Zero Minus Ten
1998 British paperback edition.
|Published||1997 (Hodder & Stoughton)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
|Pages||259 pp (first edition, hardback)|
|ISBN||0-340-68448-8 (first edition, hardback)|
Zero Minus Ten, published in 1997, is the first novel by Raymond Benson featuring Ian Fleming's James Bond following John Gardner's departure in 1996. Published in the United Kingdom by Hodder & Stoughton and in America by Putnam, the book is set in Hong Kong, China, Jamaica, England, and some parts of Western Australia.
Benson's working title for the novel was No Tears for Hong Kong; this was eventually used as the title for the last chapter in the novel.
According to Raymond Benson, as far as character continuity was concerned, he had been given free lease by Ian Fleming Publications (then Glidrose Publications) to follow or ignore other continuation authors as he saw fit. Benson took a middle of the road approach to this. While Ian Fleming's novels are strictly canon, Gardner's novels are not strictly followed, though there are some aspects that are carried over. For instance, in Gardner's Win, Lose or Die Bond is promoted to Captain. This aspect does not carry over and in Benson's novels Bond is a Commander once again with no explanation. Some of Gardner's original recurring characters are also not present including Ann Reilly (aka Q'ute) who by the end of Gardner's era had taken over Q Branch from Major Boothroyd. Once again Benson ignores this and features Major Boothroyd with no explanation. Some of Gardner's changes do remain, however. Benson's Bond continues to smoke cigarettes from H. Simmons of Burlington Arcade, which was first introduced in Gardner's For Special Services (1982). Additionally, the Bond girls, Fredericka von Grüsse (Never Send Flowers / SeaFire), Harriet Horner (Scorpius), and Easy St. John (Death Is Forever) are all mentioned. Further novels by Benson also retain some aspects of Gardner's series though there is equally just as much that he ignores.
Some aspects of the films also carry over into Benson's continuation. M, for instance, is not Sir Miles Messervy, but the female M that was first introduced in the film GoldenEye (1995), although Gardner also introduced this character in his novelisation of that film and retained the character through his final novel COLD (1996). Bond also reverts to using his trusty Walther PPK, claiming he had switched to other guns (notably the ASP in Gardner's later novels), but felt that it was time he used it again. The follow-up to Zero Minus Ten, the novelization to Tomorrow Never Dies has Bond switching to the Walther P99. This remains Bond's main weapon throughout Benson's novels. Later novels by Benson also attempt to insert some of the characters from the films into his story. In The Facts of Death, for instance, Admiral Hargreaves is present at a party.
As the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong from the British to the People's Republic of China nears, Bond is given ten days to investigate a series of terrorist attacks taking place that could disrupt the fragile handover and cause the breakout of a large-scale war. Simultaneously a nuclear bomb is test detonated in the Australian outback. In Hong Kong, Bond suspects and is led to a wealthy British shipping magnate, Guy Thackeray, who he catches cheating at mahjong at a casino in Macau. Later, after cheating the cheater and winning a large sum of Thackeray's money, Bond attends a press conference where Thackeray announces that he is selling his company, EurAsia Enterprises to the Chinese, secretly due to a long-forgotten legal document that grants the descendants of Li Wei Tam ownership of the company if the British were to ever lose control of Hong Kong. Because the descendants were claimed to have abandoned China, General Wong of the People's Republic of China claims the document on behalf of the government and forces Thackeray out. Immediately following the announcement Thackeray is killed in a car bomb by an unknown assassin after numerous previous attempts that claimed the lives of the entire board of directors at EurAsia Enterprises as well as several employees.
Through his Hong Kong contact, T.Y. Woo, Bond also investigates Li Xu Nan, the Triad head of the Dragon Wing society and the rightful descendant of Li Wei Tam. Li's identity as the Triad head is supposed to be a secret, though after Bond involves a hostess, Sunni Pei, 007 is forced to protect her from numerous Triads for breaking an oath of secrecy. When she is finally captured, Bond makes a deal, off the record, to go to Guangzhou and retrieve the long-forgotten document from General Wong that will give Li Xu Nan ownership of EurAsia Enterprises upon the exchange at midnight on July 1, 1997. Through Li's contacts, Bond successfully travels and meets General Wong in Guangzhou under the guise of a solicitor from England. Bond's cover is later blown and T.Y. Woo who followed Bond is executed. Bond avenges his friend's death by killing General Wong and stealing the document, which he hand delivers to Li Xu Nan and retrieves Sunni Pei.
With Li Xu Nan in Bond's debt, Bond uses Li's contacts to go to Australia to investigate EurAsia Enterprises and find a link between it and the nuclear blast. As it turns out Thackeray is very much alive and has been mining unreported uranium in Australia to make his own nuclear bomb, which he plans to detonate in Hong Kong at the moment the handover takes place in retaliation for his loss of his family's legacy. Returning to Hong Kong, Bond, Li Xu Nan, and a Captain with the Royal Navy track down Thackeray's nuclear bomb and defuse it. The battle claims the lives of Li Xu Nan as well as Thackeray's, who is drowned by Bond in the harbour.
- James Bond – British Secret Service agent Commander James Bond, is sent to investigate numerous terrorist attacks in Hong Kong as the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong from the British to the People's Republic of China nears.
- M – The successor to Sir Miles Messervy and the head of the British Secret Service, she sends Bond to investigate a number of terrorist attacks in Hong Kong that could potentially disrupt the fragile handover and cause the breakout of a large-scale war.
- Guy Thackeray – A wealthy British shipping magnate, his company EurAsia Enterprises is being stripped from him when the handover takes place on July 1, 1997. In retaliation Thackeray uses his company to build, test, and attempt to detonate a nuclear bomb in Hong Kong making it uninhabitable.
- General Wong – A general from the military of the People's Republic of China. Although he is a member of the Communist Party, he is a corrupt and greedy leader who attempts to claim EurAsia Enterprises not only for China, but for himself.
- Li Xu Nan – The Triad head of the Dragon Wing Society. He is the rightful descendant of Li Wei Tam and by law should inherit EurAsia Enterprises when the handover takes place on July 1, 1997.
- Sunni Pei – A "Blue Lantern" (associated non-member) of the Dragon Wing Society, she seemingly betrays Li Xu Nan by giving up his identity at a club to Bond. Subsequently, Bond feels obliged to protect her once a death warrant is issued for her by Li Xu Nan.
- T.Y. Woo – Working for the British Secret Service station in Hong Kong, he meets James Bond upon his arrival. He later sets up Bond in a mahjong game at a casino in Macau so that Bond can meet and get to know Guy Thackeray.
- As the novel begins, Bond is in Jamaica at his newly purchased estate that he dubs "Shamelady". The estate was previously owned by a "well-known British journalist and author." The author is in fact Ian Fleming and the estate, Goldeneye, where Fleming wrote every James Bond novel till his death in 1964. Shamelady was suggested to Fleming in 1952 for Goldeneye by his wife, Ann Rothermere. "Shame Lady" is another name for the plant mimosa pudica.
- 1997, UK, Hodder & Stoughton (ISBN 0-340-68448-8),Pub date 3 April 1997, hardback edition (first edition)
- 1997, USA, Putnam (ISBN 0-399-14257-6), Pub date May 5, 1997, hardback edition (U.S. first edition)
- 1998, UK, Coronet Books (ISBN 0-340-68449-6), Pub date 5 March 1998, paperback edition
- 1998, USA, Jove Books (ISBN 0-515-12336-6), Pub date ? August 1998, paperback edition
- "Working title: "No Tears for Hong Kong"". Q&A with Raymond Benson. Retrieved January 31, 2007.
- "Amis, Pearson, Gardner continuation". Q&A with Raymond Benson. Retrieved January 31, 2007.
- Pearson, John (1966). The Life of Ian Fleming. Vintage/Ebury. ISBN 0-224-61136-4.