With Original Material by Ian Fleming
New York: HarperCollins, 2015, pp. 320.
It is not easy to make judgments about the James Bond continuation novels because just working out the criteria is a job in itself. For instance, are we just looking to be entertained, or are we expecting faithfulness to the original Ian Fleming books? If that is the case, are we more concerned with faithfulness to the content, or to the form? For example, are we looking for the Fleming prose style--its technique of the "indirect" glance, its penchant for the evocative over the encyclopedic--or are we content to just get the formula?
The character . . . how many of the rough edges do we expect the new book to retain? Do we insist on a Bond endlessly excreting the reactionary gripes of the Edwardian Etonian who created him, and going to seed when too long without a mission--or would we be happier without such details?
Some metafictional elements, some self-parody, are inevitable--they were already an increasingly conspicuous presence in the later Fleming--and if history is any guide, likely to be profuse. How much are we okay with, and exactly what parts of the whole set-up are we okay with seeing mocked?
One can go on, but I suspect you get the idea by this point.
Evaluating Trigger Mortis is a little trickier because the concept is different this time. Rather than straining to update 007, or just picking up the tales where Fleming left off back in the mid-'60s, this one attempts to insert an original story within his series, mere weeks after the events of Goldfinger. The approach is necessarily more restrictive, any inconsistency the more jarring--as with the character's attitude. Perhaps the '60s would have changed Bond a little, so that he might take some amusement in the scandals of Mick Jagger rather than tut-tut at these kids today . . . but here we get Bond before even his time at Shrublands, when any liberty of the sort is much more glaring.
Moreover, in writing this novel Horowitz prominently used a story Fleming created for that television series that never happened . . .
And I have to admit that this has helped leave me of two minds about the book. And in the end it seemed simpler to just write two different reviews--one more sympathetic, one more critical.
You can find the more sympathetic review here.
You can find the more critical one here.
Just Out . . . (The Many Lives and Deaths of James Bond, 2nd edition)
The Post-Ian Fleming James Bond Novels
Just Out. . . (James Bond's Evolution)
Just Out . . . (The Forgotten James Bond)