The James Bond Continuation Novels are, like many of those stories, something of a red-headed stepchild to the franchise. For James Bond purists, there's actually two groups with those who love the books and those who love the movies with a decent-but-not-huge overlap. Neither group has much regard for the James Bond continuation novels which were done by Kingsley Amis, John Gardner, Raymond Benson, and a series of others thereafter. I, on the other hand, love the James Bond Continuation Novels.
Especially John Gardner.
John Gardner isn't as good an author as Ian Fleming, I don't think it's a particularly controversial to say. He tended to rely on stock villains like Nazi Remnants, the family of deceased enemies, and SMERSH despite moving Bond into the Eighties. His books very much read like original adventures of the genteel Roger Moore Bond, if a little more serious, than Fleming's urbane thug. John Gardner's Bond could also be played by Pierce Bronsen or Lazenby but is far and removed from Dalton, Craig, and Connery.
They're also a lot of fun.
No, seriously, the Gardner books are exactly the kind of book you want to pick up if you want to shut off your mind and enjoy some literary candy. This is exemplified in the first novel of his mammoth sixteen book series which actually means he wrote more James Bond books than Ian Fleming himself. It's a tragedy John Gardner died in 2007 as I very much would have liked to have contacted him to let him know how much I enjoyed his work.
The premise of License Renewed is as over-the-top as a Bond novel reviving the literary series should be. Anton Murik, a Scottish Earl/fashion design/nuclear physicist (!), is working with international terrorist Franco as part of a grand scheme to take control of eight nuclear power plants in order to blackmail the world for billions. To make this plan even more over-the-top than it already is, Anton isn't planning to use the fortune this generates to live like Croesus but to build his own nuclear power plant to show the scientific establishment he's the smartest physicist there is.
That is ridiculous.
But it works!
At least for me.
James Bond, meanwhile, has been out of the assassination game for ten years. This is meant to show the sliding time-scale from when the last novel was printed (actually twelve years with Colonel Sun) while ignoring Bond would now be in his sixties. Much like Spiderman, James Bond is magically in his thirties forever and cheerfully returns to service in the British government.
M wants Bond to investigate Anton Murik due to the less-than-effective Master of Disguise Franco's frequent visits to his castle in the Scottish highlands. Anton Murik has a beautiful mistress and even more beautiful ward (who resembles a young Lauren Bacall), the latter of whom is named Lavender Peacock but goes by the name Dilly. Gardner handwaves the fact MI5 rather than MI6 should be investigating Murik as a British citizen but this is really the least of the elements I'm worried about.
Bond persuades Anton Murik to believe he's a professional assassin after displaying some strong morals in returning a highly expensive necklace and then our villain helpfully reveals his entire plan to our hero. Bond turns down an opportunity to sleep with Anton's mistress, which confuses me but I suspect is due to Gardner believing it would be inappropriate for Bond to have sex with both mother as well as fosterchild. You know, despite Bond being Bond. There's a big huge Scottish wrestler as Murik's henchmen, a subplot involving bastardry, and other hijinks before Bond saves the day.
I love this book for the same reasons I love A View to a Kill (which, notably, took several of its plot elements from License Renewed). It's ridiculous silly fun and enjoyable from start to finish.
[review] License Renewed - Silly but fun book
Posted 13 May 2016 - 12:32 AM