GoldenEye (1995) – John Gardner

John Gardner’s penultimate 007 novel is a short, uninspired adaptation of the 1995 film, GoldenEye which saw Pierce Brosnan finally step into the shoes of James Bond.

I’m not sure if Gardner was simply tired of writing Bond books at this point, or if he was less than impressed with the film’s script and was contractually obligated to deliver an adaptation. Either way, where the film was a fun, enjoyable blast of cinema 007, the novel is disappointing, and rarely expands on any of the story’s original material.

James and 006, Alec Trevelayan are on a mission that goes wrong, in that it apparently costs Alec his life, even as 007 pulls off the mission. The story flashes forward a couple of years, introduces a female M, who has kept Tanner and Moneypenny on, and is more of a number analyst than someone who should be running MI6 (something that messes with the continuity Gardner created for his own novels) as far as Bond is concerned.

He is sent off on a mission to track down a missing helicopter, a secret emp weapon known as GoldenEye, and an old enemy.

An incredibly fast read, this novel has none of the hook of the film, or the panache and charm of Brosnan’s performance. In fact, this version of 007 doesn’t really seem to be close to the literary or the cinema versions, or the rare combination of the two. He’s just a riff on Bond, who can occasionally delivery a great line, and seems less than impressed with the situation he finds himself in.

Gone are the enjoyable descriptions, the expansion on film scenes, or backstory. Instead, Gardner’s novel seems rushed, unappealing and was written as if he couldn’t wait to be done with it. I wonder if he liked the movie?

It’s an interesting read to see how action sequences changed and grew, what lines worked and which ones didn’t, but overall, it ends up being a disappointing entry in Gardner’s 007 run, and leaves me worried about his next, and final entry.

I mean, I would have loved to see an expansion on the friendship between Alec and James, so that the twists and turns when they come along had a stronger impact, and while it’s nice to have Q pop up in the novel, the sequence works better visually than it does in the book.

Still, Gardner has one more 007 tale to tell, and then the torch will be passed, and Bond will be born anew. Authors don’t change quite as often as the actors, but you look forward to seeing what the next person is going to bring to the character. So while Gardner prepares his last title, a new author is on deck to take over the story.

But first, James Bond will return in Cold!

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