Keeping in line with the 10 year anniversary of GoldenEye, the CBn Looking Back series will focus on John Gardner’s GoldenEye novelisation. This is the second of two James Bond novelisations written by Gardner, the first being Licence To Kill in 1989. GoldenEye has become one of the more difficult novels for Bond fans to collect, but it is well worth the effort. It was written in 1995 and released between continuation novels SeaFire and Cold. Included are trivia notes about the book and CBn forum fan reactions.
The first thing James Bond notices about Xenia Onatopp is her yellow Ferrari, as it races Bond’s Aston Martin along the narrow Corniche. The second thing he notices is that she is beautiful, Russian – and fascinatingly dangerous.
Once Xenia worked for the KGB. But her new master is Janus, a powerful and ambitious Russian leader who no longer cares about ideology. Janus’s ambitions are money and power: his normal business methods include theft and murder. And he has just acquired GoldenEye, a piece of high-tech space technology with the power to destroy or corrupt the West’s financial markets.
But Janus has underestimated his most determined enemy.
James Bond is soon in St. Petersburg on the track of Xenia and Janus, armed with the latest high-tech weaponry. He will need it all, as he uncovers his most dangerous adversary yet.
UK First Edition Hardback
- The only John Gardner novelization (one of two) to be released in Large Print format.
- No US hardback of GoldenEye exists.
- The UK audio book was narrated by GoldenEye‘s Miss Moneypenny, Samantha Bond.
- The Book Club Associates (BCA) edition was released in 1995 before the UK First Edition hardback in 1996. This is unusual because the BCA edition of the James Bond books is usually released after UK First Edition. Incidentally, both the UK and US paperback versions also precede the UK hardback. Both UK and BCA hardback editions fetch high prices from bidders on eBay making GoldenEye one of the more difficult Gardner novels to obtain in First Edition format, the others being Licence To Kill and Cold.
GoldenEye is the only John Gardner novel I have read to date. It wasn’t bad, but I felt that it seemed too restricted because of the way the film went, and I expected a tad more. Obviously it wouldn’t be like other Bond novels as it was an adaptation from a film, so I’m not a big fan of these. However, I did think that Gardner did well. I liked the longer version of the pre-title sequence, in how it explains what Bond’s mission was, I thought it was done pretty well. I liked how Bond’s battles with Trevelyan were written, and I thought it added more depth to both characters and showed more history between them. I didn’t really like Bond’s conversations with Wade, calling him “Jacko” really didn’t sound like what Bond would say, and I thought that Gardner tried to hard to make Bond seem more attached to Natalya. In my opnion, Natalya was just another Bond girl-nothing special-but Gardner tried to make her into much more.
It isn’t the worst book I’ve read, but it’s still given me a bad introduction to Gardner and to book adaptations of films. If anyone could recommend a better Gardner/film novel to me then perhaps my opinion will change. Overall I’d give GoldenEye 6 out of 10.
CBn Forum member Carver
For a novelization it’s not bad but Gardner’s Licence To Kill was a little better. It’s hard to keep these things from coming off as extended recaps of the movies and GoldenEye almost makes it, but not quite.
CBn Forum member Genrewriter
I’m not a fan of novelizations in the first place, because they usually don’t have anything to add; with GoldenEye, the main point of interest is the way Gardner has to explain how 007 evades the Russian military after his wrecking half of St. Petersburg, and how he then manages to escape to Puerto Rico. Just a simple cut away in the film version, but that’s not something you can do in a novel. It’s a daunting task and Gardner does a great job making the events at least 50% plausible. But still, it never really is Gardner’s Bond we’re reading about, it’s the screenwriters’ Bond. The proceedings have a hurried feel to them, and Gardner seldom goes deeply into details. Still, GoldenEye is Tolstoy compared to Tomorrow Never Dies, the Benson novelization. After having read that, I’ll never pick up another novelization.
CBn Forum member Lounge Lizard
This was actually the first Gardner book I read (I didn’t know at the time he’d done any!). I was about 14 at the time, and I did enjoy it. Looking back, it’s not that bad; not the best novel ever written, but pretty solid. I did like how Gardner explained what the dog-sled team was doing there, just in time to save Natalya. It also seems more plausible how Bond destroys the antena at the end, rather than just sticking a pipe in the chain.
CBn Forum member Mr Malcolm
Personally, I prefer the GoldenEye novelization to the GoldenEye film itself but that may be due to the fact I read it before seeing the film.
CBn Forum member PrinceKamalKhan
From my point of view, the James Bond books from John Gardner often seem to be on a “rollercoaster” of sorts in terms of fan appeal of them. I think that is the case from No Deals, Mr. Bond to his final novel, Cold. His 15th James Bond story and second novelization, after 1989’s Licence To Kill, GoldenEye is one of the better ones in his run.
It’s quite often that one sees The Man From Barbarossa being slammed and other novels such as Win, Lose Or Die or Never Send Flowers cited as average, but when Gardner had the storyline already plotted out for him so to speak, I think he created a good novelization. That is the case both with GoldenEye here and Licence To Kill earlier.
The pretitle sequence of this novelization is good, clearly staying in line with that of the film. All the characters also stay in line with the ones in the film as well; a good thing, since most of them are solid chararacters in the Bond franchise. The overall mood of the film, which I think is much darker than several others, is also present in the novelization. John Gardner has written better Bond novels for certain, but GoldenEye is definitely one for the fan to pick up. A solid 3 out of 5.
CBn Forum member Qwerty
The Looking Back at John Gardner Series:
- Licence Renewed
- For Special Services
- Role Of Honour
- Nobody Lives Forever
- No Deals, Mr. Bond
- Licence To Kill
- Win, Lose Or Die
- The Man From Barbarossa
- Death Is Forever
- Never Send Flowers