crime against thriller writing. Simply switching this paragraph to one page further on would have substantially increased the impact of the scene. The resolution should have been a riveting surprise. As it stands, it’s all a bit of a let down.

As this turn of events wasn’t ill judged enough, Benson has the gall to evoke memories of 007’s cinematic half breed cousin, Austin Powers, by having Bond fight a deadly duel with a demon dwarf, the Kappa. Resembling a mythical Japanese vampire, the Kappa could have been a great adversary for Bond, but their two fight scenes, all springs and jumps and high kicks (“Kappa leaped into the air like something from the netherworld”) simply make one realise how ridiculous it would look. If you’ve seen The Spy Who Shagged Me, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Benson would have been better off watching Nic Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, a fantastic demonstration of how to create atmosphere around a devilish character and strike fear through their actions.

This lack of finesse is, perhaps more than any thing, Benson’s Achilles heel. He seems incapable of developing and sustaining a suspenseful situation, consistently resorting to the afore-mentioned violence that it eventually becomes wearisome. There is some good writing here and a smattering of excellent ideas, but Benson hasn’t got the where-with-all to pull them together. While much better than Never Dream of Dying, this is a confusing mix which in turn delights and appals.

Ultimately, action is all in the author’s view of James Bond: flush from victory over Goro Yoshida, Bond admonishes his adversary’s right hand man with the rebuke “I don’t give a damn. He’s bloody dead and that’s all I care about.” I expect Raymond Benson was thinking the same thing.

3 from 10

Last edited by chrisno1 (8th Mar 2011 22:17)

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Re: Bond Continuation Novel Reviews: Vol 2

4/10 ?  I certainly thought it was marginally better than NDOD, but not a 4.  Regardless, I think few will argue that Benson is by far the worst writer to get near Bond.  Thankfully, his plug was pulled after this "effort".

Your reviews have been a great service to the forum- I'm sure I am not alone in saying "thank you" for sharing these detailed reviews...............

This is where we leave you Mr. Bond. (Pilot, Apollo Airlines)

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Polar Bear 0007 wrote:

4/10 ?  I certainly thought it was marginally better than NDOD, but not a 4.  Regardless, I think few will argue that Benson is by far the worst writer to get near Bond.  Thankfully, his plug was pulled after this "effort".

Your reviews have been a great service to the forum- I'm sure I am not alone in saying "thank you" for sharing these detailed reviews...............

Thanks.
As I've said before, we all have opinions. I try to offer mine as honestly as I can.

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DIE ANOTHER DAY
8/3/2011

http://s4.postimage.org/2o6duasys/n70162_1.jpg

2002

Raymond Benson’s movie adaptations rarely add anything to James Bond’s literary legacy. They stand alone from his continuation novels and rarely embrace our hero’s history. Die Another Day briefly mentions his dead wife and includes her prophetic epitaph “We have all the time in the world” but that’s about it.

This occurs during a prolonged thesis on the nature of torture and the philosophy of James Bond which runs something thus:

“Man’s cruellest invention… Pain is the great equaliser, the measure by which men and women come to grips with their inner strength… Never the less everyone has a breaking point… If the end was near, then so be it… He hadn’t talked. He hadn’t given his interrogators the satisfaction of winning. He still knew who he was, why he was there and what he stood for.”

There is a similar, though less revealing, passage relating to the genetically altered Korean Colonel Moon / Gustav Graves. It sadly lacks any attempt at significant depth. We never learn why Moon / Graves is such a lunatic egoist, such a psychotic volatile genius; he’s simply a madman and that’s our lot; deal with it.

Ditto the heroine Jinx, as bland as they come, and the fire and ice henchmen Zao and Miranda Frost. The latter is at least afforded the luxury of murdering her father, pairing her nicely with Moon / Graves, otherwise she’s utterly lifeless. Even the usual jittery paternal relationship between 007 and M is stoic, “a strange, strained situation.”

Admittedly Benson does have to transcribe some appalling dialogue and interpret the bemused reactions of the lead actors. No easy task. He painfully elaborates the story where necessary, but the aimless prose, all “then… next… at that moment… as… when… now…” is terribly flat and hardly conjures any tension or excitement. Despite a brief reflection on North Korea, “the victim of its own mindless self destruction… the dreams and lives of countless men and women had ended [in] sorrow, despair and ghosts,” the author has largely chosen to forsake any human substance in his narrative. As such the whole enterprise is fatally flawed.

Die Another Day is a bore and brings a relieved curtain crashing down on Raymond Benson’s tenure as James Bond’s official biographer. On this evidence he was probably disinclined to continue the job anyway. The best thing that can be said about the novel is that it is very, very short. Thank God.

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Last edited by chrisno1 (8th Mar 2011 22:20)