Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Remembering James Bond

Brokenclaw 1990.

Ok I am going to punk out here and just post Wiki's plot summary because it's pretty spot on...

After expressing frustration over a lack of action after his year-long mission with the Royal Navy (as detailed in Win, Lose or Die), Bond threatens to resign. Instead, M orders Bond to take a vacation. Bond travels to Victoria, British Columbia where he is intrigued by Lee Fu-Chu, a half-Blackfoot, half-Chinese philanthropist who is known as "Brokenclaw" because of a deformed hand.

Later, Bond is ordered to San Francisco where he is tasked to investigate the kidnapping of several scientists who have been working on a new submarine detection system and an "antidote" known as LORDS and LORDS DAY. Bond and CIA agent Chi-Chi Sue go undercover using the codenames Peter Abelard and Héloïse that were assigned to two agents from the People's Republic of China that are sent to evaluate the submarine technology before purchasing it.

Ultimately, Bond discovers that Brokenclaw is involved in this scheme on behalf of China, and also has plans of his own which involve sparking a worldwide economic disaster by bringing about the collapse of the dollar by tapping into the New York Stock Exchange, which would in turn bring down other major currencies worldwide. The plan, dubbed Operation Jericho was a long-term plan initially started by the Japanese, but now believed to have been worked on simultaneously by the Chinese before being acquired by Brokenclaw.

Brokenclaw's hideout in California is raided by Special Forces after he is located by Naval Intelligence officer Ed Rushia who was searching and attempting to help Bond and Chi-Chi while on their mission. Brokenclaw escapes the raid only to be tracked down by Bond and Rushia, off the books, to the Chelan Mountains of Washington where Bond is challenged to a torture ritual known as o-kee-pa. In the end, the competition comes down to a fight between the two using bow and arrows; Brokenclaw barely misses Bond and in turn is shot through the neck by Bond's arrow.

Ok Now for my own thoughts:

The good: Very solid beginning where Bond becomes fascinated by the presentation of Brokenclaw. The books first 4 chapters or so move the reader along briskly and are highly entertaining. Great villain. Brokenclaw Lee is one of Gardner's best. Ed Rushia. Great sidekick and character and the fact that Gardner resisted the urge to have Rushia be a good guy... then a bad guy...then a good guy...etc. Solid ending. The last 5 chapters of the book are build in intensity and excitement.

The bad: Chi-Chi Sue is a lousy Bond girl. She folds under pressure she get's beaten on and abused. Really her only redeeming quality seems to be and this is a quote from James Bond concerning the sexual act they had just consummated. (She knew a whole encyclopedia of ideas the neither hurt her own back or his own bruised ribs.) In typical Gardner fashion he gives us a much more interesting woman than Chi-Chi but she gets beats up, raped and discarded. The first 5 chapters are good and the last 5 are good so that leaves the middle 10. Gardner has a habit of dragging his office and motel scenes on just a little too long. Or in the case of Brokenclaw a lot too long. Office scenes with M should be 1 or 2 chapters tops. 60 or 70 pages of them is just way too much.

Final thought: Brokenclaw wants to kill the US Dollar and destroy the US Stock exchange, A few books back Vladamir Scorpius wanted to destroy the British Pound and the British stock market. it's no secret Gardner had struggles coming up with different plot lines for his later Bond novels. It's has also been suggested that health problems (for both Gardner and his wife) lead to many of the problems of Brokenclaw and Gardner himself often trashed the book. Brokenclaw often gets mentioned as one of the worst of the Bond Continuation novels though it also has it's fans. In my view while it's far from the best James Bond continuation novel it's not as bad as many would have you believe. The book is highly flawed. It slows to a crawl in the middle chapters and Bond should have taken 3 weeks off and rested up instead of saving the worthless Chi-Chi Sue. One wonders if the 4 weeks of leave he gets to spend with her as his prize for surviving the torture ritual was worth it. Personally I do not believe I would have let somebody put skewers in my body for her. The book is also a quick and entertaining read and has a great Villain. Brokenclaw is certainly not the first book I would recommend to somebody just discovering the literary Bond but I would suggest ignoring it completely either.

Brokenclaw By John Gardner ***/*****

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