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on 24 February 2013
Zero Minus Ten (1997) was the 1st 007 novel I read in the year of publication, so I'm fond of Benson's work. Though full of adolescent excitement (good enough for Fleming!) I'd worried they wouldn't have worn as well as Amis' or Gardner's contribution. In fact, they remain quite fresh.

Score: 7/10. The fragile peace between Greeks and Turks in Cyprus is threatened, as a Pythagoras inspired terrorist organisation (Decada) begins a wave of chemical and biological attacks. With UK peacekeepers caught in the middle James Bond is astonished to discover a link to M's love life. Benson freely admitted his 2nd novel was a Bond film in print and it shows, bursting with gadgets and endless Brosnan quips.

From the contrived 'pre-credits' chapter (007 leaping in and out of helicopters for little reason) to the big set pieces, it's fun: the baccarat game, helicopter stunts, cable car acrobatics & car chases (the XK8 no more outrageous than the DB III was in its day). It's reminiscent of the action oriented Thunderball (Decada obviously modelled on SPECTRE & a dry run for Benson's Union Trilogy) or Gardner's For Special Services. Once more the innovations prove stronger than the (nevertheless welcome) nods to the past. 007's relationship with the new (ie Judi Dench) M neatly anticipates the Daniel Craig films, while Bond, Helena Marksbury (his new secretary), Sir Miles and M's lover are particularly well drawn in the UK chapters.

Once into the USA, though, it's the wandering storytelling that lets it down. Overlong and ambitiously plotted, it tries too hard to cast 007 in the role of investigator at too many taped off crime scenes. Fans will enjoy revisiting From Russia With Love and Amis' Colonel Sun (looming large thanks to the shared Greek setting) and meeting Leiter again (for once depicted by an actual Texan). However the protracted USA sequence (police raids, explosions, comedy scene in sperm bank) is more like a daytime TV procedural- maybe a raunchy episode of Diagnosis Murder!

Jumping from scene to scene, it's uninvolving at times but a rapid read. Strangely action isn't one of Benson's strengths: plenty of it but it tends to sound anecdotal. More like a cartoon (the 1990s James Bond Jr. springs to mind) than a movie, it's probably the least likely 007 book ever. From the mathematical terrorists to the missile puzzle, why the Decada think their plans have a hope is a mystery. But then they're all as mad as a box of frogs.

Without the journalistic background of other Bond authors, it's a bit dense at times: one too many geography/ history lessons re: Cyprus and it's a better man than me who can follow all the maths. Though the girl's not very memorable she's sexy company, while 007's switched drinks again to The Macallan. Whereas Zero Minus Ten read as major league fan-fiction with a fun identikit plot made up of Fleming scenes in (broadly) one location, this has new ideas, multiple settings and a surprisingly dark tone. Purists will find much to enjoy and it's entertaining stuff.
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on 20 January 2000
I enjoyed every single one of Ian Flemings, and then John Gardners versions of Bond. But Raymond Benson's version is not the literary one. If you like comic book heros, that is what he has tried to make Bond in this book, he even has the utility belt and a car that Batman would be proud to own.
Bond has always had a fantasy element, but the books have also been based on hard fact and been more about good writing than cheap stunts on every page.
This book may do very well in America because the writer is american, but that has meant JB has lost the essential britishness that was a large part of his character. SOme of the things he thinks or says just ruin parts of the book for anyone who has read the the previous ones, imho.
High Time to Kill by the same author is a better book, so I would recommend trying that if you have read all the earlier books, but if you like a (fairly)believable spy thriller, which is what the Bond BOOKS have always been, try John Gardners, which I personally think are far superior to this americanised comic book attempt.
That said, I did finish it which I haven't done for some books. But I have re-read the original and John Garner's novels at least 3 or 4 times. I very much doubt I will struggle through this again.
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on 24 August 2015
Not great but OK: Compared with the original Ian Fleming books the characters were impossible to believe in, the coincidences highly unlikely and too much emphasis on the minutiae of the bedroom gymnastics.
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on 19 February 2015
After slogging through a few of John Gardner’s Bond books and feeling a bit let down by the efforts of Faulks and Waugh, I didn’t have high expectations when I picked up Raymond Benson’s THE FACTS OF DEATH. One reader described the writing in this book as horrendous. Thankfully, that’s not the case (quite the reverse, in fact). The positive Kirkus review of the book is much closer to the truth. The writing really is exceptional (throughout the novel you can clearly see the extensive research that went into the book), and I thought the plot was in keeping with how Bond storylines should play out. In point of fact, Benson admitted he deliberately set out to make it feel like a Bond movie. The novel is also never boring and Benson keeps up a solid, measured pace, with just the right amount of humor and action. There are even some fun scenes featuring ex-CIA agent Felix Leiter (now zipping along in a motorized wheelchair).

This was my first Benson novel and it won’t be my last. He knows how to write well – check out his article for The Writer (“The 007 way to write a thriller”). Just like this novel, that article is well worth reading too.
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on 6 May 1999
All right, I did enjoy Benson's first, ZERO MINUS TEN and I hoped the second one would be even better. How wrong I was! If Glidrose is up to hiring any James Bond freak to write the novels I might as well give it a try myself. Benson cannot distinguish between writing a Bond novel and a Bond movie and consistently does the latter: Jaguar with ludicrous gadgets, Mayor Boothroyd demoted to Desmond Llewelyn parody (incidentally, has anybody out there noticed the wrong assumption that, in the novels, Boothroyd is head of Q Branch? Check the originals) , Bond hopping across the globe and bedding the babes ten minutes after they've met. There's nothing left of the Fleming formula but the parody in which the movies degenerated. Worst, Benson's writing is so poor and "American" that you get the feeling you're being cheated. If you need any further proof of what a fatal mistake hiring Benson has been, check his short story "Midsummer Night's Doom" in Playboy. Probably the worst piece of crap ever to have been associated with 007. Even Christopher Wood did better than this. It took me longer to finish this one than any other book ever!
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on 23 August 1999
In Raymond Benson, Gildrose have chosen the wrong person to succeed Ian Fleming, Kingsley Amis and John Gardner. Where those three have a writing style that is taut and gripping, Benson is lacklustre and flabby.
Unlike just about every previous Bond novel, you don't particularly want to turn the page. For me at least, it took a lot of patience to finish this woeful piece of Bond fakery.
Benson's Bond is full of American phrases which sit uneasily with Bond's half-Scottish, half-Swiss parentage. Reading this novel, you'd think that Benson has never set foot in the UK, so poor is the attention to detail.
Attention to detail made the other Fleming, Amis and Gardner novels more than just action thrillers. How sad that Gildrose could not find a decent author to continue the Bond canon. If you are seeking post-Fleming Bond novels, my advice is to check out the Bond novels by John Gardner. Better still, get a copy of 'Colonel Sun' by Kingsley Amis (writing as Robert Markham).
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on 13 September 2010
This is very much the classic James Bond in the modern setting. All the well loved themes are present but in a very convincing way. The fact that it is not clichéd at all after such a long run for the character is a major achievement. The pace is very good, the background is up to date and James Bond is completely on form in every way. This book doesn't disappoint.
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on 7 May 2014
This book needs a good review and edit. It's poorly written, and not a scratch on Ian Flemming. Shame, because the plot had potential.
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on 28 October 2000
A pre-Union James Bond goes out and tries to stop a criminal organisation called the Decada from starting a war between Greece and Turkey. Fairly good plot but there are plenty of times where you say to yourself, "James Bond wouldn't have said that." In Britain we actually call a 'parking lot' a car park. James Bond is supposed to be British but this book is far too American. I probably found it better that I would if I hadn't been to Greece, because I could familiarise with several of the Greek people (e.g. Maria the taverna-owner). If you want to read a good Raymond Benson novel, choose 'High Time to Kill' instead.
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on 11 August 2000
I read this book while on holiday last week in the Aegean sea, where the book is set making it even more brilliant. Not expecting much from this book, I bought it with some reluctance, but it was by far a lot better than any other Raymond Benson books. It is the story of a Greek Cypriot terrorist group named The Decada, who are Pythagoras fanatics and are set on starting a war between Greece and Turkey. They carry out murders to begin with... This incident brings the new female M closer to her agent 007 as she assigns him to get to the bottom of these murders... before The Decada carry out their tenth and most deadly crime. Felix Leiter makes a literary appearance too. The only critisism I would make is that Raymond Benson over-did the gadgets on the Jaguar XK8 a little, other than that it was amazing.
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