Looking Back: SeaFire
In September 1994, John Gardner’s thirteenth original James Bond 007 novel, SeaFire was published. This Gardner Bond novel proved to be the author’s penultimate novel in his run as continuation author for the series. CBn takes a look back at SeaFire with release dates, publication blurbs, trivia, and forum reactions.
A new Double-O Section has risen from the ashes of the old British Secret Service. Now, the entire organisation has been split up and the Double-O section reports to a small government committee called MicroGlobe One. Gone are the days when James Bond was answerable only to M. Gone also is the old licence to kill, for the new section’s targets are not individuals but large corporations. Gone is the automatic pistol, replaced by the pocket calculator.
But weapons are reinstated when Bond is put on the trail of the self-made billionaire, Sir Maxwell Tarn, whose business empire spans the globe, and whose activities appear to include illegal dealing in weapons on a grand global scale.
With the shrewd assistance of Flicka von Grusse, 007 follows a maze of trails from London to Spain, Israel and Germany. But they are on board Tarn’s floating laboratory off the coast of Puerto Rico when their own prey becomes their captor. There, Bond and Flicka realise their misstep has placed them squarely in the audience to a deadly experiment that will trigger ecological disaster of global proportions.
The fate of the oceans, not to mention their own lives, lies in stopping Tarn before his cache of deadly weapons destroys much more than a few pristine islands in the Caribbean.”
John Gardner proves once again his skills as a master story-teller in this latest 007 superadventure.
UK First Edition Hodder & Stoughton Hardback
- The US paperback of Never Send Flowers, the previous John Gardner James Bond novel, included a teaser for SeaFire, citing the upcoming villain as Sir Maxwell Lustig. However, the villain came to be known eventually as Sir Maxwell Tarn.
- 1994: 1st British Hodder & Stoughton Hardback Edition
- 1994: 1st American Putnam Hardback Edition
- 1994: 1st British Bookclub Hardback Edition
- 1995: 1st American Berkley Paperback Edition
- 1995: 1st British Coronet Paperback Edition
- 1996: 1st British Chivers Large Print Hardback Edition
Relationship to the film series
- SeaFire: Bond rides a high-powered motorcycle along the ramps and roofs of Roman ruins.
- Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) – Bond rides a high-powered motorcycle along the ramps and roofs of a Vietnamese village.
- SeaFire: The villain uses para-hawks to attack Bond.
- The World Is Not Enough (1999) – The villain uses para-hawks to attack Bond.
- SeaFire: The climax involves the use of a stolen Russian mini-sub in the Caribbean.
- The World Is Not Enough (1999) – The climax involves the use of a stolen Russian mini-sub in the Black Sea.
Tried punching through this one last night to no avail.
The story’s not so bad, it’s implausable that SIS could possibly be that incompetent to not know anything about Tarn’s dealings when he seems to have the drop on them.
The Microglobe One story arc should never have been put forth, and the Two Zero section really sees a ordinary civil servant basically filing through papers and meeting with a general assembly. Bond’s part in all of this could be done by any average civil servant with a university degree.
The character of Bond itself really is a joke. It shows that Gardner either, A: didn’t really know or care all that much about Fleming’s Bond, or B: chose to throw everything out about Bond and remould the character.
The Bond in SeaFire really is an upper class, or trying to be snob. The dialogue between him and Flicka in particular reads nothing like Fleming’s novels. It’d be fine if it was a novel, with any lead character. It isn’t however what I believe a Bond novel should be, or aim to be. He’s certianlly got Fleming’s character throughout his 12 novels wrong.
I also had trouble with the action sequences, for a former Royal Marine Gardner’s work lacks suspence, and there are no real insights into Bond’s thoughts or opinions throughout the entire novel.
CBn Forum member 1q2w3e4r
Microglobe One is probably the stupidest idea that Gardner ever had for the Bond series. I hated the idea. I’m also not a fan of Freddie, or Flicka, or whatever he’s calling her in this book. Bond girls, in my opinion, should not continue on book to book. Gardner really shouldn’t have been let anyway near the Bond series.
CBn Forum member Brendan007
I think it is a good Gardner book. I don’t like Bond being chief of “00” section and MI6 becoming “Micro Globe One” with a comitee directing it, nor Bond living for more than one year with the same girl (Flicka). That is too far from our usual Bond.
But I like the plot, the characters, and especially the action scenes. The motorbike chase is cool, and the climax with parahawks is great.
CBn Forum member Cesari
It is the politically correct 90’s, Europe has been reunited, and James Bond is engaged to be married! To top it all off, Bond’s MI6 has been turned into a mangled committee called MicroGlobe One. While this is a huge change for Fleming’s Cold War creation it is necessary and just that things would change. SeaFire was a fast and excellent read. The villain was highly entertaining, and there were many turns in the story I did not see. For once the usual traitor was figured out early into the story and the story wasn’t based on one of the few plots Gardner likes to rehash. The book played like a Bond film with great action, the return of old faces, and a storyline less predictable than most.
CBn Forum member chronicliar
I’ve always thought it was a slightly curious book; a lot of build up about the neo-Nazis and then the denouement takes a complete left turn and really has nothing to do with all of that. Seems a bit curious that if one cleans away an oilslick one somehow achieves political power. The two aspects don’t gel very well – oil and water indeed. Perhaps that’s the subtle joke in the construction of the book. Perhaps a little too subtle (i.e. non-existent…)
I think it exemplifies what others have noticed about some – not all – of the Gardners; no real working through to an ending.
Some interesting characters introduced at the end, as far as I recall – the practically savage woman who tortures thingy – but oddly a lot of that is kept “offscreen”; slightly out-of-focus. Even odder considering that some of the book is extremely violent.
It’s OK but I’d be cautious to describe it as anything other than middling Gardner. As a typical example of the Gardner Bond – clumsy sex, globetrotting, twist and countertwist and a stripping away of some of the myth (Two Zeros? Bedford Square?) – it’s probably the most “conventional”. It’s not unenjoyable, and it’s a pleasant enough read and considerably more appealing than some of the update novels (Brokenclaw for example) but I’m not too sure what it really achieves.
CBn Forum member Jim
I think this is much better than Gardner’s “recent” work (pre-SeaFire.) This one had my interest throughout. I guess it’s not his fault, though, that he’s starting to repeat his villains’ motives. Yet another guy who wants to be the next Hitler. It was a well-told story, however.
CBn Forum member Jriv71
For various reasons, MicroGlobe One came across to me as one of Gardner’s more interesting, if annoying, elements of realism in his Bond mythos. It was a means of shifting the formula around, putting Bond up against an institutional foe of sorts at the same time he was battling a true villain, and adding some real world flavor to the proeedings.
Granted, it’s been quite some time since I last read SeaFire. I hesitate to comment much on the plot and characters until I’ve read the book again. While I don’t recall the storyline very well, however, the action packed climax of the novel is burned into my mind. Pun intended. Max Tarn’s brutal death at the hands of a ruthless James Bond is fairly unforgettable, as is the state in which Bond finds his latest true love at the book’s end. Gardner’s world of 007 was, at times, certainly darker.
CBn Forum member MicroGlobe One
Again, like the previous Never Send Flowers, here is one of the late John Gardner novels that I really enjoyed reading. The action (and the book as a whole really) has a swift pace, and this was one of the Gardner novels I read through in the shortest amount of time.
Sir Maxwell Tarn stands out as one of the more interesting and generally better Gardner villains in my opinion, as well as the case for Flicka. Terrific finale, made me want to start Cold right away.
CBn Forum member Qwerty
This isn’t among my favorite Gardner books. My main problem is that it doesn’t seem to be evenly paced. Throughout the whole book it seems like Bond is talking with MicroGlobe One, then goes off on a little mission, and returns to MicroGlobe One for a debriefing and another little chore to go on. I find it rather slow moving anytime I read it. Everything after Felix comes into the story is great, though. In my opinion, however, it has some really well written action scenes and Maxwell Tarn is a vile villain. Nice cliffhanger ending leading up into his last one.
CBn Forum member RossMan
It is one of the better Gardner books. Some great action and a few standout moments. Great climax too. MicroGlobe One, fiancée Flicka as Bond’s partner –yes, highly unconventional ideas for 007, but these ideas seemed to perk up Gardner and thus the book felt fresh. I remember feeling perked up myself about the series when I first read it. And a cliffhanger ending is always welcome (if for no other reason that it assures there will be another book).
CBn Forum member zencat
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