It’s been three years since Anthony Horowitz’ Trigger Mortis, his debut as the official continuation author for the James Bond series. I’ve had mixed feelings about this author so far. While I enjoyed the balance he struck in Trigger Mortis between Fleming’s voice and modernization, I’m still incredulous about his piss poor attempt at Sherlock Holmes, House of Silk. And so, I approached this work with the ever-lingering bad taste in my mouth and the hope that Trigger Mortis wasn’t a fluke. If anything, I expected better since the training wheels were off. I pre-ordered Forever and a Day when it was first made available to do so on Audible, before there was a synopsis to go by. Until I put my toe into the water, I had no idea what Horowitz was attempting. I have to admit, that made the opening of the book stronger than had I read the blurb first.
From the publisher:
A spy is dead. A legend is born. This is how it all began. The explosive prequel to Casino Royale, from best-selling author Anthony Horowitz.
Forever and a Day is the story of the birth of a legend, in the brutal underworld of the French Riviera, taking listeners into the very beginning of James Bond’s illustrious career and the formation of his identity.
M laid down his pipe and stared at it tetchily. “We have no choice. We’re just going to bring forward this other chap you’ve been preparing. But you didn’t tell me his name.”
“‘It’s Bond, sir,’” the Chief of Staff replied. “James Bond.”
The sea keeps its secrets. But not this time.
One body. Three bullets. 007 floats in the waters of Marseille, killed by an unknown hand.
It’s time for a new agent to step up. Time for a new weapon in the war against organized crime.
It’s time for James Bond to earn his license to kill.
I can only call it like I see it. Horowitz is trying to remake the wheel. We see Bond earn his 00 with his second kill in a far less messy or exciting version of the opening sequence to the film Casino Royale. It takes place at Tosca, echoing the film Quantum of Solace. Craig’s Bond echoes back to Fleming’s Bond, but the literary Bond has long since forked the road from the film versions. If I’m deliberately reminded of two things the films did better, that sets a negative standard out of the gate. That’s strike one.
Bond is taught how to make a Vesper martini “shaken, not stirred” from another woman, the femme fatale “Sixteen” who also schools him in which cigarettes to smoke. How about Bond make his own decisions, and how about the Vesper martini actually mean something? It can’t be the Vesper martini until Vesper shows up. Vesper was the first woman that meant anything to Bond. This book undermines any of that AND his own individuality if he’s taking direction. Strike two.
The villain of the piece is a morbidly obese man with a bad wig and plenty of rings on his fingers. He threatens Bond with hydrochloric acid, then throws cold water at him. Lame, dumb, anti-climactic, and not even remotely as “genius” or as menacing as Bond seems to think. Bond’s service record in the war, which is called out, says he’s seen far worse. He’s not a novice in spite of only recently earning his 00, and he made peace with death a long time ago, so disfigurement shouldn’t be fear-inducing to a man like that when a bullet would be his solution if it came to it. Strike three. And that was after giving a pass to the notion that everyone knew exactly who Bond was even though he’s brand new to the scene in this. They even hang a lantern on it when Bond says he has to talk to someone about security at home office.
This will be the last book from Anthony Horowitz I ever read. Undermining one favorite character is bad enough. Undermining two while being attached as the official author from the respective estates is unforgivable. My 007 project will concentrate on the films from here, and eventually I’ll circle back to the earlier novels I’ve not yet read. This is the first time I’ve had to mercy kill anything dealing with 007. That’s pathetic.
DNF at 50%.