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brianmartin

Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

For Special Services by John Gardner

For Special Services - John Gardner

Gardner's second Bond book.

The first appearance of SPECTRE, Cedar Leiter, Felix Leiter (briefly), and Bond's precognitive ability (which last brings with it the fervent hope of sensible readers everywhere that it will also be the last appearance of Bond's precognitive ability).

The one where even the bad guy's underlings watch Batman.

The one where we find out that Bond is a pervert--for, make no mistake about it, if you and the daughter of one of your best friends should ever find yourselves in a life or death situation, and if the daughter's breasts are exposed because one of the psycho killers holding you captive slits her top open with a knife, and if you then take a moment to admire the view--then you are a pervert.

Of course, Bond gets something of a pass here because Gardner knows and we know and, hell, even Clark Kent (pardon me, James Bond) knows that no mere mortals can possibly ever constitute or engineer a truly life-threatening situation for Bond.

* One of the most remarkable elements of Fleming's Bond books and stories is their humor, which is executed with charming dexterity. This shows a side of Fleming that isn't reflected in Gardner, who, I think, tends to cover this lack with a heavier emphasis on sex. Sex covers also for Gardner's decision to excise the romantic center of Bond that had him constantly falling in love with his damsels in distress. Gardner's Bond doesn't fall in love; rather he makes love and leaves. All in gentlemanly fashion, of course, and always with willing partners (who are easy to find, since every woman he meets is almost instantly willing).

Another outlandish plot that isn't in the least believable.

More amazing coincidences (as when Bond pulls just the tool he needs from his magic briefcase and when a couple of "Blofeld's" henchmen just happen to hand him the ideal location to hide during an important secret conference).

More genuflections to Bond's greatness. This, for example: "...007 recognized a chilling prospect: the one person in all the West who might yet be able to avert disaster was...James Bond."

We already knew that Gardner watched Batman and the Bond movies; now we can add another influence. For this book is positively infected with what I refer to as Star Wars Syndrome: the unnecessary but undeniably cheap, easy, and unimaginative impulse to relate new (and God help us, occasionally existing) characters by blood. Call it the Soap Opera Approach, if you prefer. In any case, one of its effects here is to turn Bond's personal hatred of Blofeld into a family feud.

And what are we to make of Cedar Leiter, the young and desirable (what else?) daughter of Bond's old CIA buddy, Felix Leiter? She's also an agent and, like every other woman in Gardner's world, she's got the hots for Bond. Felix doesn't mind. In fact, as far as he's concerned, Bond can treat her like every other woman he meets. But how will Bond handle the situation? That question isn't answered in this book.

* A certain plot twist of this novel, which concerns high-tech satellites, the resurrection of SPECTRE and, indeed, of Blofeld, in a way, suggests a certain contempt for Bond. I won't give it away, except to say that fans of Fleming's Bond will no doubt find something Bond does here quite offensive.

I could go on, but what's the point? Oh, what the hell, just one more:

Bond's newfangled feminism is rather amusing. This is due to the fact that Bond need do no more than pay lip service to it since every woman wants him anyway. It's therefore impossible to know what he truly believes. This is never more clear than in a scene here in which Bond gets huffy when another man tells an off-color joke. At the time, he's impersonating a stuffed-shirt type, but because of Bond's indeterminate feelings on the matter, it's impossible to tell whether or not his sour expression of contempt is part of his disguise or not.