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on 5 July 2011
In an interview with 1990s Bond author Raymond Benson, Gardner stated that this was the one that gave him writers' block. In spite -or perhaps because- of this, Gardner powered through by reverting to a strong de facto depiction of our hero in a traditional 'Bond takes on megalomaniac while apparently on his staff' plot (eg Moonraker, OHMSS, Licence Renewed).

Score: 8/10. The villain (Jay Autem Holy) is from the world of early computing with which the writer was familiar (before anyone had heard of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates). This one's a rogue genius in war games, hiding from the Pentagon behind a private front in Oxfordshire. With a grudge against the West, he plans to bring the Cold War to a stalemate. Could hiring an ex-007 prove a mistake?

After the valiant misfire of Icebreaker, it's natural (and welcome) that Gardner throws so many Fleming nods into the mix. His contact at Saab had moved to Bentley, so the Mulsanne Turbo makes its debut. Having answered its critics the Silver Beast and its realistic gadgets are a miss, but Bond in a Bentley in Monte Carlo is an irresistable lure. Though you suspect it's not Gardner's first love, the casino stuff is classily handled; there's another twist in SPECTRE's story and for the first time the author really gets a handle on Bond's character- far less glib and pompous.

Gardner's own innovations are great: the mature plot gambit of putting Bond out in the cold and having him recruited by the enemy to commit cyber terrorism really works. The ASP is an inspired choice of firearm for Bond: he sticks with it for the rest of the Gardner books and you feel Fleming would've loved its detailed idiosyncracies. The girls are convincing too, ably in control of their own destiny.

There are problems. The computer training goes on a bit and became so quickly outdated you were probably playing the war games at home by 1997 ("Command & Conquer" anyone?). Notoriously Gardner was banned from such a showdown in the Bunker's Hill chapter (lest it impinge on the arcade version in the film Never Say Never Again [DVD] [1983]), resorting to a mundane counters and dice tabletop version.

However, it's the Fleming-like depiction of Bond as a dry, no-nonsense, sophisticated man of the world that lifts this up a notch. A strong entry in the series, the next book Nobody Lives For Ever (James Bond) maintained this high standard and was a direct sequel.
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VINE VOICEon 24 July 2014
Role of Honour sees Bond training as a computer programmer. No really it does. The story is basically farcical from the off. Bond has been left a substantial amount of money by a dead Australian uncle with the proviso that in true Brewster’s Millions style he spends a lot of it in the first X months. This spending does not go unnoticed by his superiors who suspect he has gone off the rails. This is used to MI6’s advantage as they want to use Bond as a dangle to infiltrate rival intelligence services who may want to hire the supposedly disgraced secret agent.

Bond meets the widow of a supposedly dead computer programmer guru called Jay Autem Holy who has faked his own death and now makes a mint writing training programs for terrorists and foreign secret services. SPECTRE are involved and a plot emerges to wipe out the nuclear arsenal of the US and Russia and therefore destabilise the world.

The computer technology, while maybe cutting edge when the book was written, now seems overly clunky and seemingly lengthy descriptions of how stuff works makes this a boring read at times. At other times Bond is as usual falling for any bit of fluff that happens to be around – it seems he will never learn his lesson when it comes to women.

The sighting of the General Zwingli who also faked his death in the plane crash with Holy, in a casino may have seemed like a good way of introducing the character, but is too much of a coincidence to stomach. The coincidence is never explained and in fact Zwingli seems superfluous in the story which already has its main maniac bad guy in the form of Holy and also the successor to Blofeld in the form of the new SPECTRE boss Tamil Rahani.

The relationship that starts at the top of the tale fizzles out in the last pages of the book – which will dispense with the usual need to explain away the non-appearance of the previous Bond girl in the next book.
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on 13 October 2012
After the slightly disappointing "Icebreaker" Gardner's Bond is back on track this time after (and not for the first time) SPECTRE as they try and disarm America's nuclear capability.
Some of Gardner's writing is, quite frankly, awful and you feel that he is treating the Bond books as pulp books but that does not mean they are not entertaining.
This book is a rattling good read as long as you don't take it too seriously.
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on 24 December 2012
John Gardner's fourth James Bond novel sees a slight change of direction for the author. It's a much more Fleming-esque novel with an epic-scale plot but a perfectly believable enemy, and a number of touches that follow the style of Bond's original creator.

That said, there are a number of aspects that don't work - Gardner borrows Fleming's technique of describing his characters playing a game - however Bond facing his enemy head to head over a game of (essentially) Warhammer doesn't quite have the gravitas that Fleming managed to put into a round of golf or a game of cards. Gardner's descriptions aren't as gripping either - whereas Fleming could write the most entertaining hand of cards ever played.

The book is tied very much to eighties technology, and suffers for a modern reader because of this, much more so than the original series, much of which maintains a timeless quality. Bond spends a considerable period learning about computers, and it seems implausible that he could become an expert so quickly, and though the tech seems particularly accurate it is hard to relate to now.

However the action is good, the storyline moves along at a good pace and explores areas that suit the character well. There is a lack of exotic locales, but this almost helps to ground things a little more in reality than in some of Gardner's earlier episodes. The character of Bond is explored a touch more deeply, though he still doesn't seem as detailed as under Fleming's penmanship - his feelings aren't focussed on, and his emotions come across a little strangely.

Overall though, probably the best of Gardner's first four, and I hope that this bodes well for the rest of his contribution to the series as I continue reading.
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on 12 January 2010
I'm currently reading all of the James Bond novels by John Gardner, and Role of Honour is certainly the best of the first four books (Licence Renewed, For Special Services and Icebreaker are the others). According to Gardner, he was ill when he wrote this and felt he had let himself down - I, on the other hand, happen to this it is a gripping read and I read it within 24 hours. The first hundred eighty or so pages are a bit slow, granted, with Bond being given a tutorial in computers. This being 1984, personal computers are called "micros". Without giving too much away, this novel sees Bond resigning from SIS, getting kidnapped and finding himself in many tight situations. The terrorist training camp in the middle of the book is a notable highlight. Mainly set in Oxfordshire, this is a terrific adventure novel and the late John Gardner wrote it - as ever - brilliantly.
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on 18 November 2013
terrible boring poorly written drab twaddle. do not waste your money or time on rubbish like this. ghastly offensive nonsense
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on 31 March 2015
Almost "Licence Renewed" rewritten ! An entertaining thriller, fast paced with some interesting sequences, but not as good as his first three novels.
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on 7 March 2013
Great read. Sent to kindle with no problem. east transaction, and with a registered account, a simple payment. many thanks.
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on 4 February 2016
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. John Gardner really captures the style of Ian Fleming. A must for any 007 fan
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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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