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on 29 December 2008
This year saw the release of new adult Bond novel, Devil May Care, by the celebrated novelist Sebastian Faulks, and the press frequently said it was the first James Bond novel since Ian Fleming. Not true. There have be over a dozen "continuation novels", including six books by Raymond Benson (author of the The James Bond Bedside Companion).

All of Benson's Bond novels are terrific 007 adventures (all set in present day), and he really hit his stride with these three books, which are loosely connected and form a "trilogy" within his series (similar to Fleming's "Blofeld Trilogy"). High Time To Kill is, IMO, one of the very best James Bond novels ever written, taking Bond to Tibet for a high altitude mountaineering adventure. Doubleshot is a bold and experimental Bond novel which finds Bond mentally impaired (due to injuries in the last book) to the point of fearing he may be going insane. Never Dream of Dying is a fantastic book with Raymond's best female character and relationship.

With Benson's Bond novels now all out of print, it's great to have these novels collected. For those who read Devil May Care and are craving more post Fleming 007, this is the book for you.

But what's most exciting about this release for me is that it includes the full and uncut version of "Blast From The Past," Benson's first James Bond short story. This story was only ever published in Playboy, and this full version has never before been published in English.

Here's hoping Benson's remaining Bond novels (and short stories) will be collected as well.
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on 3 August 2009
The Union Trilogy is a terrific start for anybody interested in reading Bond. Just like the films, there's action, women, guns, baddies and intrigue!

In this stellar paperback collection, not only are we treated to a new forward by the author, the brilliant Raymond Benson, but also a marvellous, action-packed short story. But the main attraction are the three novels, placed sequentially, and chronicle 007's adventures against the freelance terrorist organisation "The Union", led by the enigmatic Le Gerant.

The first book "High Time to Kill" draws comparisons with the Sly Stallone flick Cliffhanger, and sees a secret formula made by the British military stolen by a traitor and wind up on the very top of Mount Kangchenjunga - the third highest mountain in the world. The Russian Mafia, the Chinese, the Belgian, and The Union are after it. And so is James Bond. "High Time to Kill" is a marvellous read, and is a thrill ride from the start and onwards.

The second novel, "Doubleshot", finds James Bond weary and wounded after the events in the previous book, and he wants revenge from The Union; and they want revenge from him too. Framed for the death of lady friend, and a searing head injury inducing frequent black outs, Bond goes rogue and follows the trail to Spain, where he meets the evil and deranged former matador Domingo Espada, who wants to see Gibraltar taken from Britain and returned to Spain. Under the vicious undercurrent of evil and the blistering Spanish sun, The Union are drawing 007 into a trap, and have also surgically crafted a double for Bond; who naturally wreaks havoc around Gibraltar, murdering innocent citizens and forcing M16 to believe that Bond is now working for the enemies.

The third novel in the trilogy, "Never Dream of Dying", begins with 007 and long-time ally Rene Mathis involved in a police raid on a film-making soundstage in Nice. It goes horribly wrong. Soon, Bond is enveloped in the world of show business, and is certain that the producer of a new potential blockbuster filmed on the waves of Corsica is somehow working for The Union. Bond winds up falling in love with the producer's estranged wife, and they begin a tempestuous relationship. It's worth pointing out that there's a page here which includes intimate details of their sexual relationship, which I found rather off-putting as there was nothing left to the imagination. Despite this one flaw, the book makes for a startling finale to the trilogy as Bond is reunited with his former father in law and finally meets the leader of The Union.

The Union Trilogy is a riveting read from start to finish, its 835 pages an incredible bargain, and a perfect reminder of how exciting and involving the James Bond novels really are.
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on 28 June 2014
I bought this to read during the summer, while my wife was reading the kindle. So far the summer has been good but the book is terrible.
If it were not for the sex, these stories would be more suitable for a "Boy's own paper."
Benson thinks that sex (too explicit) and action characterises Bond. Fleming's bond was a rounded and believable character; Benson's is, by comparison, a cardboard cut out.
Apart from Paris, I have not been to the locations described in the book and cannot say if Benson has done his research. He certainly has not researched the weaponry, I have detected several mistakes.
Bond does not live comfortably in the 21st century; he should have died with his creator .
If you want a good action yarn with a plot (in fact several interweaving plots) read Clive Cussler's "Ghost Ship"
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on 15 January 2013
I agree absolutely with the majority of reviewers here that these 3 novels are the best of Benson's 007 output. A more assured writer by his 3rd novel, the plots here are imaginative and the style more varied than simple Fleming pastiches, while Bond's character is both faithful to the originals and well developed. There hasn't been much said of Benson's 1st 007 fiction, Blast From The Past (1997), published in the UK for the 1st time.

For over a decade this short story was the holy grail for book Bond fans. Published only in Playboy and to allow Benson a warm up, it was made all the more tantalising by featuring not only Bond's son by Kissy Suzuki, but the return of a Fleming villain. Gardner always maintained he'd been barred from using James Suzuki, so maybe it was stipulated that Benson could only use them once and in this form? When the unedited story (the Playboy version was a 3rd shorter) finally appeared it could never have lived up to expectations. Hence the 5 star trilogy, but a 3 star short story.

Score: 6/10. At first sight it's a piece of adolescent fan fiction, but a welcome reaction to John Gardner's later Bond books. Gardner was a good writer, producing several great Bond novels in the 80s; but a more mixed bag in the 90s had proved overly dry and serious. Here, by contrast, Bond is the unreconstructed man from the original books. There's a focus on action in the form of chases and gunfights in line with the 90s films. The style is modelled on Fleming too: detached, clipped, detailed, loads of verbs and very readable.

On the other hand it's very much 'Fleming-light'- like hundreds of other thrillers. Don't count on much characterisation and there's no denying that the prose is pretty lacklustre. To be fair, this was also Benson's 1st ever published writing, but it's far from (as one critic put it) 'the smoky drawl of the Mayfair clubman' of the originals. But it's hard not to admire its sheer cheek. There's a wealth of continuity here, covering Fleming, Gardner and even John Pearson's `Authorised Biography'. The sex is very much in the letters to Penthouse/ Playboy league (I could've done without the final scene -too much information) but it's all pretty harmless and Benson's writing improved markedly over the years. As an audition piece it's singularly inauspicious, but it should be read in the spirit intended: after some very sombre 007 novels in the early 90s, things were going to be fun again.
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on 12 January 2010
The other reviews give a nice overview of the stories so I'll just comment on my views of the trilogy itself.

The pacing is excellent and you're never left hoping for the chapter to hurry up at any stage. Benson's writing style or vocabulary isn't ground breaking, but he has a way of making any topic exciting - when I read the first story would involve a pursuit up a mountain I half rolled my eyes, figuring I'd be bored out of my brains, but when I read the story it was actually one of the best parts of the trilogy as Bond encounters Russians and exciting fight scenes within his own camp upon his ascent.

What I liked also about this trilogy was how mad the main bad guy came across, there's none of this Quantum of Solace (the film adaptation) business where the bad guy is a pathetic weed that ruins how believable the fundamental plot is. The way The Union brand their members with an 'eye tattoo' was another enjoyable touch - far fetched but physically possible, just how I like my Bond villains and gadgets.

I read the entire book in a couple of days that's how much I was hooked into it, each story flows neatly into one another and the way things come to a head at the Cannes Film Festival is fantastic. Never Dream of Dying would make for a great film IMO.

Negatives? Well one thing I could say is that Benson is *far* raunchier than Fleming or John Gardner with his description of Bond's female acquaintances. Where Gardner/Fleming would politely point out that a female was attractive, Benson borders on trashy teen novel with his build ups (and narrations to its "completion"!) of Bond's sexual encounters. It can become a little cheesy but it happens infrequently enough to not really be of concern and doesn't detract anything from the trilogy - it's ultimately no worse than the stuff you've seen in the film adaptations.
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on 28 January 2010
Blast from the Past was a story I have been waiting to read for over ten years and it didn't disappoint, with a good strong tie-in to previous Fleming characters. Shame it was only a short story but it works and makes purchasing this volume worth the price.

The Union trilogy is Bond at his best in Benson style, every part is fast paced, up to date (well late 90's anyway) and more graphic than what Fleming treated us to. I can't wait for the follow up volume later this year "Choice of Weapons" with two more extra hidden Benson Bond gems.
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VINE VOICEon 17 June 2010
I originally read these novels when they first came out and loved them - the Mafi-like Union really is a sinister organisation. I fancied reading these again and this new collected edition offers great value for money. I can't wait for Choice of Weapons which collects the other three of Mr. Benson's original Bond novels - I have this on pre-order. Excellent
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on 19 March 2013
My grandson was delighted with this book, he is a great 007 fan.. well worth the money and an excellent buyer to do business with I received good customer service.
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on 24 September 2014
I've read the Fleming Bonds and enjoyed but something doesn't settle me with Benson's Bonds. I don't know whether it's just preference.
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on 23 December 2014
Good product, good value, although a bit slow in delivery. Delivered within specified time frame, however.
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