Back in Bond-age

SnakJames Bond: Double-0 Heaven

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Back in Bond-age

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jan 11, 2010, 1:22pm

I recall reading a couple of the Fleming novels as a teenager (MANY years ago) and the first in the John Gardner series when it came out in the early '80s, but never really made much of an effort to read the original series in a systematic way until very recently - probably as the result of the two recent Daniel Craig films (I largely gave up on the Bond movies about halfway through Roger Moore's run.)

I'm honestly very surprised and gratified at what an entertaining writer Ian Fleming was! Not great literature, certainly, but absolutely wonderful escapist entertainment! I find myself up till all hours these days, unable to put the book I'm currently reading down and go to sleep.

I'm reading them in order of their original publication, of course, and am currently on #5, 'From Russia With Love'. I've even dug up a copy of Kingsley Amis' 'Colonel Sun', and am collecting the John Gardner books, for when I've run out of Fleming. I've heard that the latter, at least, are not in Fleming's league, but I'm sure they'll still be fun.

Redigeret: mar 26, 2010, 5:55pm

I've now made my way through the 14 Fleming books, and have just finished John Gardner's fourth contribution to the series, 'Role of Honor'.

First off, I can't help but think that at least SOME of the criticism of Gardner that I read elsewhere - along the lines of, "Nothing like Fleming...not the REAL James Bond", etc - is based on faulty, rose-colored-glasses-type memories of Fleming's talents as a writer, and of the writing itself.

I read 'License Renewed' (1981) and 'For Special Services' (1982), Gardner's first two Bond novels, immediately after having read 'The Man With the Golden Gun' and then Kingsley Amis' 'Colonel Sun'...and the sense of continuity - of reading about the same character, with much the same tone and even style of writing - was startling. Amis, and then Gardner, genuinely DO capture the sense of headlong adventurism, of sinister forces behind every rock on the landscape, of Bond's old-fashioned patriotism and "into the valley of death" fatalism, that mark the best of Fleming.

I would have to say that Gardner's James Bond drinks and smokes considerably less than Fleming's...but that, and certain post-Fleming-era innovations, like computers and car phones (we're still some years away from cellphones, apparently), are virtually all that distinguish the Gardner books from Fleming's.

There is much discussion elsewhere on the matter of James Bond's age, and Gardner makes it clear that HIS Bond is the SAME Bond who served with British Intelligence in WWII, battled Le Chiffre, Hugo Drax, Mr. Big, etc, in the early '50s. Fleming was always a bit cagey in the matter of Bond's age, and internal references do not always agree, but if Fleming's chronology is to be adhered to, as apparently Gardner intended that it should, James Bond, at the dawn of the '80s, is somewhere between 57 and 62 years of age. By the end of Gardner's run, in the mid-'90s, add another 15 years to that, and today...we're looking at a Bond who is somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 years old.

Despite Gardner's assurances that HIS Bond is the same as Fleming's, his Bond certainly does not ACT like a man of around 60...and I strongly suspect that, as the series continues, references to his having served in WWII, for instance, will disappear.

I haven't read Sebastian Faulks' 2008 Bond novel, of course, as I'm reading the books in order, and have a considerable number of Gardner and Raymond Benson volumes to go yet - so I don't know how HE addressed the age question, or even if he did. Perhaps if a new series of James Bond adventures appears, it will be necessary to "re-boot" the story, as the Daniel Craig films have done in the realm of cinema - bringing Bond's birth up about fifty years, and making him a man in his mid-30s, as he was when we first met him.

Redigeret: jul 27, 2010, 9:51pm

I read most of the Fleming JB"s back in the 60's, so my memory is a bit sketchy. However, I did reread Casino Royale when the new film came out, and have to say that is the very first time a script was close to the original book. Bravo! :)
Excepting the techy stuff, I thought it quite close. That closeness was of course, lost in Quantum of Solace, it being only a short story, Nothing like the excellent film.

I have a few of Gardner's JB, mostly unread. I started the Faulks but wasn't impressed. So little impressed in fact that I put it down after about 30ish pages.

If you're interested in Fleming personally, there is an excellent bio of him by John Pearson, The Life of Ian Fleming.