Licence Renewed has two poor plot developments! SPOILERS

edited March 31 in Literary 007 Posts: 98
I recently read the 40th anniversary edition of John Gardner's first James Bond novel - Licence Renewed. The book is an enjoyable read and the 1980s setting gives it a different feel to Fleming's cold war Bond world. However, the book has two poor plot developments. One is just lazy writing and the second is, quite frankly, unforgivable.

The following is major spoilers so if you haven't read Licence Renewed and wish to do so in the future, please don't read the following.

Plot development #1:

The plot is about the villain Anton Murik wanting to set off six nuclear plants if his ransom is not paid. He wants cut gem diamonds. The book charts Bond's attempt to stop Murik. He convinces Murik he's a mercenary. We get to the last few chapters and Gardner tells us the terrorists will not surrender. They will commit to the plan. Bond fights Murik in his plane and Bond gives the abort mission code to the terrorists. They surrender. There's no big battle with MI5 agents or other security forces. We don't switch to any scene at a nuclear plant to see the terrorists in action. It's all told in the past tense in a debriefing scene. M tells Bond what happened. It's such an anti-climax. 8-| Over 200 pages of lead-up and the terrorists don't even make a stand! It would be like Largo seeing the troops parachuting into the sea in Thunderball and he says to the men on the Disco Volante, "I think I'll surrender. Forget we have the atomic bomb on board. Let's give up."

Plot development #2:

So after the anti-climax of the terrorists giving up with zero fight, zero resistance, we have Bond telling M he thinks he knows what Murik is going to do next. Bond believes Murik will return to his Scottish castle to retrieve the paperwork that shows Lavender Peacock is the rightful heir to Murick castle and the Murick lineage. Bond want to go the castle, wait until Murik shows and capture him. This seems to make perfect sense. Murik tried to threaten the world with nuclear oblivion so Murik has to be found and brought to justice. However, for some inexplicable reason M says on page 250:
"You do not go armed. In all conscience I cannot, at this stage, allow you to move into Duggan's area of operation using arms."

????

So M, the leader of the secret service, will not allow James Bond 007 the right to carry any arms to apprehend Murik. That's James Bond, a man given the 00 prefix meaning he has a state sanctioned licence to kill.

The idea a 00 agent can't go into the field without any weapon is ludicrous. Gardner tries to get round this absurd plot development by mentioning Murik castle has lots of old weapons. There's the clear suggestion M is prepared to let Bond use the weapons to apprehend or kill Murik. But the fact remains John Gardner was hired to bring Bond back as a literary character, and in his first book M says "you do not go armed."

Richard Duggan is the director-general of MI5. What makes this 'no arms allowed' statement even more silly is Duggan doesn't go with Bond to the castle. He doesn't appear at the end of the story so it's not as if Bond was moving in on Duggan's area of operations. It made no sense to have M mention it.

How did Gardner get away with this nonsense? The publishers should have said "John, we like the story but this Bond not armed idea of yours is a non-starter. Bond is a 00 agent so there is no way he would confront any enemy without having his gun."

Bond and Tanner go to the castle, unarmed of course (!) and Murik conveniently arrives. Bond tells Murik to surrender but he's a Bond villain, they don't do surrender, and he fires at Bond with a portable rocket launcher. Tanner narrowly avoids death. Bond uses a crossbow from the castle's weapons room. He fires the bow and injures Murik. Murik makes a dash to his helicopter and Bond uses Murik's own portable rocket launcher against him. Murik is killed.

Overall Licence Renewed is a decent enough read, well written, but sadly the terrorists giving up without any fight was pathetic (lol) and M telling Bond he can't use his weapon was just as lame. With a decent rewrite of the last few chapters it could have been a great story but the ending is somewhat of a flat note.








Comments

  • Posts: 5,146
    For the first one, my take is that the novel is told from Bond's standpoint. He doesn't see the terrorists fighting or surrendering, so we don't get to see it either. For the second point, I have no idea, except that it was a bit of artistic license for Gardner so Bond could use a crossbow and a Gyrojet pistol instead of his (at the time) Browning High-Power 9mm pistol (IIRC). More flashy, so to speak.
  • edited March 31 Posts: 98
    Thanks for replying.

    Murik does emphasize the terrorists are committed to the cause. If I can find a few quotes I may post them in a future post. Gardner makes it clear the terrorists won't surrender but they do. They don't put up any fight. A bit disappointing.

    On page 235:

    Bond sends the stand-down code to the terrorists via microphone. I'm pretty sure it's Bond's voice. He doesn't try to disguise it to sound like Murik's. Gardner doesn't state that he disguises his voice. This doesn't make narrative sense because the terrorists would know it's not Murik giving the abort order. Why would the terrorists respond to a stranger's voice and comply with the order?

    I accept your point about the story seen from Bond's standpoint. However, we do cut to M's office so there's no reason why Gardner couldn't have shown one battle scene in the plant. We got nothing at all.

    Your point about Gardner trying to go with a flashy over-the-top ending, I guess so. But it's not realistic to think M would forbid Bond facing Murik without his Browning. That's silly, and I feel it drags the overall story down a few notches.

  • mtmmtm United Kingdom
    edited March 31 Posts: 10,706
    It's a long time since I read one, but I do remember Gardner's books kind of rushing towards the end and having quite big anti-climaxes. But then so does Fleming quite a lot of the time to be fair!

    With regards to the second point I imagine that Gardner is referencing Bond's status as an SIS officer: MI6 isn't really supposed to operate inside the UK; MI5 is the security service and they have jurisdiction inside the UK, MI6 operate outside. So I guess Bond's licence to kill isn't actually valid inside the UK and he shouldn't be armed.
  • Posts: 5,146
    That plot point has been used in the recent comic books series by Dynamite, BTW.
  • edited March 31 Posts: 649
    I'm generally not a fan of many of the continuation Bond novels (even Colonel Sun has its problems for me). Gardner was a solid writer but I feel he never had Fleming's skill at description, especially for things like locations, food, drink, cars etc. Perhaps that's more due to individual experience (Gardner had a fascinating life, but it was very different from Fleming's). I also get the sense the films had an impact on his plots.
  • edited April 4 Posts: 98
    mtm wrote: »
    It's a long time since I read one, but I do remember Gardner's books kind of rushing towards the end and having quite big anti-climaxes. But then so does Fleming quite a lot of the time to be fair!

    With regards to the second point I imagine that Gardner is referencing Bond's status as an SIS officer: MI6 isn't really supposed to operate inside the UK; MI5 is the security service and they have jurisdiction inside the UK, MI6 operate outside. So I guess Bond's licence to kill isn't actually valid inside the UK and he shouldn't be armed.

    With respect that is incorrect. Bond uses his gun in Skyfall's London underground scenes. He fires at Silva so has full security clearance to discharge his weapon.



    I was under the impression the 00s were the highest security service/division in the UK with security clearance to use their weapons with near impunity. The 00 prefix is the British state sanctioning Bond to kill in order to protect the British state so Bond would be allowed to use his weapon in the UK. The notion Bond wouldn't be allowed to use his weapon is absurd. He's licence to kill. John Gardener conveniently forgot that fact in the final Bond vs Murik encounter.

    Clearly, a MI5 operation doesn't require the 00 division and MI6 doesn't require MI5 but it's reasonable to assume both departments can work together if the threat is deemed severe enough. For example: if Spectre threatened the UK with nuclear weapons then the 00s would liase with MI5, Cobra and other departments.



  • mtmmtm United Kingdom
    Posts: 10,706
    bondywondy wrote: »
    mtm wrote: »
    It's a long time since I read one, but I do remember Gardner's books kind of rushing towards the end and having quite big anti-climaxes. But then so does Fleming quite a lot of the time to be fair!

    With regards to the second point I imagine that Gardner is referencing Bond's status as an SIS officer: MI6 isn't really supposed to operate inside the UK; MI5 is the security service and they have jurisdiction inside the UK, MI6 operate outside. So I guess Bond's licence to kill isn't actually valid inside the UK and he shouldn't be armed.

    With respect that is incorrect. Bond uses his gun in Skyfall's London underground scenes. He fires at Silva.

    That doesn't prove it's wrong, only that Skyfall ignored it. Which is fine, it's a movie.

    Gardner most probably was following the 'MI6 doesn't operate inside the UK' rule: it certainly sounds like that from the quote from the book above: "Duggan's area of operation" is the UK.
    bondywondy wrote: »
    I was under the impression the 00s were the highest security service/division in the UK

    No, he doesn't work for the Security Service: that's MI5. He works for MI6 which is the Secret Intelligence Service, the foreign intelligence service.
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