"Breaking the Ice" - Your views on John Gardner's Icebreaker (1983)?

DragonpolDragonpol On Twitter: @Dragonpol.
edited October 2016 in Literary 007 Posts: 10,859
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As there's never been a specific thread here on John Gardner's third James Bond continuation novel Icebreaker (1983) I thought that I would remedy this fact and start a thread where we can discuss, review, criticise and even help conduct some research on the novel.

For many literary Bond fans (myself included) this is one of John Gardner's best James Bond novels, and some even call it the best. It's known that it was one of John Gardner's personal favourites from his Bond back catalogue, his ultimate favourite being the similarly plotted The Man From Barbarossa (1991).

Icebreaker saw John Gardner return the literary Bond to the subject of the Nazis, past and present (see Sir Hugo Drax in Ian Fleming's Moonraker) and a neo-Nazi group called the National Socialist Action Army (NSAA) who were killing Communist Party members and associates the world over in a terrorist campaign designed to usher in a Fourth Reich in Europe. The NSAA may have been based on this similarly-titled Neo-Nazi political party of the early 1980s in Britain which also attacked Communists and was involved (like the villain Count Konrad von Gloda) in arms smuggling to further its nefarious ends.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Socialist_Action_Party

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this novel and what I've written about the possible inspiration for Gardner's NSAA villain's organisation in this thread. Let's get a good conversation going here. :)

Comments

  • Posts: 9,500
    Icebreaker for me was better than Licence Renewed but not as good as
    For Special Services ( which read like a script for an unmade Film) 
    It has many good points, and the story is interesting and involving.
    Sadly for me it was the start of Bond being part of a team ( once was ok,
    But Bond afterwards. Seemed to be always in some sort of team outing) and
    Gardner's obsession it seemed, to then add double and triple agents to
    His stories.  So often that when reading a new Bond book, you'd be looking
    Out for who was going to be the " Double" in this one.
       The torture scene was very good, Bond as always takes one hell of a beating.
  • DragonpolDragonpol On Twitter: @Dragonpol.
    Posts: 10,859
    Thank you for your views on Icebreaker, @Thunderpussy.

    Does anyone else want to throw their hat into the ring? :)
  • SarkSark Guangdong, PRC
    Posts: 1,138
    I've just been rereading Gardner in my spare time and find that my opinion of him has improved a great deal. To be fair, I got off to a bad start with "For Special Services". I did find Icebreaker to be a great adventure, even if Bonds recovery from being dipped into subzero water was almost instantaneous. With all the twists I never knew who Bond could trust.
  • DragonpolDragonpol On Twitter: @Dragonpol.
    Posts: 10,859
    Does anyone else here want to give their views on Icebreaker?
  • TheWizardOfIceTheWizardOfIce 'One of the Internet's more toxic individuals'
    edited August 2016 Posts: 7,579
    I think it starts off well with Bond in an interesting location for the first time (apologies Draggers I've still got the picture of Paula's apartment block somewhere which I promised you years ago!) but as others have mentioned above it started the wearisome Gardner trope of Bond being part of a team which works least well here as the middle of the book seems to be just Bond and his team mates sitting around a hotel.

    In addition it takes the even more flogged to death Gardner plot device of double agents to ridiculous extremes.

    Havent read it for donkeys years but back in the day when I used to read all the Gardner's numerous times this one was always a chore. The weakest of Gardner's early period (LR to NLF) and probably I'd rank it bottom half (do we have a Gardner ranking thread anywhere by the way?)
  • edited August 2016 Posts: 2,311
    I haven't read Icebreaker since 1988. At the time I enjoyed it for the most part, but liked For Special Services more. When reading the John Gardners as a kid I always pictured his Bond looking like Sean in NSNA. I stopped reading them around the time of The Man From Barbarosa. Some day I may catch up and re read the Gardners and catch the ones I skipped.
  • barryt007barryt007 Throwing Kara 'brain dead' Milovy off the top of a Ferris Wheel in Vienna
    Posts: 11,940
    With the exception of 'Scatterclaw' i think John Gardners books should be used in the films..i see no reason not to,they are excellent and can be adjusted accordingly...Icebreaker included...
  • Posts: 4,501
    ToTheRight wrote: »
    I haven't read Icebreaker since 1988. At the time I enjoyed it for the most part, but liked For Special Services more. When reading the John Gardners as a kid I always pictured his Bond looking like Sean in NSNA. I stopped reading them around the time of The Man From Barbarosa. Some day I may catch up and re read the Gardners and catch the ones I skipped.
    This makes sense as Gardner originally tried to write Bond in a quasi Flemingish timeline as an older agent, but that lasted about one book.
    When it became apparent he was doing more than a one-off, I think Bond suddenly had to became his regular indeterminate Bond age.
    Although in the Gardner books, Bond does seem very veteran- 40ish I guess, more so than Fleming's brash 35ish agent.
    Icebreaker was a good read. The double-agent stuff threw me off a bit, though not as much as what Deaver would do years later in the forgettable Carte Blanche.


  • Posts: 2,759
    barryt007 wrote: »
    With the exception of 'Scatterclaw' i think John Gardners books should be used in the films..i see no reason not to,they are excellent and can be adjusted accordingly...Icebreaker included...

    Well, they have been used in films. Well, parts of them, anyway. AVTAK and TLD featured so many "borrowings" from the books that it was hardly a coincidence.
  • DragonpolDragonpol On Twitter: @Dragonpol.
    edited October 2016 Posts: 10,859
    Does anyone concur on this part of the OP?:

    The NSAA may have been based on this similarly-titled Neo-Nazi political party of the early 1980s in Britain which also attacked Communists and was involved (like the villain Count Konrad von Gloda) in arms smuggling to further its nefarious ends.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Socialist_Action_Party

    I'm currently researching this for an article on the real world origins of Gardner's NSAA in Icebreaker (1983).

    I've also since found this. I don't know whether or not it is influenced by Gardner's Icebreaker but it is interesting nonetheless:

    http://www.popsike.com/LEGION-88-ICEBREAKER-85-TEST-LP-SKINHEAD-FRENCH-OI/4813090475.html

    Any suggestions on all of this would be greatly appreciated!
  • DragonpolDragonpol On Twitter: @Dragonpol.
    Posts: 10,859
    Can anyone help me?

    Is there any interest in this at all out there?

    Don't be shy - I'd love to hear from you! :)
  • PropertyOfALadyPropertyOfALady High as the clouds
    Posts: 2,145
    Well, tell you what. I liked the book, but as far as the whole NSAA being based on the NSAP, I'm not sure. I've never heard of them, so they could very well be.
  • DragonpolDragonpol On Twitter: @Dragonpol.
    Posts: 10,859
    Well, tell you what. I liked the book, but as far as the whole NSAA being based on the NSAP, I'm not sure. I've never heard of them, so they could very well be.

    Thank you. I liked the book very much too. I hope I've uncovered something interesting about the origins of the NSAA. Sadly I never got to ask John Gardner about this.

    Any other contributions on this issue of the origins of the NSAA would be greatly appreciated!
  • I remember it as a reasonable but confused yarn. It wasn't as good as LR (along with ROH probably his best) but was an improvement on FSS.
    I liked the Finnish setting and the car elements but the triple cross plot was quite fatiguing.
    In a way, Gardner's Bond books were a microcosm of his literary career insomuch as they were very inconsistent.
    I count myself as a JG fan and was lucky enough to have communicated with him quite late in his life. He was a great guy and very generous with his time. When his work was good — 'The Secret Generations' trilogy — it was fantastic. When it was bad it was average — 'The Derek Torry' novels being a great example of mediocracy.
    Ironically, although he was a highly competent and talented writer, I felt that he never really developed a distinctive style in the way that Deighton, Le Carre and Fleming did. He was always something of a literary chameleon and seemed to ape other writers.
    This is probably why Gildrose picked him and why he successfully relaunched Bond.
    It is also probably why Horowitz is succeeding as a Bond continuation author were the very talented Faulks and Boyd failed. I think there are a lot of parallels between Gardner and Horowitz.
  • Posts: 263
    I recall reading this book several years ago. I liked that Gardner took Bond to different parts of the world and Icebreaker was no exception. I enjoyed Bond being part of a team as I believe this was the first time it was used. It was interesting to imagine all these agents who are used to being on their own suddenly thrust together. I agree that Gardener ended up doing this too much later on. I would say a good yarn.
  • DragonpolDragonpol On Twitter: @Dragonpol.
    Posts: 10,859
    Sorry, folks, for neglecting my thread. I always meant to get back to it again but it's just taken longer than I had anticipated! :)

    Thank you all for your contributions on this thread of mine. They are all very much appreciated. I am planning on writing up an article for my blog on the influence of British Neo-Nazis such as the National Socialist Action Party (NSAP) on Gardner's fictional National Socialist Action Army (NSAA) in Icebreaker (1983). There seems to have been a truly staggering amount of these far-right groups beyond the famous ones we've all heard of like the British Union of Fascists and the National Front. In theory any one of them could have been an influence on Gardner but the NSAP certainly has a better claim than most given the similarity of the name to the NSAA and the fact it was around at the time he was writing Icebreaker.

    I find the Wikipedia article on the NSAP quoted above (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Socialist_Action_Party) very interesting indeed and I'd like to note that I have invested in a copy of R. Hill & A. Bell, The Other Face of Terror- Inside Europe’s Neo-Nazi Network (Collins, 1988) on which the bulk of said article I posted above is based. I find the untold story of how Gardner (presumably) came up with the NSAA as the villainous organisation in Icebreaker deeply fascinating and I think it is certainly worth telling in an upcoming blog article.

    Signing off for now. Just want to end by saying: If anyone else feels like throwing in their sixpence on this topic, I'd love to hear from you, as always! :)
  • Posts: 185
    Not a fan. It was one of those books I never got around to. I recall Raymond Benson not being impressed in The James Bond Bedside Companion and his thoughts were pretty close to mine I discovered after finally finishing it.

    The double and triple crosses got beyond tiresome. It was almost to the point you'd anticipate a Scooby Doo scene where Bond pulls off the mask. It's like the creators of the first 3 MI movies liked this and ran with it.

    I could also predict what would happen by the end, making me care even less. Besides that, Nazis as villains were getting old by the 1960s, so it was really old hat by 1983 or so.

    Locations, however, were nicely done. They seemed fresh and added to the atmosphere.


  • Posts: 4,319
    BT3366 wrote: »
    Not a fan. It was one of those books I never got around to. I recall Raymond Benson not being impressed in The James Bond Bedside Companion and his thoughts were pretty close to mine I discovered after finally finishing it.

    Yeah, well, Raymond Benson was merciless in his reviews of just about all of Gardner's books. A little amusing considering the very best of Benson's output just barely managed to creep past the most disappointing of Gardner's. If that.

    I keep hearing negative things about Icebreaker. I don't remember it being that bad when I read it however long ago. I'll have to revisit it at some point. Maybe do a mini-marathon of my favorite Gardner's/those I need to revisit.
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