Gardner’s Bond (4-6)

Role of Honour sees Bond training as a computer programmer. No really it does. The story is basically farcical from the off. Bond has been left a substantial amount of money by a dead Australian uncle with the proviso that in true Brewster’s Millions style he spends a lot of it in the first X months. This spending does not go unnoticed by his superiors who suspect he has gone off the rails. This is used to MI6’s advantage as they want to use Bond as a dangle to infiltrate rival intelligence services who may want to hire the supposedly disgraced secret agent.

Bond meets the widow of a supposedly dead computer programmer guru called Jay Autem Holy who has faked his own death and now makes a mint writing training programs for terrorists and foreign secret services. SPECTRE are involved and a plot emerges to wipe out the nuclear arsenal of the US and Russia and therefore destabilise the world.

The computer technology, while maybe cutting edge when the book was written, now seems overly clunky and seemingly lengthy descriptions of how stuff works makes this a boring read at times. At other times Bond is as usual falling for any bit of fluff that happens to be around – it seems he will never learn his lesson when it comes to women.

The sighting of the General Zwingli who also faked his death in the plane crash with Holy, in a casino may have seemed like a good way of introducing the character, but is too much of a coincidence to stomach. The coincidence is never explained and in fact Zwingli seems superfluous in the story which already has its main maniac bad guy in the form of Holy and also the successor to Blofeld in the form of the new SPECTRE boss Tamil Rahani.

The relationship that starts at the top of the tale fizzles out in the last pages of the book – which will dispense with the usual need to explain away the non-appearance of the previous Bond girl in the next book.

Following on from the events of the previous book, Nobody Lives For Ever sees a bounty placed on Bond’s head by SPECTRE. Anyone who has the balls to try to kill our hero is invited to try. This straight forward idea is far more appealing and makes for a more entertaining read than the previous silliness. His housekeeper May and Moneypenny who was visiting her in the Swiss clinic where she was recovering from serious illness are kidnapped as part of one of the would-be assassin’s gambits to get at Bond.

Also in the mix are two ridiculously named bond girls – Sukie Tempesta and Nannie Norrich who Bond is forced to travel with in search of the kidnappers and who he (for once) suspects are not to be trusted. An encounter with a mutant vampire bat while he is having a shower is right out of the 60s films and in keeping with the adventurous tale. Overall it is a good tale if a little exposition heavy towards the end.

No Deals, Mr Bond represents an overdue and immensely welcome departure from the formula used by Gardener in previous books (with the exception of Nobody Lives For Ever). The story centres around an aborted ‘honey pot’ operation against the KGB called Operation Cream Cake. Bond is instrumental in pulling two of the girls involved in the operation out of Europe via the use of a nuclear submarine. Apart from this ‘set piece’ the book leaves the usual film inspired plot lines (megalomaniac wanting to take over the world) and moves into murkier waters. The original ‘dangles’ are being hunted down and killed by the KGB with their tongues cut out to send a clear message to MI6 not to dick with them.

M sends Bond to find and protect the remaining two women and one man who have taken on new identities. In his attempts to do this he unravels a knotty puzzle involving double agents, the GRU (the military arm of the KGB), the old head of SMERSH and of course a beautiful woman. His travels take him first to Ireland and then to Hong Kong.

There is a dollop of sexism and some mild racial stereotypes to cope with along the way, but in this respect Gardner mirrors Fleming very well (whether this is a concerted effort is arguable). The final scenes where Bond is being hunted by four assassins on a small island off the coast of Hong Kong are excellently paced and executed by Gardner. Exposition is scattered about the book where required rather than being lumped at the end and the plot for once is wholly believable. This is a great book.

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