Posted 18 May 2008 - 06:46 PM
After the experimental The Man from Barbarossa, Gardner returns to the formula with one of his stronger novels. Published in 1992, Death is Forever deals with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the changes that happen once the Eastern Bloc is no more. Someone is killing operatives, Codenamed CABAL, who were once double agents behind the Iron Curtain. It is Bond's job to figure out who is doing the assassinations and what their aims are.
I liked this book on a lot of levels. First, the topical nature of the plot struck me as one of Gardner's best. Rather than dating the novel, the fall of communism makes the plot that much more realistic. In this way, Death is Forever reminded me of the classic SMERSH plots of Fleming. Second, the plot is unexpected and has some very interesting twists and turns. It has one of the creepiest attempts to kill Bond; with Fiddleback spiders(!) in salmon and chicken sandwiches. Very disturbing. Third, the Venice scenes are well done and some of Gardner's most vivid location descriptions can be found in the Venice section. Finally, there seems to be more of an echo of Fleming in this book than any of Gardner's other novels. He begins with a quote from Diamonds are Forever, the familiar European locations, the main villan/sidekick, and the final chapter all seemed to me very conscious of Fleming's style. There is even a reference to Tracy and "All the Time in the World."--another element often missing in Gardner.
As far as drawbacks, I found the heroine, Easy St. James, to be largely forgettable. Not nearly enough of a backstory for her. And the names and codenames are awful complex and confusing. Some editing may have cleared that up.
Overally, I found Death is Forever to be a fine Bond novel and a most enjoyable addition to the Gardner canon