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Friday, 4 March 2011

THE COMPLETE LITERARY 007 - Icebreaker by John Gardner

By now, Gardner's third Bond novel, the reader knew what to expect, but then the author came up with this tightly written tale  and pulled the rug from under us -  Bond does, at last, appear to be in danger and has to use his own ingenuity rather than the latest Q-Branch gadget to escape danger.

A lot of Bond fans cite this as one of the worse books in the series, which I've never understand since to my mind this is the best Bond book Gardner produced.

The writing of this book is far more assured than the previous two and Gardner seems to have given up on recreating Fleming's Bond, and invented one of his own.  I also like the title - it's got that Moonraker vibe about it.

Pitting Bond against Neo Nazies was a great touch and also teaming the British Agent with operatives from the USA, Russia and Israel allowed for the building of genuine suspense as double cross becomes triple cross. There's also a high level of suspense and the author skilfully teases the readers as to which member of the team is a double agent.

John Gardner strayed further than ever from the accepted formula, and maybe that's why Icebreaker is the most satisfying and rounded read of his Bonds.

Raymond Benson, a writer who would take over Bond when Gardner retired from the series, writes in his essential, The James Bond Bedside Companion, that Icebreaker was the weakest of Gardner's first three Bond novels, which is not something I agree with. However I can see where Mr Benson (who wrote some pretty good Bonds himself) is coming from. The book is the most unBondlike of Gardner's Bonds but to my mind that's a good thing. The author was never going to come close to Fleming's original character, and perhaps realising this Gardner decided to change tack and write Bond the way he wanted to. The Bond being part of a team aspect is certainly fresh and allows for some natural diversions from the norm.

The WIKI sums the plot up - Bond reluctantly finds himself recruited into a dangerous mission involving an equally dangerous and treacherous alliance of agents from the United States (CIA), the Soviet Union (KGB) and Israel (Mossad). The team, dubbed "Icebreaker", waste no time double-crossing each other. Ostensibly their job is to root out the leader of the murderous National Socialist Action Army (NSAA), Count Konrad von Glöda. The Count used to be known as Arne Tudeer, a one-time Nazi SS officer who now perceives himself as the new Adolf Hitler. The National Socialist Action Army is essentially a new wave of fascism as a means to wipe out communist leaders and supporters around the world.

Now whilst it may be fair to say Gardner cribbed a lot of situations for his Bond novels from the films, it was quite the opposite with Icebreaker. Gardner had a villain living in an Ice Palace and this premise was later used in Die Another Day. One of the images used to promote Die Another Day, that of a gun laying on ice was also remarkably similar to one of the paperback editions of Icebreaker.

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