Scorpius (1988) – John Gardner

James Bond’s adventures this week take him around England, and then over to the States in John Gardner’s seventh 007 novel. This time around Bond finds himself taking on an unusual enemy in a story that seems just as relevant today.

James is assigned to investigate a religious cult known as the Meek Ones run by a Father Valentine. Bond’s information tells him that Valentine is actually a long disappeared arms dealer named Scorpius. And as political assassinations strike across the country, and a general election looming, Bond has to move quickly.

He learns that Scorpius is using the members of his cult as actual living weapons. Indoctrinated with their beliefs, they believe they are attaining a form of paradise when they commit their atrocious crimes; exploding themselves and taking high profile targets with them.

Bond is joined by an IRS agent, Harriet, and a SAS soldier, neither of whom can be completely trusted.

The story moves along very rapidly, and plays like more of a thriller than some of Gardner’s previous novels. This one feels really on point, while still following the established 007 tropes. I quite like this tale, I just think that the ending, once again, feels a little rushed, which seems to be a trait of Gardner’s Bond novels.

As Bond and his allies (?) end up in the Meek One’s compound Scorpius reveals the length and breadth of his plan, while telling them escape is impossible – apparently the grounds on which the compound stands in land and marshes that are overrun by water moccasins.

There are no real gadgets at play in the story, just Bond’s protected case, and he once again has to rely on his wits to figure out what is going on. In fact from the off, Bond’s involvement in the case is being manipulated and watched, almost every step of the way.

The idea of a religious cult being used for terrorist means is incredibly relevant, and you can see something similar playing out in the real world. I mean not exactly, but it’s not so beyond the realm of possibility as some 007 stories are.

There are also some nice references to previous Bond adventures, the most prevalent of which ties in with the late Tracy Bond, though other moments get a nod or two.

Gardner’s Bond has very much established itself now, and it completely works with the 80s update, and minor retcon that is required for it. Gardner knows the character and knows how to work the spy genre, he attempts to tie it in with the political realities of the time, and 007 remains a blunt instrument through it all.

I can’t wait to see what Gardner delivers next, because, as always, James Bond Will Return…

…in Win, Lose or Die!

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