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  1. Looking Back: 'Zero Minus Ten'

    The CBn ‘Looking Back…’ series now moves onto Raymond Benson and his continuation novels. It was ten years ago in April 1997 that Raymond Benson’s first James Bond 007 novel, Zero Minus Ten, was published. Taking the role of Bond continuation author after John Gardner, this was Benson’s first full-length Bond novel and is often considered today to be one of his best. CBn takes an indepth look back at Zero Minus Ten. Included are trivia notes about the book and CBn forum fan reactions…

    In ten days, Hong Kong will pass into the hands of the Chinese–and 007 is on his way there to undertake his most dangerous and thrilling mission yet.

    In the Australian desert, a nuclear bomb explodes. There are no survivors and no clues about who has made it or detonated it.

    In England, two police officers are shot dead when they apprehend a cargo vessel in Portsmouth dock. Vast quantities of heroin are later found on board.

    And in Hong Kong, an explosion rips through one of the colony’s famous floating restaurants, killing the entire Board of Directors of EurAsia Enterprises Ltd, a multi-billion dollar shipping corporation.

    The People’s Republic of China is about to resume control after a century and a half of British rule–and the colony is a powder keg waiting to explode. The tension reaches breaking point when a solicitor from one of Britain’s most prestigious law firms is killed in a car bomb at Government House.

    These apparently random events are connected–and Bond must find out how and why. From the heady casinos of Macau to the seedy strip clubs of Kowloon, 007’s investigations bring him into conflict with ruthless Triad gangs, a power-hungry Chinese general–and a beautiful night club hostess called Sunni Pei.

    All enquiries seem to lead to EurAsia Enterprises Ltd–and its assassinated owner. James Bond is about to come up against one of the most formidable adversaries of his career.

    UK First Edition Hardback

    Trivia

    Zero Minus Ten had a print run of 5000 thousand copies when it was first released–all of which were sold out quickly, causing a second print to be ordered.

    The US paperback edition originally had a blue cover which did not fit into the style with the US paperback covers that were to follow for the Benson books. The cover was changed before release, but it is still available to view on amazon.com.

    Unlike several of Benson’s 007 novels that followed, there was no large print edition of Zero Minus Ten.

    A UK paperback copy of Zero Minus Ten that is ‘not for retail sale’ came in a Tomorrow Never Dies VHS set which was released in the UK.

    While being promoted to the Captain status in later John Gardner James Bond novels, here 007 is a Commander once again.

    Raymond Benson’s original working title for the novel was No Tears For Hong Kong.

    I may upset a few Fleming devotees by suggesting that Benson, while obviously lacking Fleming’s sheer innovative vision, is by far a finer descriptive writer. The smells and sound of Hong Kong seem to seep out of these pages and the effect is both intoxicating and, to some degree, educational. Benson isn’t afraid, on occasion, to shower the reader in the heady results of his research. Bond’s tackle with Triad forces, over a seemingly in-depth Chinese game called Mahjong, is vividly detailed. So much, in fact, that Bond’s grasp of the game seems unlikely, to say the least. This detailing returns later in the book as Bond observes a Triad ritual, and one can’t help feeling that the author, too, must have sneaked into the inner sanctums of this mysterious, ancient and all-powerful oriental force… Benson shows a good deal of skill in reconstructing this character… Zero Minus Ten does succeed, and against enormous odds. Not enough perhaps, to appease the anger of the Fleming trainspotters, for they didn’t even accept [Kingsley] Amis. Personally, however, I’d feel no sense of irony in proudly filing this next to my prized first edition of From Russia With Love. Yes, it really is that good. Bond is back, in hugely entertaining style…

    Manchester Evening News

    Release Timeline

    • 1997: 1st British Hodder & Stoughton Hardback Edition
    • 1997: 1st American Putnam Hardback Edition
    • 1998: 1st British Coronet Paperback Edition
    • 1998: 1st American Jove Paperback Edition

    Forum Reviews

    Benson’s first Bond novel and is quite good. I particularly enjoyed the lengthy description of the Mahjong game, Bond’s ordeal in the Australian outback, and that fact that his villain is kind of a drunk. Great details all around.

    CBn Forum member Zencat

    This may be my favorite Benson novel. I highly recommend it. The fight scene on the airplane is a standout among many very good scenes.

    CBn Forum member B007GLE

    I’d pick it up. Read’s like a mix between a film and Fleming’s literary Bond. Worthwhile a look. If your going to read Benson it’s probably the best place to start as he lays out for the reader things that have been going on with OO7 in the past and get’s Fleming’s mentality of Bond out on to the page.

    CBn Forum member 1q2w3e4r

    This first James Bond novel by Raymond Benson seems to often be called one of the author’s best, but I personally have never found it to be at the top of my list when I rank his novels. Granted, none of Benson’s novels or novelizations are what I’d call bad. This one seems to evoke a feeling of a 007 film in some parts. I’d recommend this to literary fans.

    CBn Forum member Qwerty

    This book got me hooked on the Literary 007. It is a must read if you like Benson, or in my opinion, Bond at all.

    CBn Forum member dajman_007

    This was the first Bond novel I read, and the first thing I did when I finished was go and seek out the rest – I really enjoyed it and want to read it again some time soon.

    The three albino killers were good, I don’t know where it came from but its the sort of thing that Fleming might have come up with.

    In many ways, I think this is the best of Benson’s Bond novels. Maybe its because its the first, or maybe its just because I have an interest in Chinese/Hong Kong stuff in general. It’s also quite like the films, so its easy to imagine Brosnan in the role. Anyway, I liked it.

    CBn Forum member Double-0 Six

    Personally I think Zero Minus Ten was Benson’s best. I loved the Mahjong game. I don’t even understand the game but that was one of my favorite parts.

    CBn Forum member philbowski

    I’m re-reading Zero Minus Ten at the moment, and I really do find it a thumping good yarn. Benson’s grasp on the character of James Bond is superb, while his research on Hong Kong and China is terrific (a few mistakes here and there, but you can’t have everything – may just be typos), and he brings location to glorious life in a way accomplished by surprisingly few Bond novels. Guy Thackeray and Sunni Pei are much more interesting characters than they strike one on initial reading, and the plot is a real grabber. Could have used a better editing job and perhaps another draft, but, heck, this is still a cracking thriller. Not sure that Benson ever really bettered it (although I’m also very fond of The Man With the Red Tattoo).

    CBn Forum member Loomis

    Devin Zydel @ 2007-06-13
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