Before 1995 the Bond novels (Fleming, Amis or Gardner) had represented the official exploits of 007 in the eyes of fans, while the films were either faithful adaptations or amusing diversions. After a record 6 year hiatus, the popularity of Goldeneye reversed this position for many. Unsurprisingly, the holders of the Bond literary copyright decided to harmonise the book series with the films for the rest of the Brosnan era.
Score: 7/10. During the cold war (1986), 007 and 006 are sent to destroy a USSR chemical plant under the nose of ruthless KGB Colonel Ourumov- an operation that goes badly wrong. In the present day (1995), a new female M questions Bond's place in modern espionage: when a Russian weapons satellite is hijacked by a traitorous General Ourumov, 007 has the chance to prove his worth. The plot is a clever set of juxtapositions: a cool calculating M vs Bond's blunt instrument (so to speak); cold war vs cyber terrorism; a clever professional heroine vs an insane femme fatale; freezing St Petersburg and the tropical Cuban jungle; and our hero vs an enemy almost his equal.
In terms of Gardner's 007 books, it can be read as the last (ie after COLD
(1996), which is set in 1994): the old M retired, the new (Judi Dench) one in office, SIS moved from Regent's Park to its actual HQ on the Thames at Vauxhall Cross, while Micro Globe One isn't mentioned. Puerto Rico had coincidentally featured in Gardner's Seafire
the year before, provoking a small continuity error and an oblique reference to Bond's relationship with Flicka. Unlike the frustration of working from ever changing scripts when novelising Licence to Kill (James Bond)
(1989), Gardner was persuaded to work from only one early draft, retaining scenes like Bond's journey to the dam (as in the legendary N64 video game!).
The film's nods to the past are welcome after some very un-Fleming novels: the decommissioned Aston Martin from Goldfinger, now owned by 007; Monte Carlo (Bond's first time in a casino in the books since Role of Honour (James Bond)
, 1984); even the return of the Double-0 Section (maybe 006 here is the former Royal Marine commando mentioned in the novel of OHMSS!) The prose is mixed, jumping into life when describing machinery, action or place but otherwise diffident: Gardner's never a man to call a "silencer" a "silencer" when a "long cylindrical metal noise reduction unit" will do. As with all novelizations, the 1st draft source script means your favourite line's absent.
Though he doesn't go to the lengths of Benson's or Wood's novelizations, there are some nice character notes and useful extra scenes with Russia particularly well described (after research for The Man from Barbarossa (James Bond)
, 1991). He even improves on the script at times, providing lessons on piloting and tank driving; while the spa scene with Xenia proves surprisingly more raunchy than on celluloid! Although unable to match up to the solid gold film or Gardner's own best novels, it's enjoyable popcorn stuff that livens up the writer's final, rather sombre, 007 novels.