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Monday, 23 May 2011

THE COMPLETE LITERARY 007 - The Man from Barbarosa by John Gardner

Before we look at John Gardner's eleventh Bond novel here's a little good news -To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Licence Renewed, Ian Fleming Publications will re-release John Gardner's first five James Bond novels in hardback using their original artwork. Subsequently, all fourteen of 007 novels will be released in paperback by Orion starting in 2012. In the USA, all fourteen novels will be re-released by Pegasus starting in Fall 2011.It has also been confirmed that John Gardner's two movie novelizations, Licence To Kill and GoldenEye will also be included in the UK paperback re-release schedule. It's about time that Gardner's Bond novels came back into print and with the recent omnibus reissues of Raymond Benson's Bond novels, it now means that the full series will once again be in print.

The Man from Barbarossa was the novel that the late John Gardner called his favourite of all his Bond books.Unlike his other Bonds it used real life events in its plot, namely the Persian Gulf War. The novel also suggested a coup inside the Russian leadership which would result in the fall of the then communist Russia and that this would end the Cold War. Events that came to pass later that year.

Many fans of the series look upon this book as experimental and often lump it in with Fleming's, The Spy Who Loved Me as not really belonging in the Bond universe, but this does a great book a disservice. It amuses me that often Gardener was accused of writing to a strict formula, but when he tried to deviate from this he was lambasted. Damned if you do, Damned if you don't - indeed.

It it true that the novel is more of a drama than a straightforward spy thriller, but that's only a good thing as the characters are fleshed out and live and breath on the page, even Bond has become something of a real man in this one. Readers and critics complained that the book was unlike the Bond they had become used to. But were they really saying that this book was too realistic, too well written and too good for a Bond thriller?

In short don't read this book if you're expecting a standard action-packed James Bond adventure, with little or no character development. If that's what you want you will be disappointed and you'd be better off starting with Gardner's Licence Renewed or For Special Services. However, if you want a complex Cold War thriller along the lines of Craig Thomas, then you're sure to enjoy this. Like Gardner's Icebreaker, No Deals Mr Bond and Death is Forever this book experiments with the standard formula and it's a better book for it.

Quite excellent.

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