Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.
See also: http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart
My name: Brian Martin
Gardner's fifth Bond book.
The third appearance of SPECTRE.
The hope offered by Role of Honor is largely buried by this inane follow up novel. While it's true that Bond is reduced to the miniature package of Q Branch gewgaws, they are, of course, just the ones he needs in each situation, and the bad guys, naturally, only find the ones that Bond can do without.
In terms of plot, this one is the most down to Earth of all Gardner's novels, which ought to be a good thing. But it isn't. Imagine all of Batman's enemies--the Penguin, the Joker, Catwoman, the Riddler, the whole lot--in a race to claim a bounty put, literally, on Batman's head by his most nefarious foe, Egghead. That's what Gardner gives us here, plotted on the level of the 60s TV series. Lining up to take their shot at Bond are SMERSH, the Union Course, the Mafia, and others, all spurred on by Tamil Rahani, the head of SPECTRE. Since in something approximating real life this group of killers would make short work of Bond, they are only professionals when it suits the plot; otherwise, they're inept buffoons.
Gardner regurgitates the device he used in Icebreaker whereby the reader can never be sure that anyone is who they first appear to be. It's a dumb gimmick that rarely works, but I don't think Gardner used it for literary reasons; I suspect he figured that it would allow him to make the whole damn thing up as went along. You know, if you run into a problem, simply change a character's allegiance, and off you go again. At any rate, that's how this novel reads. It's a sloppy piece of work and then some.
Gardner mentions a "new" branch of Bond's department: "psychos." Psychos are "mercenary killers," and they must be a little nuts because evidently they'd be quite willing to kill an innocent woman to make her husband talk. What these people are, of course, is the proof of the stupidity of Gardner's plot. One can hardly imagine a Psycho playing games with a target, particularly a target as dangerous as Bond. It's what we have to imagine the professional killers employed by SMERSH and the other organizations here must be like. But instead they're cartoon villains who would rather tie Bond to a train track and twirl their mustaches while they wait for their idiotic plot to be foiled.
The only thing that could make this story more ridiculous than it already is if someone kidnapped May, Bond's elderly housekeeper. Oops, spoiler alert.