1. Looking Back: Scorpius

    By Devin Zydel on 2005-06-08

    In June of 1988 John Gardner’s seventh James Bond 007 novel, Scorpius, was published. Continuing on after his previous James Bond novels Licence Renewed, For Special Services, Icebreaker, Role Of Honour, Nobody Lives Forever, and No Deals, Mr. Bond this seventh original 007 novel was ‘set to outsell’ the previous six Bond novels, according the UK 1st edition hardcover. CBn takes a look back at Scorpius. Included are trivia notes about the book and CBn forum fan reactions.

    Scorpius UK First Edition Paperback

    UK First Edition Paperback

    Special Branch are not usually interested in dead bodies found floating in the Thames, except when the corpse is a young girl with an impeccable background when they become very interested indeed. So interested that they call on the legendary M, head of Secret Service.

    In turn M sends for Commander James Bond, for the body has yielded two things of interest. First, the only telephone number in her diary is that of Bond; second, she is carrying a credit card which has never been heard of before on either side of the Atlantic.

    Soon, Bond finds himself caught up in an unusual mixture of intrigue and mayhem involving a strange, but deadly, quasi-religious sect known as the Society of the Meek Ones; their leader the soft-spoken Father Valentine, who has links with the shadowy Vladimir Scorpius, nicknamed ‘The King of Terror’ because he is the largest arms dealer to various terrorist factions worldwide.

    Naturally, with evil comes the good – the society girl, the Hon. Trilby Shrivenham, and an American IRS undercover agent, the gorgeous Harriet Horner. Good girls? Only time will tell.

    Intrigue builds on intrigue and, as ever, Bond soon finds himself in the middle of a deadly game of terrorism and arms supplies. A game in which he is pitted against one of the most ruthless and sinister villains that Bond has ever encountered.

    After six best-selling Bond books John Gardner’s seventh is set to outsell tham all.

    UK First Edition Hardback


    • Scorpius was the first book to be published under the Hodder & Stoughton label.
    • While watching The Untouchables on and airplane, James Bond acknowledges that “a favorite actor” of his plays a Chicago cop (Sean Connery).
    • Ian Fleming’s name was dropped from the cover of the US paperback starting with Scorpius, never to return.
    • The name Father Valentine is featured in the novel, while the name of Ian Fleming’s father was Valentine.

    Release Timeline

    • 1988: 1st British Hardback Edition
    • 1988: 1st American Putnam Hardback Edition
    • 1988: 1st British Guild Bookclub Edition
    • 1988: 1st American Thorndike/Chivers Press Large Print Edition
    • 1988: 1st Canadian Stoddart Hardback Edition
    • 1989: 1st British Coronet Paperback Edition
    • 1989: 1st British ISIS Large Print Books Large Print Edition
    • 1990: 1st American Charter Paperback Edition

    Relationship to the film series

    • Scorpius: Book: Villain Valintine Scorpius uses a religious cult to front his nefarious activities.
    • Licence To Kill (1989) – Villain Franz Sanchez uses a religious cult to front his nefarious activities.

    Forum Reviews

    I don’t like very much this book. I found it boring; epecially the beginning which is way too long. There are some good ideas but not very well exploited although I quite like the part in the swamp with the snakes, but that’s all.

    CBn Forum member Cesari

    I remember the thing with the snakes, which I am deathly afraid of. I tried to re-read it recently, too, and it just didn’t work for me.

    CBn Forum member Chandlerbing

    I think this is one of the best. The Scorpius death scene is very well handled until the end, when it is totally thrown into self-parody with the ridiculous ‘No!’ scream. That was cringeworthy.

    CBn Forum member deth

    Terrible ilk, Scorpius is. I liked Bond lying to the FBI agents that Scorpius killed himiself, but other than that, the book was dull.

    CBn Forum member General Koskov

    I thought it was adequate. Gardner was able to put a sock in it in regards to endless double-crosses and Bond’s killing of Scorpius is very well done but the story just doesn’t do it for me.

    CBn Forum member Genrewriter

    Scorpius Large Print

    Large Print

    Never really warmed to this one. Can’t say I ever quite got a hold on quite WHY the villain was doing what he was doing; what possible benefit could he gain (apart from “economic” – pretty lame). Quite liked the idea of Bond forcing a villain to his death though; nicely sadistic (OK that’s an oxymoron). The relentless referencing back to Tracy Bond is shambolic, and unnecessary. The idea of cult-warped suicide bombers disrupting the democratic process does have a contemporary pertinence – probably more than it did at the time, unfortunately. Over-gadgeted, over-hotel roomed and over-traitored, ultimately it’s a bit of a bore.

    CBn Forum member Jim

    Scorpius Spanish (Spain) Paperback

    Spanish (Spain) Paperback

    I don’t remember it being this bad, from when I read it ten-twelve years ago. It started slowly, and it only picked up because I began rifling through the pages, I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

    This could’ve been a good one, eerily timely also, what with all the suicide bombings, and the political targets; I guess the story itself was pretty good. But the whole angle with the brainwashing, the chanting…that was really pathetic. I felt like I was reading a novelization of Season 2 of Get Smart. And yes (reading sequentially) I’m getting really tired of the double-triple cross angle. He’s not even doing it as much any more, but now it’s excruciating, reading, not knowing who’s on whose side. It worked early on, because I was surprised by it, but not anymore.

    There were many more weak points here, but I’ve tried to block them out.

    CBn Forum member Jriv71

    Scorpius German Paperback

    German Paperback

    A bit boring. Picked up a secondhand copy a few months ago and have been working my way through it at snail’s pace. Nice prose, as usual with Gardner, but there’s little compelling me to really get stuck in to the book.

    The main problem is that James Bond doesn’t seem remotely like the James Bond we all know and love. He’s so divorced from Fleming’s creation as to make a mockery of any claims to be continuing the series old Ian started. Gardner seems to be writing about some generic SAS action man. Very disappointing, since, for all his faults, Gardner is undeniably a hugely talented writer.

    CBn Forum member Loomis

    Scorpius is a true middle of the road John Gardner book for me. It’s not one that I’d immediately suggest to someone who wants to start reading the Gardner novels, but I’d certainly place it higher than some of his others.

    CBn Forum member Qwerty

    I’m not a fan of this book at all.

    CBn Forum member zencat

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