'On His Majesty's Secret Service' by Charlie Higson (2023)

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Comments

  • JustJamesJustJames London
    Posts: 205
    They really don’t know how people actually vote in the UK. The work required to get actual information on this, for the vast majority of people — we are talking handwriting analysis based on a single line in many many cases — makes it basically impossible. You can *ask* of course, but people can also *lie* or simply not answer. You can’t even base it on apparent beliefs — Aethalstan and his real world analogues directly appeal to people who many would consider on the left, or at the very least, consider themselves on the left.
  • VenutiusVenutius Yorkshire
    edited June 2023 Posts: 2,976
    Oh, it's much easier than that, mate. Seriously. Take note next time you vote - when you hand over your electoral card with your voter registration number and your name and address on it, the staff at the polling station cross your name off a list, right? Then they tear off a ballot paper and hand it to you, while they retain the stub/counterfoil. Both the ballot paper and the stub have a number on them - the same number. They then hand write your voter registration number onto the stub that they keep. After that, it's simply a matter of matching the number on the ballot paper to the stub number and they know exactly who's voted for who. It's that easy. This isn't conspiracy stuff, anyone who votes can watch them do it openly right in front of you.
    Many years ago now, some former South African Secret Service agent said that the apartheid South African government knew the identity of everyone who voted for the Communist Party of Great Britain because British intelligence used this method to trace votes and shared the intel. It's been going on a long time.
  • ImpertinentGoonImpertinentGoon Everybody needs a hobby.
    Posts: 1,351
    I’m only 50 pages (and forgive me if this has been discussed ad nauseam. I stopped reading this thread to not spoil the book) but man is it good to read a modern Bond story. And Higson slips it in so simply. Decades of discussion whether Bond is still relevant, dealt with on half a page. Finally, a Bond who has espionage equipped smart-tech (although some of that is in Carte Blanche). Some interesting ideas about working cover identities for 00s, but not getting bogged down by it (yet). And Bond is still Bond (so far), while obviously being a 21st century man. I like it (so far).
  • mtmmtm United Kingdom
    Posts: 15,355
    It is pure refreshing fun, isn't it? I also love its brevity: just a really quick dash of Bond.

    I really enjoyed the more dramatic, deep dive into Bond with A Mind To Kill, but there's a definite place for this sort of purely enjoyable Bond too. I would welcome more novellas.
  • Posts: 3,211
    Was actually intrigued enough by this to order a copy (I'm usually not a fan of the continuation/non-Fleming Bond novels, tend to visit them a bit later, and am not even a huge fan of Horowitz's efforts, although I am very fond of the Young Bond series). I'm looking forward to reading this.
  • JustJamesJustJames London
    Posts: 205
    Venutius wrote: »
    Oh, it's much easier than that, mate. Seriously. Take note next time you vote - when you hand over your electoral card with your voter registration number and your name and address on it, the staff at the polling station cross your name off a list, right? Then they tear off a ballot paper and hand it to you, while they retain the stub/counterfoil. Both the ballot paper and the stub have a number on them - the same number. They then hand write your voter registration number onto the stub that they keep. After that, it's simply a matter of matching the number on the ballot paper to the stub number and they know exactly who's voted for who. It's that easy. This isn't conspiracy stuff, anyone who votes can watch them do it openly right in front of you.
    Many years ago now, some former South African Secret Service agent said that the apartheid South African government knew the identity of everyone who voted for the Communist Party of Great Britain because British intelligence used this method to trace votes and shared the intel. It's been going on a long time.

    I’ll keep an eye next time. That assumes they let me, my passport is very Bond like. As in it expired sometime in the pandemic, took a while for me to notice, and has yet to be renewed.
  • Posts: 9,807
    I’m only 50 pages (and forgive me if this has been discussed ad nauseam. I stopped reading this thread to not spoil the book) but man is it good to read a modern Bond story. And Higson slips it in so simply. Decades of discussion whether Bond is still relevant, dealt with on half a page. Finally, a Bond who has espionage equipped smart-tech (although some of that is in Carte Blanche). Some interesting ideas about working cover identities for 00s, but not getting bogged down by it (yet). And Bond is still Bond (so far), while obviously being a 21st century man. I like it (so far).

    Agreed i wish we had more modern bond adventures
  • mtmmtm United Kingdom
    edited June 2023 Posts: 15,355
    I do kind of think if you're doing a Bond book you need to be doing something that a reader can't get from an Ian Fleming book, because he's the best at writing Bond. So I think Horowitz actually did do that when he did 007's first and last adventures; Higson wrote about Bond as a boy; but also I think probably the easiest way to achieve it is to do them in the present day, yeah.
    I guess you could put him in another period, even. I think Bond works quite well in the early/mid 80s, when Gardner did him, because the Cold War was still on and technology was moving on... I wouldn't be averse to that.
  • George_KaplanGeorge_Kaplan Not a red herring
    Posts: 576
    I'd be interested to read a Bond novel set in the 70s since it was the one decade in which no books were published (Unless you count Pearson's Authorised Biography and the Christopher Wood novelisations).
  • MaxCasinoMaxCasino United States
    Posts: 4,201
    For now, the 70s would be the only decade that I would want a period piece. IFP needs to move on from period pieces for books for a while, though. James Bond wasn't considered a period character when Fleming created him. Let's move forward, as he did. I just wish we could get a novel every year like in the old days. I still think some villains deserve a modern day spinoff, after the Double 00 trilogy.
  • VenutiusVenutius Yorkshire
    edited June 2023 Posts: 2,976
    JustJames wrote: »
    I’ll keep an eye next time. That assumes they let me, my passport is very Bond like. As in it expired sometime in the pandemic, took a while for me to notice, and has yet to be renewed.
    Yeah, I've had to resort to a postal vote since the voter suppression measures, er, I mean, proof of ID came in - I've never had a passport or a driving licence! :-O
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    Posts: 17,932
    Every jurisdiction is different I suppose but in NI when you arrive to vote they mark your name off using a ruler to draw a line against your name and address. They then hand you a ballot paper and I don't believe they tear anything off it. Identification of voters in such a way would surely be in breach of the Representation of the People Acts. We've also had voter photographic ID here for years and it seems to work fine. It's certainly better than the bad old days of the mantra of "vote early and vote often" and where even the dead voted.
  • VenutiusVenutius Yorkshire
    edited June 2023 Posts: 2,976
    I dunno, man, present your papers to the satisfaction of the State or be excluded from the democratic process? Not very British really, is it? ;)
    Anyone can just Google the thing with the same serial number being on the ballot paper that they give to you and on the counterfoil that they keep. And about them adding your voter registration number to the counterfoil. They don't hide it, they just do it so openly that no one thinks anything of it (or its implications).
    The Electoral Reform Society tried and failed to get numbered ballot papers scrapped in 1997 and their use was reaffirmed under the 2006 Electoral Administration Act. It's too easy a way for GCHQ to identify who's voted for the nutters on either fringe, for one thing.

    But, anyway, all this is one reason why we shouldn't think that Higson's description of the Bond in OHisMSS as a 'modern young man with modern views' is some kind of code for him being so-called 'woke' - it's not: he wouldn't have got past MI6's most basic preliminary background checks if he was. The British Establishment seems to me to be firmly centre-right and they'd have to be certain that Bond was 'one of them' before he was allowed into something like MI6. I brought up the voting thing just as an example of one way they'd have of finding these things out. So, no, I don't think Higson's description was meant to imply anything other than that the Bond of OHisMSS isn't racist, sexist, homophobic, etc - all of which are now, hopefully, mainstream positions.
  • edited June 2023 Posts: 2,598
    I enjoyed the book but I don’t think we needed to be constantly reminded of the modern world.

    I can understand Higson giving Bond more of a sense of humour for this modern age but I felt he went too far when he had Bond reply to M by saying, “Can’t help it, sir” when M told him he didn’t have to be such a know-it-all. Not with M.

    I also felt that there was a lack of atmosphere when Bond was in Budapest.

    The only other thing I wasn’t keen on was how Bond dressed but I keep reminding myself that he was undercover.

    For me, he’s not up there with Horowitz who is my favourite continuation author (I can’t offer an accurate judgment though as it is a short book) along with Pearson, but overall I liked the book and would be keen on Higson writing another - a full length novel this time. I’d like to read a novel when Bond first joins the service. In Fleming’s timeline would be better but I can accept a contemporary setting.
  • ImpertinentGoonImpertinentGoon Everybody needs a hobby.
    Posts: 1,351
    Bounine wrote: »
    I enjoyed the book but I don’t think we needed to be constantly reminded of the modern world.

    I can understand Higson giving Bond more of a sense of humour for this modern age but I felt he went too far when he had Bond reply to M by saying, “Can’t help it, sir” when M told him he didn’t have to be such a know-it-all.

    I also felt that there was a lack of atmosphere when Bond was in Budapest.

    The only other thing I wasn’t keen on was how Bond dressed but I keep reminding myself that he was undercover.

    For me, he’s not up there with Horowitz who is my favourite continuation author (I can’t offer an accurate judgment though as it is a short book) along with Pearson, but overall I liked the book and would be keen on Higson writing another - a full length novel this time. I’d like to read a novel when Bond first joins the service. In Fleming’s timeline would be better but I can accept a contemporary setting.

    Nearly done with the book now, and while (so far) it's 7/10, meaning quite good, there are some of these little line-by-line things that I also didn't like. I put this down to the short turn-around of the book. Stuff like Higson really hammering home twice on 009's relationship status is something that should be shortened to just one or two sentences leaving the reader to connect the dots if there was a longer editing process.

    I did mostly like the Budapest sequence, though. The shadowing is well done spy-thriller stuff, with Higson leading the reader along just like the various players are leading each other along. I liked it. And I felt the description of the city and Bond's reaction to it felt very Fleming-esque. Of course Bond knows Budapest inside out, gives a little tourist guide to the reader while he's at it, but has a slightly nostalgia tinged view of what the city is now.
  • mtmmtm United Kingdom
    Posts: 15,355
    Yeah I liked the Budapest stuff; made me think of the stuff shadowing Kara in the Living Daylights.
  • zebrafishzebrafish <°)))< in Octopussy's garden in the shade
    Posts: 4,317
    I finished the book yesterday and overall enjoyed it. But, as others have said, I prefer Horowitz' writing style: Somehow it is engaging the reader more, paints the scenes more interesting than Higson.

    On the plus side I found the main girl interesting enough and loved how the reader, and Bond, is left in the dark as to whose side she is on. The mixed bunch of adversaries were introduced rather colourfully and I thought Higson did a good job of characterizing them as very differently motivated and being prone to conflict within the group. At the end Bond muses to himself that he feels like he has a couple of more assignments in him - I consider that good news and wonder if Higson will be allowed another go at adult Bond in the present time.

    Things I did not like that much: I found the main girl's motivation too poorly spelled out and don't like it when I have to turn back the pages to look for an answer.
    Also, as someone said, the reader should ideally know more than Bond, not less, therefore I was irritated that
    Bond was not the only MI6-member to have infiltrated the castle grounds.

    I have mixed feelings about the frequent inclusion of current politics, but since the story circles around the actual real-world coronation, it is not wrong to paint a little context around it. Future readers will know more than we do about where all of this led to (Victor Orban in particular).

    I can live with the 3-4 typos I found, but had to laugh out loud about the "Bong" instead of Bond in a certain scene.
  • ImpertinentGoonImpertinentGoon Everybody needs a hobby.
    Posts: 1,351
    Ok, finished the book. Liked it, though not totally blown away by it. The end isn’t great.
    I thought the „and it’s all just a set-up for short-selling“ reveal was weak. I’m far from a Bond expert, but after Goldfinger, Die Another Day, Casino Royale (film) and if I recall correctly, Moonraker (novel) that’s been done enough times. I guess it’s a more realistic ending than this guy actually planning a coup, but it just being about money is a bit boring and his supposed plan to take over later is completely undeveloped.
    Also, while the poison pen fight is a nice touch, the way they figure out who the attacker is is lazy. Basically every security organisation in the UK is trying to figure this out and it’s Ragnheidur‘s friends in the left-wing underground who figure this out while partying, because Aethelstan is dead?

  • mtmmtm United Kingdom
    Posts: 15,355
    I loved that reveal because:
    it was a satirical point on how a lot of these people who stir up culture wars etc. are doing it as a massive grift to make themselves cash. Indeed you saw a lot of powerful people who encouraged Brexit and the like actually were betting against the country. To have Aethelstan do that was entirely fitting.
    I agree his takeover plan after that felt a little bolted-on and confused matters slightly.
  • edited June 2023 Posts: 2,598
    zebrafish wrote: »
    I finished the book yesterday and overall enjoyed it. But, as others have said, I prefer Horowitz' writing style: Somehow it is engaging the reader more, paints the scenes more interesting than Higson.

    On the plus side I found the main girl interesting enough and loved how the reader, and Bond, is left in the dark as to whose side she is on. The mixed bunch of adversaries were introduced rather colourfully and I thought Higson did a good job of characterizing them as very differently motivated and being prone to conflict within the group. At the end Bond muses to himself that he feels like he has a couple of more assignments in him - I consider that good news and wonder if Higson will be allowed another go at adult Bond in the present time.

    Things I did not like that much: I found the main girl's motivation too poorly spelled out and don't like it when I have to turn back the pages to look for an answer.
    Also, as someone said, the reader should ideally know more than Bond, not less, therefore I was irritated that
    Bond was not the only MI6-member to have infiltrated the castle grounds.

    I have mixed feelings about the frequent inclusion of current politics, but since the story circles around the actual real-world coronation, it is not wrong to paint a little context around it. Future readers will know more than we do about where all of this led to (Victor Orban in particular).

    I can live with the 3-4 typos I found, but had to laugh out loud about the "Bong" instead of Bond in a certain scene.

    I agree with your “painting the scene” comment. Horowitz created a better atmosphere than Higson did in OHisMSS.
  • Posts: 2,161
    I stopped by a Barnes & Noble’s this morning to pick up a copy, and was shocked to find that they are not carrying it.
  • Posts: 12,310
    Birdleson wrote: »
    I stopped by a Barnes & Noble’s this morning to pick up a copy, and was shocked to find that they are not carrying it.

    When I went into Barnes & Noble’s a few years back, I was stunned to discover they didn’t carry ANY of the classic Fleming novels. Had to order online. Disgraceful on B&N’s part!
  • DragonpolDragonpol https://thebondologistblog.blogspot.com
    edited June 2023 Posts: 17,932
    Birdleson wrote: »
    I stopped by a Barnes & Noble’s this morning to pick up a copy, and was shocked to find that they are not carrying it.

    Waterstones haven't seemed to have them (or haven't had many copies if they do) here in the UK either. I know that my local branch certainly didn't have any copies anyway. I put that down to the rushed nature of the project and the fact that IFP is now publishing novels by itself for the first time. They may not have correctly estimated the level of interest or were unable to get a high enough first print run of the novel published in the limited time they had.
  • MaxCasinoMaxCasino United States
    Posts: 4,201
    FoxRox wrote: »
    Birdleson wrote: »
    I stopped by a Barnes & Noble’s this morning to pick up a copy, and was shocked to find that they are not carrying it.

    When I went into Barnes & Noble’s a few years back, I was stunned to discover they didn’t carry ANY of the classic Fleming novels. Had to order online. Disgraceful on B&N’s part!

    I know, they should respect the literary Bond as a whole more.
  • Posts: 2,598
    Has anyone read ‘Double Or Nothing’? If so, what do you think of it? I’m 32% of the way through it and I’m bored.
  • KronsteenKronsteen Stockholm
    Posts: 783
    Bounine wrote: »
    Has anyone read ‘Double Or Nothing’? If so, what do you think of it? I’m 32% of the way through it and I’m bored.

    I thought it was pretty good. I especially liked the first half of the book, while the other half didn't seem to tie everything together well enough for me. So if you're bored already... 🤷
  • VenutiusVenutius Yorkshire
    edited June 2023 Posts: 2,976
    Bounine wrote: »
    I’m bored.
    This is why I gave up on the continuation novels a long time ago now, tbh. I wasn't getting what I wanted from them, so decided I was pretty much a Fleming man only. Having said that, while I no longer get them as a matter of course, I do still pick one up now and again if it sounds interesting - eg. the last Horowitz, due to the connection with TMWTGG, and OHisMSS because I wanted to read it on the day of the Coronation and imagine it was actually playing out there and then.
  • ImpertinentGoonImpertinentGoon Everybody needs a hobby.
    Posts: 1,351
    Venutius wrote: »
    Bounine wrote: »
    I’m bored.
    This is why I gave up on the continuation novels a long time ago now, tbh. I wasn't getting what I wanted from them, so decided I was pretty much a Fleming man only. Having said that, while I no longer get them as a matter of course, I do still pick one up now and again if it sounds interesting - eg. the last Horowitz, due to the connection with TMWTGG, and OHisMSS because I wanted to read it on the day of the Coronation and imagine it was actually playing out there and then.

    By the way,
    they did pull a little bait and switch on us there, didn't they? Wasn't the advertising all about a mission during the coronation and then the actual book ends two days before. I am sure they chose their words carefully, but when I read the announcement for the book, I certainly expected something along the lines of Bond tussling with a sniper while the King gets crowned. Maybe a bit too Johnny English.
  • mtmmtm United Kingdom
    Posts: 15,355
    Venutius wrote: »
    Bounine wrote: »
    I’m bored.
    This is why I gave up on the continuation novels a long time ago now, tbh. I wasn't getting what I wanted from them, so decided I was pretty much a Fleming man only. Having said that, while I no longer get them as a matter of course, I do still pick one up now and again if it sounds interesting - eg. the last Horowitz, due to the connection with TMWTGG, and OHisMSS because I wanted to read it on the day of the Coronation and imagine it was actually playing out there and then.

    By the way,
    they did pull a little bait and switch on us there, didn't they? Wasn't the advertising all about a mission during the coronation and then the actual book ends two days before. I am sure they chose their words carefully, but when I read the announcement for the book, I certainly expected something along the lines of Bond tussling with a sniper while the King gets crowned. Maybe a bit too Johnny English.
    I don't think so: I remember all of the publicity saying it was set two days before. Like here: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/secret-service-charlie-higson-james-bond-bond-national-literacy-trust-b2311556.html
  • VenutiusVenutius Yorkshire
    Posts: 2,976
    Yes, true - I'd missed that bit of publicity! Still, it was near enough to enjoy the idea, I thought.
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