Cold (1996) – John Gardner

John Gardner’s final 007 novel, Cold aka Cold Fall, his sixteenth, feels a little bit more like the James Bond we know, a balance between Ian Fleming’s literary creation, and his cinematic iteration. Far more enjoyable than his adaptation of GoldenEye, the novel is split into two parts, taking place before, and then after, his most recent tales (excluding the adaptation), and sets up some of the changes that we’ve seen in the films.

It’s nice to have Bond back at MI6, where we find him at the beginning of the novel, I never cared for the where Gardner took the agent’s career, though I did like some of his stories. And this one is a step up over some of his later entries. Like he wanted to go out with a bang.

And that is how the book starts, when Bond is called into M’s office and shown the destruction of a new airline’s inaugural flight to Dulles. Supposedly aboard it is an old lover of 007’s Suki, who last appeared in Nobody Lives Forever, when Bond fought SPECTRE.

Driven to learn what happened, he finds himself on a globetrotting adventure that takes him from England to the States to Italy, and pits him against dastardly villains, and tempting women.

This, to me, felt a little more like Gardner at the beginning of his run on the James Bond novels, his punchy style is back, and Bond has a cruel edge to him that didn’t always show in Gardner’s later books, but it’s back, and feels very Fleming-esque.

The baddies are predictably evil, and there’s no real surprises or twist reveals to the story, at this point, the books, much like the films, have a set pattern that is followed, though I’m hoping to see that shaken up a bit when the torch is passed to the next writer.

Still, it’s a pretty amazing run Gardner had, taking Fleming’s iconic character through the 80s almost to the millennium. The only thing I think that was a missed opportunity for him was the fact that Bond was getting older through it all. It was never really touched on or dealt with, and that would have been something that may have really worked for the character.

Next time, the series continues as Raymond Benson moves the 007 into the 90s, when James Bond returns in Blast From the Past…

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