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on 19 July 2017
Good story. Faithful to the style of Fleming.
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on 23 August 2009
This effort from Ian Fleming's successor as the `official' James Bond novelist is arguably his best - the novel is a rollercoaster ride that stays true to Fleming's creation whilst having a fresh feel and original flavour that lifts it above many of Gardner's other 007 stories.

The best scene sees our intrepid hero in a nail-biting car race with the hideously disfigured `death's head' Walter Luxor - who may or may not be the successor to Ernst Stavro Blofeld as the head of SPECTRE, who are once again at work, and involved in hijacking aeroplanes. Bond is sent to investigate the sinister Count Bismaquer in Texas, and along with the daughter of his old CIA buddy Felix Leiter, Cedar Leiter, now attached to the agency herself, he poses as an art specialist in order to uncover SPECTRE's evil machinations and continue his personal vendetta against the family of the man who killed his wife.

All the old favourites appear throughout the story - even Felix himself puts in an appearance at the end, and this is ultimately an accomplished and thoroughly entertaining slice of James Bond.
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on 7 December 2015
Published in 1982 For Special Services was the second John Gardner novel to feature Bond. The name of the book came from an inscription on a .38 Police Positive Colt revolver Fleming received for his work with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a forerunner to the CIA.

All the key parts of a Bond story are present, albeit updated, for better or worse for the 1980s. For example:
· we get a female Q (Q'ute – a friend with benefits),
· a different car – the Saab 900,
· a handful of gadgets,
· a pre-credits sequence; the hijacking of an airplane, and
· a new gun, a Heckler & Koch VP70.

The story is a typically far-fetched affair:
Bond teams up with CIA agent Cedar Leiter, daughter of his old friend, Felix Leiter. Together they investigate S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent, Markus Bismaquer. Bismaquer is a collector of rare prints; Bond and Cedar pose as art dealers to infiltrate his organisation. They reveal their true identities after a nail-biting car race. Bismaquer’s wife, Nena falls for Bond. She confides in Bond that Bismaquer is the new Blofeld.

Bond discovers that S.P.E.C.T.R.E. plans to take over control of America's military satellite network. Bond is then brainwashed into participating in S.P.E.C.T.R.E.'s scheme. He regains his memory in time to see Nena killing Bismaquer. The final twist being that its actually Nena, who is the mind behind the operation and the daughter of Blofeld. She makes this confession moments before a python crushes her. Felix Leiter, who arrives on the scene to help rescue his daughter, puts Nena out of her misery.

So in summary, it’s a decent enough thriller and an entertaining enough slice of Bond. But I was left feeling a little ambivalent about For Special Services. The plot seems to be influenced more from the movie version of Bond, than the literary version. It’s a little like a copy of a copy of Bond. Read it with this in mind and you’ll enjoy it all the more.
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on 31 August 2012
The second of John Gardner's James Bond continuation novels sees the secret agent dispatched to America to investigate an apparent resurgence in an old enemy. It's a clever move to delay the reintroduction of this element until book two, so that the new series doesn't feel too much like a rehash, however it also felt a little like they returned because it wasn't thought the book would sell well enough with a new enemy.

Despite a number of faults I thought the story was better than its immediate predecessor, and the plot at least felt much more like those Fleming wrote. Chief among the drawbacks however was the characterisation. Bond is bland and almost feels elderly in places (a bit like Roger Moore who was the cinematic Bond at the time), which makes the romances with much younger characters implausible. The other characters however were shallow and even the female lead seemed to have only one trait - falling for Bond.

I had read the book before but had no conscious memory of the plot, so I'm not sure whether one important plot point was obviously coming from a mile off or if I had subliminally remembered it, however I felt that a few more red herrings would not have gone amiss. the biggest problem though was the repeated use of dei ex machina - the sudden production of a tool or additional knowledge or secret events that the reader is introduced to just when it's needed to rescue the plot, and mostly things which could easily have been foreshadowed earlier.

Overall, it's a fairly good adventure, but it would have worked with any agent and any enemy - there was a good use of Bond's backstory and references to a number of Fleming's works, but it all felt like window dressing. Not quite up to the standard I look for in a James Bond novel.
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on 27 June 2011
Gardner's 2nd Bond book was the first of his that I read and I've always been tempted to suggest that others do the same. His 1st Licence Renewed was a solid start but it's here that he really gets going. In fact, he even seems to overtly tackle some criticism of that book whilst raising his game.

Score: 9/10. The strong plot sees Bond on the trail of a reborn SPECTRE, this time intent on destroying 007 and hijacking weapons satelites. The latter gambit would find its way into the films- as would the hotel lift business, where there's admittedly a lull for a while (Bond in disguise never works). Moreover, Gardner introduces narrative devices of his own: taking two Fleming bad guy moulds (rich megalomaniac and disfigured psycho) then making us guess at the new Blofeld's identity. The uncertainty of the Colorado battle is truly tense.

Straight away the book begins with an action packed, filmic, "pre-credits" sequence: in comparison to the previous book's low key start, here we find a well drawn 007 on a mission, tense amid the hijacking of a luxury airliner. Plus the excellent Saab 900 remains, but the dull Browning pistol is binned in favour of a Heckler & Koch VP70 and a Sykes-Fairbairn dagger (toys for the boys having always been part of the fictional Bond's world). Bond and Q'ute are now friends with benefits; there's a brief update/revery of past Bond girls; his cigarettes are now made by Simmons and it's great to see 007 enjoying a vodka martini again, too!

Above all, though, it's the energy and Fleming-y touches that shine through: the return of SPECTRE; exotic deaths; the Grand Prix set piece; the hot international settings that always appear to suit 007 better than UK bound adventures; the nods to both Felix Leiter, and (the real life!) Fleming's hand in creating the CIA. The strong female characters of Nena and Cedar have lives of their own, both driving the story along. Though making Cedar Felix's daughter is a little squirm inducing at first, having her pursue Bond rather than vice versa is a fun touch. All in all, one of Gardner's best and a great addition to the Bond canon.
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on 25 June 2001
This book is filled with action, romance and suspence. I couldn't put it down. The action sequences were very well done and so was the characterization of Bond himself!!!!!! This is a classic James Bond novel it takes you from England to Amirillo, Texas, and to the bayous of Louisianna. Blofeld is back and out for blood... James Bond's blood!!!!!!!!
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on 23 April 2012
Given a mix of 20 Bond books to review, made up of part Fleming and part Gardner it is quite likely that without author credits you would pick John Gardner as the originator of the series and not Fleming. That is how good a writer Mr Gardner was. Undoubtedly the king of the Bond revivalists and certainly never bettered. More detailed in his descriptive writing the Gardner series require more of the reader. More attention, more retention and, to be honest, a larger vocabulary. I suppose the skill of Fleming was to be so engaging and descriptive in so few words, but Bond really does benefit from Gardner's style. The more recent movies do too.

The first in the series Licensed Renewed is a great romp through the Scottish Highlands and over into France in a story not unlike Goldfinger. This is different and sees the return of the Blofeld Dynasty. Need I say more. The ultimate Bond baddie was always Blofeld. I am rather hoping that they will find a way of 'unkilling him off' for future Bond features with Daniel Craig !!!! For the moment this dynastic revival will have to do. Another great Gardner Bond book. You will enjoy it.

It's a joy to see the re-issue of these books as a newly bound series with new artwork. I shall enjoy collecting them a placing them alongside those wonderful Fleming originals, where the truly deserve a place.
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VINE VOICEon 23 July 2014
The appearance of Felix Leiter’s daughter, Cedar, in this book jarred with me and I kept wondering ‘just how old is Bond exactly?’ a question all fans really should avoid like a shark infested swimming pool. The return of a Blofeld character referred to always as ‘Blofeld’ and not ‘he’ or ‘she’ made the supposed twist at the end about as surprising as the fact that Bond once again taps the wife of the supposed bag guy. There really are no prizes for guessing who the new Blofeld is, and there really should have been more an effort at a mystery.

The whole book seems to follow a pattern established in the original books and Broccoli’s films and already plundered to great effect in "Licence Renewed" and it felt really unoriginal this time around.

On the plus side Gardner does well on the trapeze balancing his characters’ hidden agendas and play-acting despite the quickly predicted twist and lack-lustre red-herrings, and his writing style is once again satisfying Flemingesque.

Bond once more unrealistically has every female he wafts his pheromones in a swoon and falling into his arms. He is certainly old enough to be Cedar’s father (if not grandfather) and reality seemed to be stretched by this objectification of women beyond breaking point. Some of the ‘romantic’ moments verged on farce.

Still, for all that, it was another entertaining page-turner, and not the sort of book to over-analyse. If you liked the SPECTRE based films and the idea of doped ice-cream, killer ants, giant man-eating swamp snakes and killer satellites, you will enjoy this book.
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on 18 December 2011
I agree with other reviewers that this is (probably) Gardner's finest Bond novel. I use the qualifier 'probably' because I am currently re-reading the Gardner novels, having originally read them in the early 90's (I suppose, in a way, to fill the 'gap years' of the cinema Bond), and, as I read the others, I might change my mind!

This book impressed me more on this second reading than on the first. The writing, the plot and the characters are all rather Fleming-esque. I can't think of a better compliment than to compare Gardner's writing here to that of Bond's creator; even Sebastian Faulks, writing AS Ian Fleming (Devil May Care (James Bond)) never got this close, in my opinion.

For example, I sometimes find that scenes involving car chases or punch-ups, while exciting in film or on TV, are tiresome to read in books. Here, Gardner - like Fleming before him - describes such action in a vivid and exciting manner.

It is also important to note that this book dates from the last years of the under-rated Roger Moore era (one year before Octopussy [DVD]) and therefore predates Sat Nav, mobile phones and PC's. In that respect, there is a pleasant aura of nostalgia about the book, enhanced by the current reprint's use of the original cover artwork.

In short, this is good, solid, exciting escapism.
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on 23 August 2011
John Gardner's second James Bond book is a much stronger novel. Whereas Licence Renewed was slow to start but then rocketed towards the climax this book gets right into it from the off with Bond foiling a hijack of a plane and the dying words of one terrorist "SPECTRE" sets up the story with Bond coming up against the revitalised "Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion" originally founded by his nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the man who murdered Bond's wife Tracy, the man who Bond brutally strangled to death in Japan many years ago. With a deep desire to destroy anything and everything to do with SPECTRE Bond is aided and abetted by Cedar Leiter, his old friend Felix's headstrong daughter as he tracks down what the new SPECTRE are up to and who the new 'Blofeld' is. A terrifically paced thriller that doesn't give you a chance to breathe as it races from one great Bond moment to the next. Brilliant stuff.
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