Licence Renewed (1981)- John Gardner

In the early 80s, the estate of Ian Fleming reached out to author John Gardner to continue telling stories about James Bond, 007, and to perchance, bring him into the 80s. This involved a bit of a retcon moving the events of the previous novels from the 50s/60s to the 60s/70s.

Gardner’s first effort, Licence Renewed doesn’t really do anything new with the subject matter. With the addition of some modern tech (it was for the 80s anyway) Bond is a touch older, and his department, the 00 branch of MI6 doesn’t really exist anymore. For M., his boss, Bond is an army of one, a blunt instrument kept in reserve when other options no longer apply.

The racist moments that plagued Fleming’s tales are gone, as are a large part of the sexist ones, though Gardner realises that they are part of Bond’s world. That being said, the introduction of Q’ute, Ann Reilly of Q Branch, could have been handled better, though she does make a pointed remark about updated perspectives.

Bond finds himself assigned to a strange case. There is something weird going on at a castle in Scotland. It seems the Laird there, Anton Murik is up to something. But no one can quite ferret out what.

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007 is sent to investigate. And soon finds himself in very familiar territory as Murik plans to hold the world hostage, threatening the meltdown of six nuclear plants around the world unless his demands are met.

His henchman, Caber, a big Scot brute, has it in for Bond, and Murik’s ward, Lavender is the typical Fleming-esque creation, not quite a damsel in distress, but not far off either. I’m hoping as the series progresses that Bond meets an equal for a change.

The beats are familiar, with Gardner adding nothing new to the Bond legacy with this entry but for his introduction to the 80s, and his driving a SAAB 900 Turbo, which to me, does not even look worthy of a car for 007, no matter the specs.

There are also a few moments that would appear to be adapted for later use in the feature films of the 80s, including a horse race with something similar happening in A View To A Kill, and a battle at the back of a flying C-14, which could have been the launching point for a fight that occurred in The Living Daylights.

Gardner would go on to write fourteen 007 novels (and two film novelisations), but for now, it’s enough for me to know that James Bond Will Return In…

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