I have returned to bore you with my thoughts on the books. Having taken an extended break after devouring Gardner's run at Our Man I decided on Sunday night to dive back into the literary world of 007. So without further do here is my report on my first leg of Benson's Bond.
Choice Of Weapons
Zero Minus Ten
A fairly engaging read with the strong historical backdrop of the late 90's Hong Kong handover. Benson doesn't write Our Man himself particularly well but the story moves at a brisk enough page for one not to notice such limitations. Hong Kong is described well (and I should know since I've been there). It would have been a lot better thought if characters like Li, Sunni, and Thackaray were a bit more fleshed out.
A big let down for me was the sequence set in Australia. The "comedy" scene with the Aboriginal girl is too broad and felt like something straight out of the Roger Moore movies.
There's where the problem is really. If Benson attempted to write a James Bond BOOK rather than a James Bond MOVIE - then we would probably have something here.
The Facts Of Death
The nicest thing about this book for me were the scenes at Quarterdeck with the old M himself Sir Miles Messervy. I also enjoyed the scenes with Felix Leiter. These two old faces were a pleasant oasis in an otherwise over complicated tale of numbered killing sprees, deadly viruses and ludicrous sex scenes. Only two books into the Benson run and those sex scenes ALREADY feel tiresome.
Still, nice to see our new M Barbara Mawdsley enjoy a bit of romance despite it being somewhat short lived. Benson does write Our Man a little bit better here - and the mention of "that" family motto is a lovely throwback to the Fleming days (and a subtle indication of what was to come in the movies). But with not very interesting villains (exactly who is who again?) and a dull narrative - this story is rather underwhelming despite an unusually strong start. Dissapointing.
Live At Five
If only the previous two novels in the volume were as inventive as this short story - where Our Man helps a figure skater defect by performing all kinds of humorous antics at an ice rink. Great ending too! Only took me a couple of minutes to read it really but it did put a smile on my face!
The Man With The Red Tattoo
The most bonkers tale in the book yet. Pretty unhinged. Sadly - Benson's inability to create memorable characters really lets him down. It's difficult to know who is who here and to discern one character from another. It was entertaining to see Tiger Tanaka again and the allusions to You Only Live Twice were nice - but one can't help such things are merely a cynical stunt by Benson to keep the long term readers interested.
A lot lets this down which is a very real shame. This wacky story of poisoning the G8 summit with mutant mosquitoes may have been a lot more entertaining - as would the missing girl sub-plot - if it felt like Benson actually CARED. He just strikes me as a dull writer. The real tragedy here is the stories themselves always start out like they are going to be interesting and have some really unusual elements. It's a shame so far that Benson doesn't seem to have the narrative flair to pull some of these unique ideas off.
Midsummer Night's Doom
A fun short story to finish things off with. The Hugh Hefner cameo was very amusing. A wryly pleasing ending to a somewhat lackluster book.
So there you go people. That is what I think of Benson's run so far. Up next is another anthology of three Benson books. I feel bad when I criticize a book because I'm not author (yet) and I appreciate it takes a lot to put one together. I don't like the thought of Benson himself stumbling across this one day - but I'm afraid I have to be honest. So far - his work is really just not grabbing me.
Gardner's run was hit and miss but did have the occasional absolute BELTER.
I'm going to relax for a few days and enjoy some World Cup football so it may be a while before I'm back with my review of the next one. Thanks for reading!