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on 5 May 2001
Raymond Benson's fifth James Bond continuation novel is the finale of "The Union Trilogy" in which Bond finally confronts his arch-enemy from the previous two novels, High Time To Kill and Doubleshot, Olivier Cesari aka Le Gerant, head of deadly terrorist organization, The Union.
A "New War" has broken out between The Union and the world's security forces. 007 and his old French ami, Rene Mathis botch a raid on the old Bisset film studios in Nice (suspected of being a front for arms dealings) resulting in the deaths of innocent people. Bond is transferred to another assignment but has to plead to stay on the trail of the Union. Mathis is suspended but continues to make his own personal efforts to track down Le Gerant. Their work meets to reveal that the Union is using notoriously successful film producer, Leon Essinger's next blockbuster, "Pirate Island" to launder funds and smuggle stolen explosives. After a clue garnered from Belmarsh Prison, Bond follows the trail to Paris and then the South of France where he eventually gets involved with Essinger's estranged spouse, the beautiful actress-model, Tylyn (rhymes with smilin') Mignonne, has a "formal" meeting with his ex-father-in-law, Marc Ange-Draco which in turn leads him to a duel of chemin de fer in the royal casino of Monte Carlo with a certain Pierre Rodiac. Soon Bond is performing his own stunts on the ocean-bound set of Pirate Island off the coast of Corsica and tracking down his prey in the haunting paisan terrain of rustic Corsica before the full threat is revealed. With isolated episodes in the US (Sunset Boulevard, Buffalo Grove, near Chicago) and the Japanese Kuril Islands near Russia, the novel's journey finally ends at the Cannes Film Festival and subsequently the new HQ of the Union.
It is difficult to be original in a James Bond story but Benson has managed to come up with some new ideas: an anti-terrorist assault on disused film studios, retinal tatoos, 007's capable male secretary, a chase through a TV set being used for a dog show, a deadly waterbound chase intercut with a fake film sequence, an undersea ride on a gadget-laden sled, an ingenius jail-break, a fight in a grand cinema, a full-scale commando raid and the most painful torture sequence since 007 met that carpet-beater!
Benson continues to earn his martinis! Bond's affair with Tylyn is a wonderful love story which is refreshing for its rarity. Draco's entrance is well-handled. The evocation of dream imagery and Corsican myth and vendetta gives the story thematic appeal. The globetrotting makes logical sense and Benson does conjour a sense of place and local colour. The central idea of the major Waterworld-meets-Cutthroat Island film production being used as a criminal front is a smart concept in these days of $100 million plus budgets. The novel is well-crafted and plotted: after the extremely exciting, prolonged ending, the resolution is cleverly neat, genuinely surprising and bittersweet. All these elements have been fashioned into an inventive and richly complex tale of international intrigue, fate and revenge in which a range of matters in the life of 007 are satisfyingly resolved in Raymond Benson's best James Bond novel yet.
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on 2 August 2009
This is the third novel in "The Union Trilogy" and Bond's assignment is focused on the film industry. The opportunity for subtle in-jokes concerning the film franchise is not taken, and all the scenes set in the sound stage in Nice at the beginning, and during the making of the fictitious film "Pirate Island" on a boat in Corsica, are played straight. Rene Mathis makes his third appearance (his others being "Casino Royale" and "From Russia With Love") and is a significant presence in the book.

Echoes of Bond's wife Tracy reverberate within the story, not least as Bond meets her father, Marc-Ange Draco - last seen in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", part of the Blofeld trilogy - and also as Bond falls in love; this time, to a potential suspect.

Finally, after two previous books of the character appearing but never meeting Bond, the evil mastermind Le Gerant comes face to face with 007.

Show business has frequently been the backdrop for films and books, most of the time laced with pastiche, and it does seem a trifle unnecessary to plant Bond in such familiar territory, and the book is weakened by this.
The finale set at the Cannes Film Festival, however, does evoke genuine tension. Look out for name droppings of two actresses who have played Bond girls at the beginning of the Festival scenes.
In all, a reverting read - as are all the Raymond Benson novels - and "Never Dream of Dying" will undoubtedly thrill everyone from start to finish.
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on 30 May 2001
This is a really exciting, unputdownable page-turner and a worthy addition to the Bond canon. I read some of the original Bond books years ago and this is as good as, or better than, any of them. I hadn't realised Bond books were still being produced until I came across this on a trip to the States. The books starts with an exciting set-piece that would make a great pre-title sequence for a Bond movie. From then on, the action and suspense never lets up. The villains are fascinating and scary, particularly 'Le Gerant' and 'the Union'. The action moves around the South of France, including trips to Corsica, Monte Carlo and Cannes. There's an intriguing romantic strand, with Bond getting entangled with the beautiful actress Tylyn Mignonne. And interesting insights into the mind of Bond - his attitudes to his job and even his feelings of guilt when innocents get involved. Overall, it's a really good read and I'm sure it would make a great film too. The back of the book has a mysterious reference to a website that's also quite intriguing... I visited and found a difficult puzzle. So that's worth a visit too.
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on 27 April 2001
I read "Never Dream of Dying" in two short days. I couldn't put it down. More than the other "continuation" authors, Raymond Benson captures the spirit of Ian Fleming's James Bond. He doesn't write like Fleming, but somehow he nails Fleming's character. The plot here is a thrilling conclusion to the "Union trilogy" (which began in "High Time to Kill and continued in "Doubleshot") but you don't need to have read those two to enjoy this one. Le Gerant is a great villain, and "Never Dream of Dying" boasts some terrific locations in Cannes and Corsica. It would make a great film, if only EON Productions would wake up and pay attention.
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on 1 March 2013
Benson's 5th novel and the conclusion of the Union Trilogy sees yet another change in tone. After the dynamic High Time To Kill (James Bond 007) (1999) and the dark Doubleshot (2000), Never Dream of Dying (2001) is a deliberately thoughtful and even emotional Bond novel. No longer the prey and finally taking the fight to the Union, James Bond is reunited with his friend Mathis (the French secret agent) as he hunts down his enemies amidst the movie glitz of Cannes and the money of Monte Carlo.

Score: 6/10. The plot's fine so far as it goes: the problem is the storytelling. The previous books were set within the space of 3 months, with things getting nicely personal and the stakes increasing; NDOD takes place 9-12 months later, with the steam well and truly evaporated and 007 on other work. The Union and their leader are shadows of themselves, content to bump off minor characters and planning credibly unpleasant but scarcely original terrorist outrages. Even the writer finds the space to introduce the villain of the next book (the eponymous Man With The Red Tattoo) at the expense of Le Gerant who just broods a lot and gets the most lacklustre send off of any Bond villain ever.

It's all so disjointed. Individual chapters have a studied narrative, crammed with endless recounting of events, very much dictating rather than showing the reader the story. Even the action (oddly not Benson's forte) feels reported. Thus Bond appears in a succession of dull movie sequences: the generic opening run around a movie studio, his unconvincing 'Dirty Harry' interrogation of a suspect, the powerboat chase, etc. I cringed my way through the obligatory Boothroyd/Q scene, a lumpen parody of the Brosnan ones. Come back Q'ute, all is forgiven!

There's little here with that exotic, quirky 007 veneer. TV and film production is a poor backdrop for 007; too prosaic and familiar. Benson is no slouch in the research stakes but there really are no surprises- it's hard to know if he's serious with stuff like "Bond studied the production schedule for Pirate Island. Even though it was difficult to say what the movie was about since he lacked a script, the locations gave Bond a pretty good idea that it was an action-adventure film to be shot mostly on water." No kidding.

Bond's violent interruption of a French edition of Pets Win Prizes (punching staff and wrestling contestants) has to be an all time low for the novels. Meanwhile Mathis gets his own novel, visiting interesting locales (Monte Carlo, Corsica) & encountering mysterious strangers (the Mazerre), hot on the heels of the bad guy. Rather like Faulks' Devil May Care (2008) the best bits happen without Bond.

Then in the 2nd third it suddenly picks up, with the appearance in rapid succession of the love interest and a forgotten figure from Bond's past. You can tell the author's really making the effort in terms of characterisation. There's a mature and considered tone that brings life to these relationships. Indeed, the sex scenes with film star Tylyn Mignonne here are the most graphic yet in a 007 novel: nothing offensive but probably TMI all the same!

Sadly the run around action stuff starts again in the last third, with a lot of escape/(re)capture and people whizzing about in helicopters. The showdown in Cannes is a mess and the Union's final stand is dismal: they deserved better after so much build up, and side-lining the boss is truly criminal. At least the laser eye torture is nasty enough and 007's escape is pleasingly novel (if close to the bone). The underwater sequences, casino gaming and fine dining are also nice to see. Reminiscent of John Gardner's Never Send Flowers, this is an intriguing character piece but an awkward thriller albeit with exciting moments. Not for beginners.
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on 26 June 2001
Having just completed reading Never Dream Of Dying, I can honestly say that in my view, it is Benson's best submission since he entered the realm of 007. I say this for a variety of reasons. First off, some parts of the story are reminiscent of my all time favorite, "Thunderball" and secondly, he resurrects some old familiar characters that needed revisiting. One old aquaintance in particular is reconciled. Thirdly, you will see a different side of 007 that aptly shows how carelessly vulnerable even the great James Bond can become when mortalized with an affair of the heart.The story successfully closes out the "Union" trilogy and teases the reader with a hook that will take us to the next adventure. In conclusion, I would very much like to see some sort of screen adaptation to this storyline. To the Brocolli's...GO AND GET THIS ONE!
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on 27 June 2001
007 finally comes face to face with Le Gérant, the blind criminal genius who heads The Union crime syndicate. The meeting does not disappoint. Raymond Benson's writing is stylish and assured. It seems that he has deliberately attempted to push back the boundaries of the conventional Bond novel - the sex scenes are more explicit than any of their predecessors, the torture scenes more graphic. In-jokes sit comfortably alongside brutal violence. Benson's Bond is ruthless and resourceful, which is just the way we like him. Nothing is sacrosanct, and there are plenty of thrills and a few surprises before the end. Highly recommended, but let me give you a word of warning - if you like rats then there is one scene that will probably upset you!
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Opinions seem to differ on this one, and I suppose I am asking for it by writing a negative review. All those Bond fanatics will be pressing the unhelpful button to show just what they think of me and my review...
But the thing is, I am a Bond fan and that is why I am so disappointed. Benson tries to evolve the character and bring in a few old faces in order to cater for the fan base, but the plot is contrived and lacks pace and logic at times. Benson's worst crime is to make Bond seem nothing like the Bond we know and love, indeed there are times were he hardly appears in the book!
I will also never be able to enjoy OHMSS quite so much again as Benson puts a different slant on one of the characters.
As a fan I want the books to continue, but they are expensive and, at the moment, not worthy of the 007 legend.
Press the unhelpful button now.......
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on 7 June 2001
I wont argue with most of the other reviews, Benson is the best Bond writer since Fleming, but I have to say im not too happy about the (re)-introduction of one of the Bond world's key characters and their subsequent meaningless death. With Gerant in place, there was more than enough menace to sustain this final piece of the 'Union Trilogy', especially as he was a superb foil for Bond, something not seen again since the days of Fleming. This issue aside, Benson draws his scenes well, creates wonderful characters, has me wishing to visit every place he describes. Keep writing Mr Benson, I am still your fan!
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on 1 May 2001
"Never Dream of Dying" is Raymond Benson's sixth original James Bond novel (he has also written two film novelizations). It is also one of his best. Bond faces great danger, a powerful foe, a beautiful woman, and two old allies. Fans of the Bond genre will not be disappointed in this novel. One scene I was looking forward to was when Bond meets his Father-in-Law, Marc-Ange Draco. I was apprehensive on how Raymond Benson would approach this, as his predecessor, John Gardner, had mention in one of his novels that Draco was dead. I'm happy to say that Benson met this head on - and makes Draco a pivotal figure in the book. Bond has faced the Union before in Benson's last two novels. In the last book, "Doubleshot", the Union was after Bond. Now Bond is after the Union. From Nice in southern France to Monaco and Corsica, Bond is after Le Gerant, the blind leader of the Union, a man with almost mystical power. On his side he has Mathis, an old friend last seen in Ian Fleming's novel "From Russia with Love". I very much recommend this book to Bond and non-Bond fans. Raymond Benson will have to try extra hard to top this book. It is certainly a candidate for the best James Bond novel of the post Fleming era.
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