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Case Name: Scorpius|
Author: John Gardner
Villain(s): Vladimir Scorpius
Bond Girl(s): Harriett Horner
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Back in the late 1950's, author Ian Fleming created a unique character, one that would have all the style and charisma to live on through different storytellers. This character, James Bond, is most known for being the quintessential 'spy' or 'secret agent', and even considering the character's dangerous occupation and sometimes-questionable lifestyle, has become a sort of fictional role model for many people. But even though Mr. Bond originated from the world of literature, in a way, he is most known for his flamboyant and action-packed films, which are both light on the intellectual stimuli, and heavy on the one-liners.
Throughout the years, though, Bond's adventures have not only been continued on the silver screen. His outings also lived on through the literature world, being passed on to new authors, who each portray Bond in various ways, while still retaining all the charm and sophistication of Mr. Fleming's original Bond. But, as is usually commonplace, the novel adaptations of Mr. Bond's exploits have been much more detailed and thorough in describing the art of a covert spy, than just showing off by killing as many people and sleeping with as many women as possible like many of the films, particularly the most recent ones, have been doing. This is not to say that the films are essentially no-brainers, it's just that imagining what is happening in a particular scene through very descriptive and detailed words, is much more enjoyable than seeing it being played out in front of you on a screen.
This particular author, James Gardner, has written over eleven books based on the character in the last two decades, and by past examples of previous authors, he would have had a lot to live up to when he wrote his first bond novel. His seventh, Scorpius, is very true to both the novel-style Bond and the movie-style Bond. Landing somewhere in between, Gardner's Scorpius has all the detail and description of the books set out against the interesting plot and outrageous scenarios and villains of the films. It's an interesting mixture, and combined with his articulate use of words, makes for an enjoyable experience.
The story sees Bond start off partway through an intense training weekend at a British army base and receiving orders from his chief 'M' to return to the headquarters of MI6, a British intelligence outfit. The pace of the story is greatly increased when he learns he is being followed on his journey back. Gardner's use of this method to heighten the suspense and pace of the story is accomplished very well, and makes the reader want to keep reading on. Bond is then thrown into a mission to investigate a religious cult called the Meek Ones, founded by a mysterious man called Father Valentine. The Meek Ones are also believed to be behind a multitude of terrorist bombings on numerous British politicians. Further down the track, in typical Bond style, Father Valentine turns out to be none other than exiled arms dealer Vladimir Scorpius. This, although told very early in the text, is quite an interesting story device that Gardner uses, as Bond has to pretend he doesn't know Valentine's real identity, adding another layer of suspense to an already twist-ridden storyline.
Gardner's use of words goes even beyond being able to capture the attention of his readers. It is easy to see through the author's enthusiastic representation of the character of Bond, that he enjoyed writing this novel as much as if he was reading it. This is even portrayed through his attention to detail when it comes to how Bond does his job, showing a true appreciation for the art of espionage. Maybe this can be attributed to the fact that Gardner, before becoming a writer, was actually a Royal Marine and a stage magician, and this somehow influenced his storytelling ability, as his descriptive nature highlights not only the honour, but also the trickery that is required to survive in the covert spy world.
The character of Scorpius is very well portrayed, but somewhat flawed. On one side of the scales, we see an extremely intimidating character with "eyes of pure evil", and is described as "the Devil personified", and on the other, it is hard to take Scorpius seriously, as he seems quite comical in the sense that he sounds too unreal, and too unbelievable. In my opinion, this is the only blemish on an otherwise clean sheet. But this aside, Scorpius is your typical Bond villain (minus the physical characteristics), and he is actually quite convincing if he is believed to be the psychotic madman Gardner, through Bond, describes him to be.
Even without the exotic locations of usual Bond adventures, Gardner's Scorpius is a fantastic insight into the fictional world of James Bond and his work with MI6. Easily comparable to the films and even Ian Flemming's original tales, Scorpius' tale of fanatical cults, terrorist bombings and the world of espionage is filled with enough plot-twists and suspenseful action to keep you interested from the moment you first open the book.
A young girl’s body is fished out of the Thames. Very sad but not so
extraordinary. That is, not until Special Branch discover two unusual
items. The only telephone number in the late Emma Dupré’s diary was
Bond’s; also a new kind of credit card. Apparently legitimate, but
Emma, well-connected, ex-junkie, had also been involved with a new
religious sect -- The Society of the Meek Ones led by the charismatic
Father Valentine. The Society upholds traditional moral values and is
harmless. Or is it? Why does Father Valentine have links with Vladimir
Scorpius, the vanished international arms dealer known as “The King of
Bond, with the help of the beautiful Harriett Horner, soon becomes
caught in the middle of a deadly game of terrorism and arms supplies. A
game in which he is pitted against on of the most ruthless and sinister
villains that he has ever encountered.
Review submitted by Eric Nisbet