Friday, 16 January 2009
FRIDAY'S FORGOTTEN BOOKS - ICEBREAKER
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 1983
Coronet original cover price £1.95
I'm a massive Ian Fleming/James Bond fan and most of the continuation novels by other hands have left me cold. Don't get me wrong - I like several of John Gardner's and Raymond Benson's offerings. And I think Kingsley Amis and Sabastian Faulks both delivered worthy Bond novels. But it's seldom that the excitement of the Fleming sweep has been captured just right. Mind you even the worse of the continuation books are better and more Bondian than the pig's ear the film producers have made of the franchise with the dire, cold hearted James Bourne movie Quantum of Desperation.
Fleming's background was in journalism and from this he developed a lean, descriptive style. The original Bond novels owed a lot to the pulps, his villains were OTT and would not have been out of place in a Sax Romer novel.
This was John Gardner's third Bond novel and, although it's got its critics, I thought it was his best of the lot and the Title, for a change, was pure Fleming.
Bond is sent to the freezing landscape of North Norway and teamed with the CIA, KGB and Mossad. Their mission - to eradicate a secret terrorist operation who are causing chaos on a worldwide scale.
For me the novel worked perfectly well and I did feel, on times, that this was Fleming's Bond. Raymond Benson, who himself would pen several Bond novels after Gardner finished, has often said that he considers this to be the weakest of Gardner's early Bond novels but, as much as I respect Mr Benson (hey the guy wrote a few excellent Bond novels himself and also authored the fan's bible, The James Bond Bedside Companion) , I think he's wrong here. I feel this this - Gardner's third - is stronger than the previous two novels Licence Renewed and For Special Services.
It doesn't contain the bloated 007 of Licence Renewed, nor does it have the nonsense of Blofeld's off spring and Felix Leiter's daughter to muddy up the waters as did For Special Services. It reads well as a thriller in its own right and teaming Bond with organisations he's mostly worked against for decades provides much added tension to the plot. And of course you don't get villains any bigger than the Third Reich.
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