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Topic: A First taste of Benson -Zero Minus Ten-Far from it!

Zero Minus Ten- Far from it

I have just read my first Raymond Benson Bond novel-Zero Minus Ten. All I can say is a hearty ‘Well done Mr Benson!’ forgive me for saying, but this was far better than I was expecting having read the majority of posts on this and other Bond web sites. No it wasn’t Fleming, but then I was not expecting it to be.(or Amis for that) However what struck me was Benson’s enthusiasm for both his subject matter and his task in hand. I do not mean this in a condescending way, but there was only what I could describe as  ‘rawness’ about this novel that contrasted with the Gardner novels. (That said, I have to say that for all his undoubted enthusiasm there is little doubt in my view that Gardner is the more accomplished writer and I am enjoying reading his contribution to the Bond catalogue of ‘Official ‘ novels.). As I had long ago decided to read every official Bond novel so the prospect of five more ‘Benson’s’ now seems far more attractive . Personally I long ago came to the decision that to contrast and compare Bond authors was for me personally a worthless task. I will simply take each one as it comes and enjoy it for what it is, ostensibly a good ‘light read’.
ajb007/wink

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Re: A First taste of Benson -Zero Minus Ten-Far from it!

Hey, I like your attitude towards the continuation authors. ZMT is my only experience of Benson (apart from the novelisations). I thought it was pretty good, although it was a long time ago that I read so my memories of it are a little hazy, but I do remember the oriental card game sequence very well. I actually read ZMT before any other Bond novel (including Fleming) and so didn't have amything to campare it to other than the films.

I say the way to enjoy the continuation novels is to avoid comparison between authors. I have read quite a few of Gardner's novels and while I admit some are a little poor, they can still be enjoyed on their own level. Gardner and Benson couldn't hope to copy Fleming, so had to interpret Bond for themselves, and the results are entertaining literature that can be just as satisfying as Fleming's work. I daresay ZMT is even better than some of Fleming's lesser works.

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Re: A First taste of Benson -Zero Minus Ten-Far from it!

Raymond Benson is not bad in my opinion, although sometimes his writing can seem a little pedestrian and unimaginative. I have enjoyed most of the two books of his that I have read (HTTK and DS) and am about 1/4 of the way through TMWTRT.

HOWEVER, I still think that Colonel Sun is the best continuation novel, IMHO.

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Re: A First taste of Benson -Zero Minus Ten-Far from it!

I've yet to read Colonel Sun, but from what I have heard it is very good, and probably the best continuation novel. I'm still busy with the Flemings, so the continuation novels are a little lower on the priority list, but I'll get there soon. I'm on YOLT at the moment, reading in sequence.

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Re: A First taste of Benson -Zero Minus Ten-Far from it!

I started my ‘Marathon Bond Read’ 14 months ago. Originally I planned on only reading the Fleming originals plus Amis’s Colonel Sun. I subsequently decided to complete a full read of every official continuation novel. This included the Christopher Wood adaptations of: The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. I am currently up to Scorpius in the Gardner catalogue. However my curiosity got the better of me so I ‘slotted in’ Benson’s Zero Minus Ten between Gardner’s No Deals Mr Bond and Scorpius. I would certainly recommend that you read Colonel Sun after you have completed Fleming’s originals. On the evidence of what I have read it is by far the best of the ‘continuation novels’ in my personal opinion. ajb007/bond

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Re: A First taste of Benson -Zero Minus Ten-Far from it!

;%For whom it may concern (if anyone!)When I have completed my reading of them,  in an act of pure hubris I plan to post my personal ‘rating list’ of the complete Official  Bond novels.

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Re: A First taste of Benson -Zero Minus Ten-Far from it!

I never miss wrote:

Raymond Benson is not bad in my opinion, although sometimes his writing can seem a little pedestrian and unimaginative. I have enjoyed most of the two books of his that I have read (HTTK and DS) and am about 1/4 of the way through TMWTRT.

HOWEVER, I still think that Colonel Sun is the best continuation novel, IMHO.

Yes, that is what I think, Benson's writing is a little stale for me. (altough everything even the books Fleming wrote that were not one of the bests, are still great classics!

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Re: A First taste of Benson -Zero Minus Ten-Far from it!

I missed this topic, so here are my thoughts from a while ago: ajb007/smile

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Zero Minus Ten is that the promise of the concept is not realised. The subject matter of Hong Kong is a good starting point and there was a lot of potential there, but what is so unsatisfying about the novel is that the potential is wholly squandered. Yes, Benson's research is evidently superb, and when reading his work one really does get the sense that he knows what he is talking about regarding locations and the like. A good example is the mah jong game. On reading it I really believed that Benson knew about it, so proficiently did he write about it. But it just went on and on. And on. And with little purpose. So Thackaray cheats. Did we really need all that depth of description spanning two or three chapters, though?

The mah jong game is emblematic of one of the primary overall problems; the extent of padding. Things go off on a tangent and wander away, after which we eventually return to the story. During the wandering however, I found it very difficult not to get bored and pretty lost. Much of it seemed pointless. While there is nothing wrong with fleshing out a story with travelogue or indeed going off on a tangent, in Fleming this added something of note. In Zero Minus Ten it actually feels like just padding.

And then there was the prose, and my Lord some of it was utter drivel. Absolutely devoid of any sort of literary finesse, the result is an entirely pedestrian excursion. So basic (and, frankly, awful) is the writing that he cannot pull off the travelogue or the Triad ceremony or the torture scene or the mah jong game, or indeed the pretty dire sex scenes. Not only was it explicit, it was mechanical. Fleming's writing of sex was erotic, Benson reads like a manual. Moreover, I consider its 'filminess' to be another one of its downfalls, not one of the strengths. The extensive use of dialogue is intended to mask the deficiency of the prose, and the factg that Zero Minus Ten reads like a film leads one to wonder what was the point in writing the story as a book in the first place.

Overall, it plods along obtusely and slowly. The prose is on a level comparable to what most people could produce. No flair exists whatsoever. I found it boring, filled with unnecessary fanboy references and unconvincing characters. Strangely, it also has a sort of robotic feel, as if it was written by a committee (in fact, it may very well have been). Throughout I got the feeling of 'Insert travelogue here' and 'Obligatory Fleming reference follows'. That is not enjoyable to read. None of it was. And what could have been an interesting story around the Hong Kong handover turns out to be an irritatingly tedious piece of work.

I did not pick up the book having already decided it was going to be a load of claptrap, I genuinely wanted to enjoy it. I hoped that I would be able to defend Benson's work as I am able to defend much of Gardner's, sadly I came away wholly in concurrence with the received wisdom regarding the Benson era.

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Re: A First taste of Benson -Zero Minus Ten-Far from it!

Benson is no Fleming, but I agree with sweeper...he showed an enthusiasm which was pretty consistent throughout all his novels. Like you say, Lazenby880, he certainly wasn't as fine a writer as Gardner and it showed. But Benson did surpass Gardner in the fact that he maintained that consistent level of enthusiasm across five books (I always felt that Gardner's interest waned after his fourth).

Zero Minus Ten was not the best of the Benson novels (I enjoy Doubleshot and High Time to Kill the most). I'll be interested to hear your opinions on the others, sweeper

Last edited by darenhat (27th Oct 2006 17:05)

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Re: A First taste of Benson -Zero Minus Ten-Far from it!

I think the Benson books are all fantasic.

www.thebookbond.com - New Look. New Book. Pure BOND.

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Re: A First taste of Benson -Zero Minus Ten-Far from it!

darenhat wrote:

he showed an enthusiasm which was pretty consistent throughout all his novels. Like you say, Lazenby880, he certainly wasn't as fine a writer as Gardner and it showed. But Benson did surpass Gardner in the fact that he maintained that consistent level of enthusiasm across five books (I always felt that Gardner's interest waned after his fourth).

Indeed, Benson *was* enthusiastic in a way that Gardner never was. My problem is with the expression of said enthusiasm; the in-referencing is cringe-worthy and executed with no finesse. The same goes for the sex. It is not the explicity that is the problem, rather the embarassing manner of conveying it. There is absolutely nothing appealing or amorous about his sex scenes whatsoever; they read like the thoughts of a teenage boy going through an awkward stage of puberty. The general prose and narrative is on that level also.

Nevertheless Mr Benson does have his vocal fans and I'm sure he is laughing all the way to the bank on the back of his Tom Clancy novels. ajb007/smile

Last edited by Lazenby880 (29th Oct 2006 00:28)

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Re: A First taste of Benson -Zero Minus Ten-Far from it!

Raymond Benson - An overview.

Having now completed all of the Raymond Benson original Bond continuation novels I will now offer my overview.
Firstly, I believe that your level of appreciation of Benson's Bond novels depends on your expectations when reading him. Basically, expect Fleming and you are in for a disappointment, indeed, expect high brow intellectual writing and you are in for disappointment. But if your expectations do not rise above wanting no more than a series of ‘low brow’ adventures then you will be satisfied. Benson’s Bond novels are the sort of book that you can happily put down and pick up again, be interrupted while reading by someone enquiring if the train seat next to you is taken, without the need for a quick ‘back flip ‘ in order to remind yourself what is happening. Nobody is ever going to accuse Benson of creating great art, but accepted at face value they are a passable ‘light read’. Asked whether i would ever re read any Benson Bond novel and my answer would be no.I would only bestow that honour on the Fleming originals and Amis's Colonel Sun . That said, if you simply want to extend your 'Bond reading experience' i recommend reading all of the Gardner and Benson offerings and then make your own judgement.
Here then for what it is worth is my personal ranking of the ‘Benson Bond Novels’ in descending order:

The Man With The Red Tattoo
Benson’s finest. A great sense of location backed up with some memorable characters.

High Time to Kill
Benefits from a unique location for Bond.

Never Dream of Dying
A satisfying conclusion to the Trilogy featuring 'The Union' .

Doubleshot
Interesting to have a 'below par' Bond operating in the field .

The Facts of Death
A decent offering marred only by the Felix Leiter 'Wheel chair wheelie Scene'(read it and you will know what i mean)

Zero Minus Ten
Still to take his ‘Bond water wings off’ but not without interest. High light being Bond’s
Walk in the outback.

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Re: A First taste of Benson -Zero Minus Ten-Far from it!

Never could warm to Benson. ZMT had potential, but was squandered on an unimaginative storyline (bad guys wants to set off a nuke--how original). TFD lost be at the scene in which Leiter charges the bad guys in his wheelchair.

I had hoped that a new author would bring the Bond novels into the new millennium in much the same way that GE had brought the films up to date and the way Gardner did in his early novels before he lost interest in the whole enterprise. Instead, I got the impression that Benson was toiling under the specter of Fleming, rather than genuinely finding his own authorial voice.

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Re: A First taste of Benson -Zero Minus Ten-Far from it!

Have to agree with you regarding the Felix wheelchair scene hence my reference to it when Re to The Facts of Death in my rating list.As i said, when it comes down to it i can see myself re reading all of the Fleming originals and Colonel Sun in the future bu alas not any of the Gardner or Benson novels.

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Re: A First taste of Benson -Zero Minus Ten-Far from it!

What's strange about both Gardner's and Benson's novels is their utter lack of interesting and compelling villains. In Gardner's case, the waning of the Cold War seems to have thrown him for a loop, hence his re-introduction of SPECTRE and various other international criminal organizations with increasingly bad acronyms.

Benson obviously never read a newspaper, because aside from ZMT, his villains were equally divorced from reality. Rather than pit Bond against terrorists, arms traffickers, or war criminals he, too, invents highly improbable villains and organizations (eek! save me from the killer Pythagoreans!)