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Scorpius (James Bond) Paperback – 2 Aug 2012
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Official, original James Bond from a writer described by Len Deighton as a 'master storyteller'.
About the Author
After Colonel Sun (1968) by Kingsley Amis, John Gardner was the next writer to be asked to write further adventures of James Bond. He wrote, like Fleming, fourteen Bond books, plus novelisations of the films GoldenEye and Licence to Kill, from 1981 to 1996.
Before becoming an author of fiction in the early 1960s John Gardner was variously a stage magician, a Royal Marine officer, a journalist and, for a short time, a priest in the Church of England. 'Probably the biggest mistake I ever made,' he says. 'I confused the desire to please my father with a vocation which I soon found I did not have.'
In all, Gardner had fifty-five novels to his credit - many of them bestsellers. John Gardner died in 2007.
For more information about John Gardner and his non-Bond works, visit his website.
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The book is more of a secret-agent procedural novel, with a little bit of character towards the end that doesn't get followed up properly in this novel - but perhaps Gardner is taking a leaf from Fleming's book and leaving the repercussions to the next book in the series.
The plot itself feels filled with coincidence - Bond just tumbles into events by accident rather than actually going on a mission, and seems a fairly useless agent for a lot of the time. Overall, the whole novel feels like it could have been about any secret agent - it's missing the ingredient that means it could only be about James Bond.
I remember having this book as a teenager - I don't know whether I didn't read it or just completely forgot the plot, but I suspect that if you ask me again in another ten years I will have forgotten again.
The first problem was that the back-cover copy of my edition gives away one of the major events from the novel that really shouldn't be spoilt. I would have much preferred to have read it without this knowledge in advance.
Bond falling for a girl has become a cliché, despite the narrative's insistence that it's a rarity, but in many ways Gardner's Bond has lost much that Fleming provided the character. The narrative is punctuated by frequent asides and even a footnote which I felt broke the flow of the story and didn't fit with the character the reader is aligned with at all.
Finally there's a really weak climax that I won't spoil. Overall, a book with potential that was let down. I'd love to have read it written differently.
The story sees Bond becomes connected to the death of a woman in London. M asks him to help in the investigation. Returning from Hereford, a Sergeant Pearlman tags along by driving Bond back. An attack follows then a high-speed chase on an English motorway. Upon returning to headquarters, M briefs Bond on the investigation. She is a member of a cult society known as "The Meek Ones", operated by a Father Valentine. With extra information from the CIA, the British Secret Service learn that Valentine is an alias for Vladimir Scorpius. Scorpius is an arms dealer for several terrorist organisations.
As the country's general election approaches, by the use of brainwashed cult members, Scorpius has begun a "holy war". The cult members, thinking themselves to be pure, moral, and unsullied, sacrifice their lives for "the greater good of humanity". They believe that by performing this "death task" that they will achieve paradise. Throughout the novel, The Meek Ones commit several acts of terrorism. This includes several terrorist bombings and assassinations of British politicians.
Bond meets Harriett Horner, an IRS agent working undercover in England. She's investigating a credit card company run by Scorpius. The two work together along with Pearlman to attempt to track down Scorpius. After an interrogation of a captured cult member, Horner is taken captive by Scorpius' men. Pearlman confesses to Bond that he was giving Scorpius information for the benefit of his brainwashed daughter. Together the two set out for Scorpius' base of operations in South Carolina. The plan is making Scorpius believe Pearlman was taking Bond captive.
At Scorpius' island, Bond meets up with Horner once again. The two marry at the behest of Scorpius. Knowing that the marriage is invalid, Bond agrees to go ahead with it thinking it would buy him time until he can escape. On the night the two decide to escape, a water moccasin kills Harriett. At the same time the FBI is conducting a raid of Scorpius' island, which further angers Bond since her death was in vain. Bond returns to the island, finding Scorpius attempting to flee. After giving chase, Bond gets the upper hand. He forces Scorpius to die in a similar manner to that of Horner's death.
So, in summary an enjoyable, but forgettable read. Scorpius had the potential to be as iconic as Auric Goldfinger. Although the story never quite panned out like that. There was a nice nod to Sean Connery in the middle of the tale.
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