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COLD
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2013
For those joining in my 2012 reread of Gardner's 14 Bond novels and 2 novelizations -thank you!- we reach the end. The writer's final book COLD (1996) seems to divide his own fans like no other. With a tale of two halves (sorry) that reintroduced characters from earlier books -Nobody Live Forever (1986) and Win, Lose or Die (1989)- Gardner said goodbye Mr Bond.

Score: 7/10. In March 1989 a British plane full of VIPs blows up in Washington DC, killing a friend and lover of James Bond. Suspects include an Italian crime family and a new American facist militia, the Children Of The Last Days, whose next target couldn't be closer to 007. 5 years later Bond is reeling from the aftermath of operation Seafire, flying home from Puerto Rico with fiancé and fellow agent Flicka. On leave and debating his future, another former lover lures him into an unofficial operation to destroy C.O.L.D.- can he choose only one woman to love?

It's really 2 novellas. Gardner brings back his favourite Bond girls, resolves the 'Flicka' trilogy of stories and sets up the Benson era. Chronologically, it's a bit awkward: the 1st part is set between Win, Lose or Die (January 89) and Brokenclaw (Winter 89/90) [the US edition erroneously claims it's March 1990]. The 2nd part picks up immediately after Seafire (late 1994) and before Goldeneye (1995) published the previous year! Despite the odd structure, it's a surprisingly rapid page turner, one of Gardner's twisty-turny globetrotting intrigues with an emphasis on action (jet skis, helicopter fights). There's no one dominant villain for most of the book, but there are plenty of thugs, mad soldiers, dodgy secret agents, urbane gangsters and incredibly willing women to keep you guessing. Having decided this would be his last Bond there are a wealth of continuity references.

The action packed and mystery laden 1st half is by far the stronger; the 2nd gets more introspective, building up to some pretty illogical final chapters (a bit like Scorpius). The shape of the narrative and Gardner's favoured whodunnit plot mean that the fights and seductions are very fleeting. However, while the sombre tone might be a touch downbeat for some tastes, forcing Bond to confront some unpalatable truths about his cold private life echoes the complexity of Fleming's man. It's up there with Death Is Forever for best of the 90s; not Fleming's style but nearer his character's dry but compassionate nature, coupled with sprightlier than normal storytelling and something nearer the tone of old. Though missing the usual things (contest, stand out villain, exotic locations) Gardner offers a good, if not great, novel for his swan song.

GARDNER OVERVIEW: (Brief I promise!) The 80s novels are the stronger, showcasing a talent for technical description, action sequences and macabre villainy. Newcomers can do no better than read the first 5 James Bond Boxed Set 5. They're the closest to Fleming's pattern of plotting (007 vs. super villains, cards & cars, quirky schemes) and his portrayal of Bond (a smoking, drinking, early 40s, action focused agent).

However it's Icebreaker (1983) -the exception to the rule- that sets the pattern for the later books with a strong mystery element replacing any stand out villain. When this involves technical know-how and rapid action, the novels are successful: No Deals, Mr. Bond (1987), Win, Lose or Die (1989), Death is Forever (1992). When the pace or plot run out, less so: Scorpius (1988), The Man from Barbarossa (1991). By the 90s Bond is your take him or leave him, cerebral spy, perhaps in his mid-50s, cigarette free and almost teetotal. Undeniably weaker entries (written at a difficult time in the author's life) like Brokenclaw (1990), Never Send Flowers (1993) and Seafire (1994) detracted from the series and lost it fans, no doubt influencing subsequent 007 writer Raymond Benson in fusing a more faithful depiction of Fleming's Bond with a more filmic (Brosnan era) tone, rich in gadgetry and stunts. However, for his contribution Gardner, deserves to be rightly recognised for several great bestsellers and a job well done. Rest in peace.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 7 December 1999
Although I'm a massive Bond fan and this book was published in 1996, I've put off reading it until now. That's because after ICEBREAKER each of John Gardner's successive Bond novels have been a disappointment. I've never really understood why Gardner continued to write the Bond books when he quite clearly lost all interest in the character and the series more than ten years ago.
The James Bond who features in COLD is certainly not the character created by Ian Fleming, he's not even the character of the films. He's now just a kind of bland action man, more of a Bruce Willis Die Hard type than a British spy. The brutality and sexuality than make Flemings Bond so appealing are completely devoid in this novel. It's not just Bond who suffers either; all of the characters in COLD are bland and thinly drawn and the dialogue of Bond girl Beatrice da Ricci (please) is just embarrassing.
Despite it's flaws COLD is probably the most satisfying of Gardner's books since
ICEBREAKER. The first half of the book is intriguing, it's just a pity that John Gardner (and his readers) have difficulty sustaining interest until the lacklustre climax.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 September 1999
Like Roger Moore, John Gardner continued his association with James Bond for too long. Cold is a desperately feeble book, built around silly set pieces linked with a paper thin plot. The trouble is we have read it all before, and much better than it is here. Gardner's early novels were enjoyable, clever and entertaining, Cold is none of these. Steer well clear of this!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 1999
John Gardner's final James Bond novel, known as Cold Fall in the USA, is a fitting way for him to lay his literary Bond to rest. Everything is as it should be, in total contrast to the dire offerings recently served up by Raymond Benson.
Often under-rated by many Bond fans, Gardner's books have always struck me as being the basis for some superb Bond films. How sad then that his original stories were never used for the films, with Gardner having to be content with the odd novelisation.
Buy this book and you will not be disappointed. It stands head and shoulders above any of Raymond Benson's Bond novels.
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on 1 January 2014
Again john Gardner spins a tale of our favourite British secret agent, placing him in situations he is well used to escaping from. The plot is threaded with twists and turns, but never the less, it captivates and thrills.
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on 4 October 2014
Yet another good read
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on 4 February 2015
Exelent
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 31 March 2013
We have heard the sentence before. Bond is back. Well, he is. John Gardner actually beat Ian Fleming in the end. He wrote more Bond stories than Fleming. Naturally he can never take credit for having invented the character, but nevertheless he wrote a series of great stories.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 January 2013
I did not own a complete set of the John Gardner Bond books. All the titles are not available in the US, so a matched set from the UK was just what I needed.
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