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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 5 December 2015
This long, slow, bloodless, charmless grind is bad Bond written to a Tom Clancy word-count in a pre-millennial time when there was still bookshop shelf-space and holiday suitcases to weigh down. It explains why the Fleming estate has since switched to event publishing with celebrity stunt writers-for-hire.

It's Bond written by an acknowledged "professional fan" and it's all the worst things you've ever heard about fan-fiction. It drags on through page after page of info-dump exposition, anaemic sex, queasy sadism and a couple of the dullest sections of any notional thriller in the history of publishing. Cynical page-count pumping is the only explanation for the turn by turn description of a night playing Mah Jong.

There is none of the character of the original books, and none of the pace, noise and spectacle of the Brosnan phase of the movie franchise it seems to be trying to imitate (unless you count "World is Not Enough" #shudder).

Thanks, Ian Fleming Estate, for dropping the price in the kindle Black Friday sales so I could impulse-buy this cheaply. Thanks amazon for suddenly dropping the number of books in the series on sale so I didn't buy many more.
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VINE VOICEon 8 December 2012
I've always been a James Bond nut and Fleming's original novels are the books I've read multiple times.I do read some books over and over but Fleming certainly more than most. I liked John Gardner's run of James Bond novels but when Raymond Benson took over I had stopped reading Bond, so I was keen to discover these books years later. Benson's Bond is as good as Gardner's Bond, though perhaps not quite as richly drawn.The story though, set around the British hand over of Hong Kong is pure Bond and I really enjoyed the book.
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on 2 June 2001
ZERO MINUS TEN is Benson's first Bond novel and it's quite good. I particularly enjoyed the lengthy description of the Mahjong game, Bond's ordeal in the Australian outback, and that fact that his villain is kind of a drunk. Having read and re-read all the Fleming and Gardner Bond books, and I can tell you Benson really knows his Bond! But if you're looking to just sample a Benson/Bond, I recommend you leap right to his latest book, NEVER DREAM OF DYING, which is his best so far. Then, if you get hooked, read the first two books of his "Union Trilogy," HIGH TIME TO KILL and DOUBLESHOT which are both excellent (NDOD is the concluding chapter of that trilogy, but it's not critical to read the books in order -- unless you want to). Then come back and read ZERO MINUS TEN and THE FACTS OF DEATH which are equally good. Benson has also written novelizations of two Bond films, TOMORROW NEVER DIES and THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, but I think his original work is far superior. Enjoy!
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on 2 April 2000
In a style of 007 story telling that finally allows Ian Fleming to rest in peace, Raymond Benson brings James Bond back to basics. The womanizing, smoking, drinking, and gambling secret agent that was born in the 50's and was altered terribly by Benson's predecessor, John Gardner. Bond's gun is back, the Double-0 section, and Q. Zero Minus Ten brings back the old Bond with a rebirth of modern times. Though some disagree with Benson adding a touch of the cinematic Bond, I believe mixing is a nice touch as long as the literary Bond is the larger amount. One of the most interesting aspect of this novel was the fact that the situation of Hong Kong's return to China in July of 1997 was an actual occurrence, with an interesting twist of fiction thrown in. The girl in this outing is one of the most interesting in Bond history and 007 seems like a real person unlike his cinematic counterpart and Gardner's characterization of him. Definitely an excellent read for anyone Bond fan or not. After a mediocre 14 novels by John Gardner, Raymond Benson gives us a well written and researched 007 yarn that's a page turner because he, unlike Gardner, is himself a Bond fan and knows what's good. His following novels are no exception.
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on 6 February 2013
John Gardner retired from the post of official 007 author (1981-1996) after 14 novels and 2 novelizations. Many were great (eg James Bond Boxed Set 5) but illness and a tiredness with the character led to some weaker books and a changed Bond. The holders of the 007 literary copyright hired American long term 'professional Bond fan' Raymond Benson (composer, stage director and author of The James Bond Bedside Companion). Benson/ Glidrose wanted 007 to be much closer to Fleming's vision (politically incorrect vices and all) but in more overtly filmic plots, especially in the style of the Brosnan movies. A practice run short story 'Blast From The Past' (Jan 1997) -originally published in Playboy, now available in James Bond: The Union Trilogy: Three 007 Novels- was well received and Benson went on to write some of the most enjoyable Bond novels in years.

Score: 8/10. As the UK hands Hong Kong back to China in 1997, Bond investigates a wave of attacks against EurAsia Enterprises. Its drunken CEO Guy Thackeray is implicated, as well as a deadly triad leader & a maverick Chinese general who all stand to lose or gain in 10 days' time...

It's very much a product of its time: a reaction against the more sombre and satirical 'real world' tone of Gardner's later depiction of 007 and his world. Microglobe One and Q'ute vanish, while SIS is the Brosnan films' take on Fleming's wartime model: well-resourced, well-disciplined and policing super villainy in the colonies. We get SOE style gadgets from Major Boothroyd (melded with Q of the films for the first time outside of novelizations- ditto the female M and SIS's real life HQ) and the overdue return of the Double-0 Section, licence to kill and 007's rank of Commander.

The treat is the return of Fleming's depiction of Bond. Perhaps mid-50s by Gardner's final books, here reset to his early 40s. He's smoking again (H Simmons, as in the early Gardner books) and drinking more (oddly straight vodka, which was less usual for 007 than bourbon or martinis). There's a joy once more in action and toys: gambling, comradeship, travel, food, boats. The Mah-jong scene is a tribute to Moonraker's bridge game; the Walther PPK returns; TY Woo joins a proud line of eccentric colonial allies, while chapters 15-16 invoke OHMSS and numerous torture scenes.

The only major flaw is the piecemeal narrative. It's more like a novelisation: rapid rather than immersive, full of car chases and shoot outs but with little cohesion. The characters are a shade thin: the lap dancing girl (Soon-y Pay, geddit?) is forgettable, while the villains have to compete for page time. The action and dialogue verge on the TV movie-esque but it's great that Benson attempts Fleming's style and voice.

It's the innovations that shine through. The fantastic Walkabout chapter is both imaginative and well written, while Bond buying Fleming's Jamaican home Goldeneye is a lovely touch (Shamelady was the name Fleming's wife suggested). Benson was never going to be able to match master story tellers like Fleming (even he would've struggled to explain Mah-jong to a novice!), Amis or even Gardner, but he's eager to please and it romps along at a great pace. The writing improved with each novel but above all the books were going to be fun again!
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on 16 September 2014
Good well written book that captures the feel and mood of the character, well paced keeps the pages turning. Could do with a little more depth on some of the characters but overall a good stylish rendition of Bond at his best.
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on 6 June 1999
I was lucky enough to be reading this as the Hong Kong handover to the Chinese was taking place, and that made it quite special. However, after reading it again, it is a very average, dare I say confused, James Bond story. I can't make up my mind as to whether Benson wishes to re-create the literary Bond, or the cinematic Bond, because they are similar but very different characters. Benson captures the latter fairly well, giving the reader the expectations at every turn that Bond will get into trouble, get out of it, get the girl and get away with it. He doesn't let you down. Not so convinced about the Hong Kong setting - some of the research was not up to scratch. Looking forward to the new story in Gibraltar.
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on 3 January 1999
I have read most of the Bond novels available and after the first couple of chapters thought this was going to be special but it just started losing its way. A prime example is the two chapter(at least thats what it felt like) discription of a mahjong game. A poor substitute for Gardner never mind Fleming.AVOID!
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on 18 October 2005
Anyone who's ever seen a James Bond movie may think they know what to expect from this book: guns, cars, gambling, exotic women and a predictable plot. Well, the literary Bond usually suffers a bit more hardship then his silver screen counterpart, and it shows here.
The plot is vaguely similar to that of some of the more recent Bond films. Three events, all in different locations around the globe: a nuclear bomb explosion in Australia; the murders of two policemen investigating a cargo in Portsmouth, England, and in Hong Kong, a floating restaurant blown up, killing the entire board of a shipping corporation.
With Hong Kong 10 days away from becoming part of China, this is where James Bond is sent to discover how these events are connected. Along the way he will meet some entertaining and diverse characters, and eventually meet an adversary hell-bent on destruction.
Hong Kong is an inspired choice for the setting of the book. It not only allows for a mix of exoticness and seediness intertwined with Chinese culture to be present, but also is central to the plot, but that only becomes apparent toward the end.
The setting also brings together the diverse mix of characters: a drunken Brit whose business empire is collapsing around him; a triad leader running underworld dealings through large corporations, a sadistic Chinese general with a penchant for money and torture and, of course, a woman with a ridiculous name (Sunni Pei) who is an exotic dancer.
I think the two main themes in the book are violence and revenge. There is a lot of violence throughout the book, and revenge is integral to the plot, just like the setting.
I think the strong points of the book include the location of the story, the way Benson drives the plot through twists and turns until the villain is eventually unmasked, and the way the story reflect everything we expect of Bond. My only fault with the book is the inclusion of the Mah-jong game. Whilst it fits the story, it can be confusing to follow, but that's just my opinion.
Although nobody will ever do a better job of chronicling the literary Bond's adventures than Ian Fleming, Benson's first outing is a worthwhile effort that all Bond fans should try.
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on 27 October 2000
After John Gardner finally gave up the ghost of his Bond series, I begun this book with some apprehensions about its quality. But, however, I was impressed from the beginning and all the way through. The plot was original and imaginative and the characters were all three dimentional and exciting. Bond's alliance with the leader of the Chinese Triad is quite like the Zukovsky-Bond relationship in Goldeneye too. After reading this I was hooked on Raymond Benson novels and have read them all.
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