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on 8 September 2002
I have read every one of the Bond novels from Fleming to Benson from cover to cover. As much as I want to like Benson's, it's just an impossible task. While he has brought back the superficial connections to the Fleming character, each of his novels just reads like a mini-script, waiting for a movie to be filmed. They are the novels of Pierce Brosnan's movie-Bond, not Fleming's. I appreciate his wanting to re-inject the Fleming character's history to his novels, but it's just not enough. When will someone bring the character back to it's chronological roots in the 1950's? Really--back to where it belongs, with plots that are subtle and interesting and tie together well. With a book by book building of substance--well, as much as a fantasy spy figure can provide.
Firstly, the plots. I agree with an earlier review about Ray's inability to blend fact with the story line. It does read like a "wait, let me unfold the tourist brochure and tell you this...", then a refolding of the brochure to commence with the tale. The plot in general, as with the previous novels, are written as if they're movie scenes lashed together. Each one has a slap-stick chase scene which I find abhorent to the Bond character. In another novel, Bond's inexplicably shooting a villain in the face in an elevator and then running from the police through TV sets is painful. This one has a chase through a Kubuki playhouse simply to add some description of Kubuki. Bond finally finds a key character (the prosititute) in the latter third of the story, in Sapporo, and takes her with him on a dangerous investigation of the villain's HQ. Why didn't Tanaka pick her up and allow Bond to operate on his own? If she was so important to the case, she should have been in Tanaka's custody within an hour. When Bond's female partner and love interest doesn't make it past the latter third of the story, Bond forgets his anguish later on and beds the prostitute (as the earlier reviewer mentioned, he had already seen her as a chld-figure--so how did this change take place?) The dwarf is captured so easily after previous vicious battles, it seemed as if Benson just wanted to get rid of him quickly. Most obviously, is that with all this knowledge uncovered about mosquito-carrying virus being targeted for the G8 conference...do you really think the security services of those countries would have permitted the President, the Prime Minister, and other leaders to even step foot in Japan? The plot's major weakness was in having the conference continue to take place in a location identified as having an obvious breech in security. He should have figured out how to be more realistic, yet still involving the story line.
The characterization of Bond is again dissapointing. Bond is consistantly portrayed as a bit of a shallow, comic character--he seems to have learned nothing from his past exploits, he's easily deceived, his physical prowess is usually less than it should be. Benson had a terrific idea with this novel--bring him back to a significant time in his past and retrace some steps. This would have been great had he also extended the revisit from "You Only Live Twice" to "Moonraker" as well. What I mean by that is I found Fleming's Bond in Moonraker to be an extremely lonely, melancholic figure. The solitary "knight" who has no friends and sacrifices all for the good of his country. The last scene in Fleming's Moonraker was perhaps the most powerful in all the Bond novels. Benson had a wonderful opportunity to end this novel in the same way. He lost his love interest to violence, it dredged up all the old ghosts (I must point out here, though, that Bond reacts to the death of his love interest by selfishly lamenting about how it could be happening to HIM again, when the woman was the one who died--no thought to the poor victim, just to himself, not a very noble reaction for Benson's Bond). Ray had the great opportunity to end the story not with another cinematic bedding of a prostitute (that he had earlier seen as a child figure), but as the figure of solitude stepping out on the teeming streets of Tokyo, sad, alone, walking back into the faceless crowds of people, continuing his lonely, faceless existance. While not the bang-up action ending that accompanies the Brosnan movies, it would have been a true nod toward the Fleming Bond.
You see, bringing back characters and names is not the way to honor Fleming's Bond. That is much too superficial. Bringing back the characterization of the true James Bond would have been the ultimate salute. It's time for someone to put Bond back where he belongs in a novelization (I've given up hope for it in the movies)--in his correct time period, with the REAL Bond character, not Pierce Brosnan. As a hint, I'd advise Ray to view the old "Danger Man" episodes with Patrick McGoohan. That was the closest to the Fleming atmosphere and characterization. Just place Sean Connery or McGoohan's face where Ray has Brosnan's. I continue to lament for Fleming's lost James Bond. I hope some day he will return.
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on 21 September 2003
I read Benson's latest Bond novel in a few days and was very happy with it. This is the first of the Benson novels I've looked at, and I think I will read more.
There is one frustrating element of the novel for those who have read Fleming's originals, and that is the timeframe. Benson has copied the movies habit of re-casting Bond in the modern era, whereas Fleming gave dates and contemporary events that put his stories firmly in the fifties and sixties. There's nothing wrong with Benson updating the character, but when he frequently refers to incidents from the Fleming novels- battles with Ernest Blofeld, for instance- he's referring to events from another, much earlier, 1960's timeline, which I find distracting. Perhaps Benson should have been allowed to set the literary character in the same era as Flemings.
That being so, this is a good read. All the familiar elements are there. Bond is cool, and the villains diabolical. There is a lot of action compared with Fleming, which is why I characterise it as being a 'Playstation' Bond. Which is probably what todays readers want.
Benson has also copied some of the techno-thriller habits of Tom Clancy and Dale Brown. The villains plot gets a thorough explanation, as does his political motivation. Benson handles this sort of thing well- which leads me to think he could, funnily enough, write an even better thriller if he wasn't writing a Bond story!
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I do struggle with Benson's version of Bond and after the previous book I was starting to lose hope. This is an improvement but still contains the flaws in Bensons writing, too much information added in for no reason and some very unsatisfying leaps into comic book action.
Bond goes back to Japan to follow up on a virus attack and to prepare for a G8 Summit. Can there possibly be a connection, well I hate to give away a very obvious plot connection, but yes of course they are. So Bond fights and shags his way accross Japan until he saves the day again.
I have the concern that we are seeing the end of the Bond novels, they are expensive, issued with no publicity and to be honest, lacking in their content. I'd love to know what the sales figures are like because I do sometimes wonder why I am buying these books and not re-reading the classic Flemming stories.
In summary, worth a read, but only just.
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on 27 April 2002
In an era of contrived attempts to "personalize" Bond's missions or "peal back the layers" of Bond's psyche, it's refreshing to have a straightforward Bond-on-a-dangerous-assignment-in-an-exotic-locale adventure, and that's what Raymond Benson delivers in THE MAN WITH THE RED TATTOO, his best stand alone Bond thriller to date. This time, Mr. Bond, it ISN'T personal. Halleluiah! Even the return of the Walther PPK seems to be Benson's way of saying, "Let's just use what has always worked and enough with the self-conscious 'updating' of the character." In this way I think RED TATTOO is well ahead of the curve.
But this doesn't mean RED TATTOO is lacking in character depth. Just the opposite is true. Japan holds dark memories for Bond, and that aspect is not ignored. Whereas John Gardner might have given a passing reference to Bond's legendary ordeal in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, Benson uses the "ghosts" of Bond's past as a full-fledged complication. Fans will not be disappointed in how Benson weaves elements of the Fleming masterpiece into this current book. He makes Japan a character in this novel-in many ways, the main character-both ally and nemesis to 007. And, past associations aside, it's refreshing to have a Bond story set in one locale instead of globetrotting from one scenic set piece to the next. This gives Benson a chance to really flesh out the culture in detail. It's Benson's attention to these details and his ability to weave them into the plot in highly entertaining ways that make his books the best of all the post-Fleming adventures. It's where RED TATTOO excels.
Fans of action will not be disappointed as gunfights and fistfights abound in RED TATTOO. It's probably Benson's most violent book to date-the body count is quite high-but this seems to be in keeping with the Asian action movie milieu the book frequently evokes. Surprisingly, Benson has retreated to an almost Gardneresque modesty in his sex scenes, possibly due to the unfair drubbing he's taken for trying to return a measure of kinky sexuality to the books. The methodology of the villain's master plan is ingenious and is the best conceived caper we've had, book or film, in quite some time. And speaking of films, have I mentioned that RED TATTOO would make an amazing Bond movie? Well, it would.
For the seasoned Bond fan, THE MAN WITH THE RED TATTOO is the perfect book at the perfect time. For those who have yet to read a Bond book and are looking for a classic cocktail of Bondian action, suspense, and exotic locales, you would be well advised to start right here.
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on 24 April 2002
Raymond Benson's latest Bond book takes Bond back to Japan. I felt that sometimes the scenery got in the way of the story, but the same thing was mentioned of Ian Flemings "You Only Live Twice", also set in Japan. The villians plot is chilling and very deadly, and Benson should get full marks for this imagitive device. I enjoyed most of the plot twists and turns of the book. The one I did not is Benson bringing back someone from an earlier story and then having something happened to them. This has happened twice in a row. The first time it worked beautifully. This time I asked myself "was it necessary?".
Although earlier I stated that sometimes I felt that the scenery was getting in the way, I have to commend Raymond for his writing of these scenes. It made me want to visit these sites. The beer garden at Sapporo and the visit to the great buddha comes immediately to mind.
"The Man with the Red Tattoo" is a good read. Raymond keeps the "Fleming Sweep" alive and Bond strongly in character. The villian (introduced in "Never Dream of Dying") is a good foe for Bond.
I recommend the book and look forward to the next one!
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on 26 April 2016
I have enjoyed previous Benson Bond novels up to a point but this one is tedious beyond belief. The early chapters are full of details about Japanese criminal organisations using Japanese words. Incomprehensible and irrelevant as the story turns out. There have been several authors (eg Anthony Horowitz, Sebastian Faulks and particularly William Boyd) who have caught the style of Ian Fleming. Style is the word. Fleming had it , Benson a poor hack writing to a formula doesn't have it. Don't waste yore time and money on this book
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on 28 February 2013
The answer is yes. No one will ever replace Ian Fleming but Raymond Benson was a worthy successor. He captures the grittiness of Fleming's 007 but moves the character forward to the nineties in a manner which mirrors Fleming's ability to create a cracking good yarn which ensures that no page is left unturned until you've finished the book.
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on 15 March 2013
I would highly recommend this 007 novel to all Fleming fans. A worthy successor along with John Gardner. I just wish he would write more novels about Bond San.
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on 11 December 2013
If this had been the authors first outing with 007, I doubt that I would had read any more of his 007 novels

Not what you expect
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on 2 September 2014
Benson is a journeyman author. His take on Bond is serviceable but never really comes to life. He's no Fleming.
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