Raymond Benson’s second 007 novel was an adaptation of the second Pierce Brosnan film, Tomorrow Never Dies. And while he seems to have some trouble adapting some of the more over the top action beats of the film, his take on the story actually works really well, and is one of the strongest film adaptations of the series.
There are some expanded moments in the book as we follow James Bond in an investigation of Elliot Carver, a news media mogul, whose control of the news is allowing him to push England and China closer to the brink of war.
As tensions mount, something Benson ably details in the tale, Bond receives his assignment, which asks him to work over a former flame, Paris, who is now Carver’s wife. So begins a sequence of events that sees Bond working with a Chinese agent, Wai Lin, in an attempt to stop Carver from unleashing all out war, all for ratings and power.
There are some throwaway lines throughout the book that detail how much of a media mogul Carver is, things that could easily have been missed in the film, and there is also a nice expansion on Carver’s character, as well as his aide Stamper, not to mention the assignment that led Wai Lin to join 007 in his fight.
The story also lets you see how somethings were changed before the hit the screen, some of the fight sequences, and especially the BMW chase through the Hamburg park house are different. And of course, there is a good dose of expanded dialogue as Benson works to make the film’s screenplay work within the confines of the literary world that has been created for 007.
Benson writes crisply, but seems to waver when he slips into his description of female characters, as he has to write them in the Fleming style, which is a bit sexist and objectifying, though happily Wai Lin is a strong female character, and an equal to Bond.
In fact, in this novel, she’s the one that makes the romantic liaison overtures, and earlier in the book than it is in the film.
And while the plot definitely works in print, some of the action beats just don’t translate to the written word, as Benson walks the line between trying to somewhat ground them, while still giving them the flair that they had in the film.
In the end, Benson’s adaptation is the strongest of the film novelizations to date, and I look forward to seeing what Benson does in the next novel, when James Bond returns in The Facts of Death.