Ian Fleming’s 007, James Bond, is back in action in the next novel by John Gardner, like his two previous tales, they move fast, and while filled with action beats, and moments, seems, overall, to be a smaller scale than the films that were happening at the same time.
This time around, with the barest of briefings from M, Bond is sent to the Russian-Finnish border as part of an international team of intelligence operatives who are seeking to bring down a rising neo-nazi group that is led by a wanted World War II war criminal who fancies himself the next Hitler.
With his extras loaded Saab (still not a fan) ready to go, Bond soon finds himself mired in murder attempts and double-crosses as it becomes very clear that the only person he can trust on this mission is himself.
Gardner keeps the story racing along, filling the story with technical details, and spycraft. His presentation of Bond remains true to Fleming’s creation, though a little older, but that doesn’t interfere with 007 doing his job.
Of course, along with action beats, there are a few beautiful, and dangerous women in this adventure, made all the more threatening because of the web of deceit that springs up around the mission.
There are some very cool moments throughout the story, and for once, it feels like none of them have been lifted by the film series’ producers to fit into the cinematic version of Bond.
None of the books have been overly long, and the action just ratchets along catapulting Bond from one situation to the next, as things grow increasingly tense in the hunt for the villain, whose rise could threaten the free world.
And I do like that the world has changed a bit since Fleming’s novels. The Gardner series continues to be set in the 80s, and has consequently retconned a but of Fleming’s work by suggesting they occurred in the late 60s and 70s instead, but of greatest import is the fact that Bond’s division, the 00s, don’t exist anymore.
But that doesn’t stop M from calling him 007, or employing his unique skills when the world needs saving. As, apparently, it so often does.
Of Gardner’s entries so far, this one would have to be my favourite. He’s got his sense of Bond storytelling down, and keeps the adventures focused, and fast-paced. There’s just enough gadgets to keep those who prefer the film version of the character involved, and the stories are still gangbusters (and perhaps this one, because of the subject matter, remains relevant).
There are more adventures to come, because James Bond Will Return…
in Role of Honour.