Wednesday, May 1, 2013

30TH ANNIVERSARY OF JOHN GARDNER'S 'ICEBREAKER'


After his successful comeback in License Renewed and For Special Services, John Gardner's James Bond returned in his third adventure, Icebreaker. The book was first published in the U.S. by Putnam in late April 1983 (I've never been able to nail down the exact date). It was released in the UK by Jonathan Cape on July 7, 1983.

In Icebreaker James Bond is dispatched by M to Northern Finland where he must join a team of agents from the CIA, Mossad, and the KGB. Their mission is to discover whether a Neo-Nazi terrorist organization is stock piling and distribution weapons from within the Arctic Circle. Matters get quickly out of hand and Bond finds himself battling terrorists and his own partners in the frozen forests of Lapland. Ultimately 007 faces off with the terrorist mastermind, Count Konrad von Gloda, inside his massive bunker lair, the Ice Palace.

For me, Icebreaker was that magic #3. It was a bold departure from Gardner's more movie formula-based first two books and was firmly rooted in the world of the literary James Bond. One could not picture Roger Moore in Icebreaker. The book also introduced, for better or worse, hallmarks of the Gardner era, such a double and triple crosses. Icebreaker is a true espionage tale with fresh locations (Libya, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Helsinki, Lapland, Arctic Russia), great characters, a fiendish torture, and one of the best titles ever. For many years Gardner named it as his favorite book. It's still my favorite.

Interestingly, while Icebreaker was far removed from the films in 1983 (the year of Octopussy), I think it's now the Gardner book that is most suited to the more realistic Daniel Craig era. Sure, the Neo-Nazi plot would need to be updated (not too difficult as it's really about terrorists), but it seems to me the idea of Bond being forced, reluctantly, to work as the part of a team is a good next step for Craig's Bond. After Skyfall, Craig's Bond is now firmly 007. But can he tamp down his urge to always go solo and work with agents who might not share his worldview? Can he trust? Should he trust? That is the core of what Icebreaker sets up and explores.

Icebreraker U.S. and UK first editions.

Icebreaker was recently republished in new paperback editions from Orion in the UK and Pegasus in the U.S. I'd say this is one definitely worth revisiting in its anniversary year.

18 comments:

  1. Thank you John for all you do and your continued support.

    Simon

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    1. Thank you, Simon, for all that you do in memory of your dad and his work.

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  2. Yes, thanks for another great article, John.

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  3. As much as I loved John Gardner's first two Bond books, it was "Icebreaker" that I consider his best to this day. Bond having to team up with operatives from other agencies was something we'd never seen, either on-screen or in print. After reading the first edition UK hardcover, I quickly rushed out and overpaid for the US hardcover. I STILL think it was money well-spent.
    And for some reason, I always pictured a middle-aged John Wayne as Brad Turpitz while reading the novel. And Mossad agent Rivke Ingber was a great Bond Girl. Geez, I haven't read the book since '83 and I'm amazed that I can remember their names.

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    1. Happy to see how many people have a soft stop for the ICE!

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  4. Agreed. I like his first two as well, but Icebreaker is his classic.

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  5. Great collection Icebreaker's books. Greetings from Spain.

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    1. Thanks. That's an older pic (2002, I think), so it doesn't include the new editions.

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  6. Great article, John. Been a while since I've read this one, may have to revisit it soon.

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    1. I re-read all the Gardner books ever few years and I always come away with a fresh opinion of them.

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  7. I'm currently reading Icebreaker (about 60 pages from the end) and agree that this is Gardner's best one I've read. I wasn't a fan of the first two Gardner books but Icebreaker is a good Bond novel and maybe it's because he tried his own style rather than sticking to a traditional Bond formula?

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    1. Yes, he definitely went his own way with Icebreaker. Agree that the first books follow the formula. But I like the formula too. :)

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  8. Loved this and also 'Never Send Flowers', which is 20 this year :-)

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    1. I am writing a monograph on Never Send Flowers and it should appear on The Bondologist Blog on the 20th Anniversary on 15 July 2013. Sounds like you might just enjoy it!

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    2. Great! I look forward to reading that on Bondologist. I'll link to it.

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  9. Thanks for all of your continued support, John.

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