Wednesday, 2 March 2011
THE COMPLETE LITERARY 007 - For Special Services by John Gardner
Fleming's Bond books often went over to the fantastic but they managed mostly to keep a certain edge of realism and even the most absurd events seemed plausible, but unfortunately this aspect is missing from Gardner's light-weight Bond.
The original UK blurb for the first edition read -
In For Special Services, Bond is on loan to the United States Government, his partner none other than the tough and beautiful Cedar, daughter of 007's old friend Felix Leiter. Their enemy? An old adversary, the legendary SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion), has reappeared. Bond and Cedar find themselves in some deadly and terrifying situations - from skyjack to plunging elevator, from armies of killer ants in the Mid-West to horror on a private mono-rail - before they come face to face with the heir to Blofeld's iniquitous empire.
For Special Services is paced well and does give a far better hint of Fleming that the author's previous Bond book, but it still reads more like a novelization than a true novel - too many of the Bondian cliches are brought into the mix and many events in the book are variations on events in one or other of the James Bond movies. That's not to say it's a bad book, though - on the contrary the action is clearly described and there are many excellent scenes, Bond is also pretty consistent throughout and although still over reliant on the gadgets, he is something of the action man of old.
It doesn't come anywhere near Fleming, but it's an enjoyable enough book in its own right. Although by now it had become clear that the continuation Bond novels were coming at the character from the perspective of the movies rather than the original books.
The jacket boasted, ' Ian Fleming's Masterspy, James Bond in John Gardner's For Special Services'. Perhaps EON'S masterspy would have been more apropos.
Still the book opens brilliantly, keeps up the tension till the end and offers a lot of Bondian fun - pretty much all you could ask for, really. It is also worth noting that both of Gardner's Bond books thus far had great sounding, Bondian titles. But then most of Gardner's Bonds did. Well with the exception of the single most dreadful title for a Bond book ever - No Deals, Mr Bond. Perversely No Deals would prove to be one of Gardner's better Bond books but then that's something for another time...
James Bond will return: