"Bond is back and he's better than ever. Bond is drinking noticeably less spirits these days; he's perhaps more diligent about exercise and has a special low tar tobacco blended for his cigarettes at Morelands of Grosvenor Street. But the 1980s have reached the department as well. Political restraints are squeezing in on the Service. The elite Double-O status, for example, conveying its authority to kill, is being abolished. But M takes little notice of these restrictions when it comes to Bond.
John Gardner has brilliantly portrayed the most famous spy in the world as he pits his nerve and cunning against a dangerously deranged opponent - one prepared to sacrifice most of the Western world to prove that only he can make it safe from accidental nuclear holocaust. As the seconds tick away on the valued Rolex Oyster Perpetual, the world comes nearer this ironic annihilation and Bond comes nearer to a frightful death."
-From the first edition hardback 'Book Club Associates' Publication - 1981
In the thirteen years since Bond battled Colonel Sun, the Double-O section was dissolved and Bond became M's personal 'troubleshooter.' Worried about a possible collaboration between Anton Murik, a well-known nuclear scientist, and an infamous terrorist named Franco, M sends Bond to investigate. After infiltrating Murik's mansion and proving himself a capable assassin, Bond learns of a plan to hold the world hostage with the threat of 6 simultaneous nuclear reactor meltdowns, also known as the China Syndrome. As the world stands on the brink of nuclear annihilation, Bond is the only person alive who can possibly stop it.
Writing in an era where a new wave of Bond fever had peaked with Moonraker, John Gardner comes to the series with a writing style that reads a lot like a movie novelization. Taking the reader through a step-by-step synopsis of Bond's every move, Gardner leaves little to the imagination. The book itself is the classic Bond movie tale; a fanatical madman bent on holding the world hostage for a large sum of money.
While the story itself is uninspired, there are many classic moments in the novel. The training sequence at MI6 headquarters shows just how adept Bond is at fact memorization and assimilation, all of which comes into play later in the story. Bond also gets a chance to use his stealth skills when he steals Mary Jane Mashkin's pearl necklace in the middle of a large crowd. Without effort he takes it from her neck and, a few minutes later, returns it to her in a successful attempt to meet Anton Murik and get in his good graces.
As a whole, character development was well done. Anton Murick, Mary Jane Mashkin, Q'ute, Caber and most of the other minor characters had detailed backgrounds and interactions with Bond. The exception to this is Lavender Peacock, who seems to fall for Bond before she even gets to know him. It reminded me of the whole Bond/Stacy Sutton relationship in A View To A Kill. Bond and the villainess, Mary Jane, have a much more realistic relationship. The other characterization issue comes with Caber's thick Scottish accent. Every time he speaks, Gardner spells out his words phonetically brings the book's pace to a standstill while the reader tries to decipher what Caber is saying..
Following in Ian Fleming's footsteps was no easy task but Gardner manages to pull it off. Licence Renewed successfully transitioned the literary Bond into the 1980s and reinvigorate the canon. Today, many of the concepts and technologies seem dated, but once the reader looks past that the book becomes very enjoyable.
What was the real reason behind Bond's change of gun, the Walther PPK?
The Walther PPK went straight away because I would never have invested Bond with that weapon. Personal weapons are always a compromise. The PPK is small enough to conceal but it could not be classified as a stopping weapon. I have already explained why it was being phased out in real life. The unfortunate jam during the attempt to kidnap Princess Anne was not the only recorded problem. All automatic weapons have difficulties from time to time. Some have more difficulties than others.
In Fleming's The Man With The Golden Gun, MI6 is known as Transworld Consortium, where as in Licence Renewed the SIS is know referred to as Transworld Exports Ltd.
What was your motivation behind the change?
Transworld Consortium/Exports?? Fleming changed the name from Universal Exports to TC. I merely changed it again. It's not important.
Your first adventure sees Major Boothroyd gain an assistant known as Q'ute. What motivated you to create her character? Hypothetically, what actress did you picture in the role?
Q Branch is very much a movie thing but I wanted to retain its flavour. Also I wanted to involve a female, hence Q'ute. I should make it plain that there was never any thought that the Bond books would be made into movies. Bearing that in mind I did not have any pipe dreams about actors playing roles.
Interview with John Gardner conducted by
Published: May, 1981
Author: John Gardner
Villain: Laird Anton of Murik
Bond Girl: Lavender Peacock
Allies: Bill Tanner; Q'ute
John Gardner's Thoughts
For Special Services
Role of Honour
Nobody Lives Forever
No Deals, Mr. Bond
Win, Lose, or Die
The Man From Barbarossa
Death Is Forever
Never Send Flowers
Licence To Kill
John Gardner Biography