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Thursday, 17 March 2011

THE COMPLETE LITERARY 007 - Scorpius

John Gardner's seventh James Bond novel was the first in the series not to be published in hardcover by Jonathan Cape - in the UK it was published by Hodder and Stoughton while in the US the book was handled by Putnam. It continues the run of great stories and this book is probably the most violent of the series.

The narrative had also become strangely topical with its depiction of the increased security and paranoid surrounding a potential terrorist attack. The terror group, The Meek Ones, are also very similar to the present day Al Qaeda. The book was also referenced in the Simpsons episode, You Only Move Twice in which Homer's boss is Hank Scorpious - too similar to Scorpius to be a coincidence

After being connected to the death of a woman in London, Bond is called in by M to aid the investigation. Returning from Hereford, a Sergeant Pearlman tags along by driving Bond back, during which they are attacked and involved in a high-speed chase on an English motorway. Upon safely returning to headquarters, Bond is briefed on the investigation by M and Chief Superintendent Bailey. The woman, whom Bond does not know, was found dead with Bond's telephone number. She is a member of a cult society known as "The Meek Ones", operated by a Father Valentine. With additional information from the CIA, the British Secret Service learn that Valentine is an alias for Vladimir Scorpius, an arms dealer for several terrorist organisations.

As the country's general election approaches, by the use of brainwashed cult members, Scorpius has begun a "holy war" against every man, woman, and child. The cult members, thinking themselves to be pure, moral, and unsullied, sacrifice their lives for "the greater good of humanity" believing that by performing this "death task" that they will achieve paradise. Throughout the novel, The Meek Ones commit several acts of terrorism including multiple terrorist bombings and several assassinations of British politicians.

Reading the book today the reader picks up on all the parallels to today's post 9/11 world, and the novel doesn't seem as far fetched as it once was. Gardner's Bond had certainly improved by this period and is no longer a version of the current cinematic Bond, nor though is he Fleming's Bond - but rather an amalgamation of the two with a little dash of Gardner's own Boysie Oakes.

An excellent Bond adventure.

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