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 once John Gardner's personal favourite from his Bond back catalogue, his ultimate favourite later being the similarly plotted The Man From Barbarossa
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 (linked below) which also attacked Communists and was involved (like the villain Count Konrad von Glöda aka Colonel Aarne Tudeer) in arms smuggling to further its nefarious ends:
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.
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.
Does anyone else want to throw their hat into the ring? :)
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?)
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.
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.
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 Glöda) in arms smuggling to further its nefarious ends.
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:
Any suggestions on all of this would be greatly appreciated!
Is there any interest in this at all out there?
Don't be shy - I'd love to hear from you! :)
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 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.
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! :)
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.
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.
It may have been a quadruple-cross. I can't vouch for how many double-, triple, or -umptuple crosses there are in Barbarossa. But out of all of Gardner's Bonds to use the trope, it actually seems to make sense in Icebreaker since Bond has to work with enemy agents and the whole idea of "who can you trust?" is there from the novel's outset.
Icebreaker was one of Gardner's better ones as I recall. Some great set pieces, including torture by submergence in freezing water. I re-read it about a year and a half ago while on vacation in a snowy city. Seemed an appropriate paperback to bring along.
I listened to it on audiobook recently after having read it decades ago. Suffice it to say that my memory was kinder to it than the recent listen! Mostly it is memorable for the title, the locations, and the ice water torture. And the setup of the team--one American, one Israeli, one Russian, and Bond--has potential. The rest is fairly middling Gardner.
Gardner has better books--the one where there's a bounty on Bond's head, for example. And I think the first two.
You're right, it might not make my top 5 Gardners, but I'd probably call it above average for his Bond output. I'm actually re-reading the "head hunt" one now (Nobody Lives Forever) and am enjoying it, and I've always enjoyed For Special Services for its pure outlandishness, but my latest read of Licence Renewed was pretty rough. Very slow start and rather improbable plot. The highlight for me was the fashion show assassination attempt, but little else caught my interest.
Still another highlight: Bond's personal car battling 3 huge snowplows in the Arctic.
Great title and a novel torture for Bond, but pretty weak overall.
Nobody Lives Forever is my favourite of Gardner.
I loved the Brokenclaw character. Shame the eponymous book was crap!
Apologies, @RichardTheBruce. I meant to get back to you at the time but didn't get around to it. I'm continuing to research this area and have bought some books to that end. As a History graduate and someone very interested in British politics all of this stuff is fascinating to me. I do hope to write up my research at some point but I'm currently working on some other ideas for my blog that I'll get written up first.
very uncomfortable, and the location is nothing like the usual for 007.