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Literature / Zero Minus Ten

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The first James Bond novel by Raymond Benson, published in 1997.

In the eve of Hong Kong being handed over to People's Republic of China after decades of British rule, several important government and business figures are assassinated there, with all fingers pointing at China being the culprit. In order to stop a potential war between England and China, Bond is sent there to look into the matter since all deaths are suspiciously connected to EurAsia Enterprises, one of the most powerful shipping companies in the world, which has its main offices located in Hong Kong.

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This novel has examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: EurAsia CEO Guy Thackeray has become very miserable at the prospect of Hong Kong being handed to China, and he drinks heavily because of it.
  • Anti-Hero: Li Xu Nan, a criminal mastermind who ends up helping Bond to foil the plans of Guy Thackeray.
  • Big Bad: Guy Thackeray.
  • Co-Dragons: The Chang brothers, who work out of loyalty to Guy Thackeray. Before Bond knows anything about them, he dubs them Tom, Dick and Harry.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Bond is subjected to torture by the sadistic General Wong, who tries to find out why he took the place of the lawyer that was supposed to meet him, which involves him getting repeatedly flogged across his naked buttocks and thighs with a rattan cane. Blood is drawn, and his backside is sore for awhile.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Bond tells agent Lane that while a kick to the testicles is painful, it's nothing compared to a carpet beater.
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    • When attention is given to Bond's Walther PPK, he tells agent Lane that he had replaced it with an ASP 9mm for a short while in the past. ASP was his gun of choice in John Gardner's novels.
    • Narrative brings up Bond's past habit of smoking about seventy cigarettes per day, which he reduced to twenty "around the time of the Thunderball case".
    • When Bond's past flings are brought up, Vesper Lynd, Fredericka von Grüsse, Harriet Horner, Easy St. John and Tracy De Vincenzo get a mention.
    • As he is held prisoner on a plane on a gunpoint, Bond warns "Harry" Chang about the dangers of firing guns in a pressurized plane cabin by starting to tell him about "a Korean fellow" he once knew before distracting and attacking him.
    • While Bond feels guilty over T.Y. Woo's death, he comes to conclusion that he'll get over it eventually, like he did with similar cases in Live and Let Die, From Russia with Love and Dr. No.
  • Damsel in Distress: Sunni Pei is captured by the Big Bad, and is tied on to the boat which is carrying the nuclear bomb that is set to destroy Hong Kong.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Li Xu Nan has a strict code of honor to which he adheres, in spite of being a criminal mastermind.
  • Evil Albino: The Co-Dragons are three Chinese brothers who are all albinos with white hair and pink-blue eyes.
  • Evil Plan: Angry at both England and China for making him lose his family business due to contract that his ancestor made with the Triad in the past, Guy Thackeray is going to make them to go to war with each other by blowing up an atomic bomb in Hong Kong.
  • Girl of the Week: Sunni Pei, a hostess in a Triad-owned club who provides Bond with vital information. He has to work for the triad to save her life (and his), and she accompanies him into Australia.
  • Gun Struggle: Bond distracts "Harry" Chang with "an oldest trick in the book" and attacks him, which leads to them struggling for the AK-47 that he was holding. The ensuing struggle puts holes in the plane they're in and kills the pilot, leading to a crash landing in the middle of an Australian desert.
  • Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure: The nuclear device that bad guys blow up in Australia as a test run is described to be one quarter short from the one that hit Hiroshima.
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: As General Wong has him at gunpoint, Bond kills him by throwing a small plastic knife into his throat. And just to be in the safe side, Bond socks him into the jaw as well and watches him as bleeds to death.
  • Just Between You and Me: Averted. Thackeray is willing to fill in the details of his masterplan, but refuses to tell Bond where the nuclear bomb that is set to destroy Hong Kong is going to be located.
  • Red Herring: General Wong is made out to be the bad guy since he owns the secret contract between EurAsia and the Triads, and is therefore set to gain the majority of the company's assets when Hong Kong is handed over to China, but Bond learns that he had nothing to do with the assasination of Guy Thackeray, the company's CEO.
  • Red Right Hand: The three Chang brothers are all Evil Albinos with white hair and pink-blue eyes.
  • The Reveal: Guy Thackeray faked his death, and is the real Big Bad of the novel.
  • Shower of Love: After the espionage exercise in the opening chapter, agent Lane uses the little time that she has with Bond by accompanying him in a shower.
  • Stage Magician: Before taking the reins of his family business, the CEO of EurAsia Guy Thackeray worked as a magician. He even had his own television show for a while. He uses the skills learned from the trade to cheat at Mahjong.
  • Title Drop: When M tells Bond that he has ten days (until July first, the day when Hong Kong is handed to China) to find the truth behind the assasinations, Bond answers with "Zero minus ten. Plenty of time. No pressure at all."
  • The Triads and the Tongs: Dragon Wing Society, a fictional offshoot of the Triad, is suspected of conducting heroin smuggling through EurAsia. Following some of its members, Bond gets to witness the organization's secret initation ceremony and ends up entangled in its old affairs.
  • Verbal Tic: Bond's Hong Kong contact and driver T.Y. Woo has a habit of adding "uh huh" to his sentences.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Lampshaded by Thackeray, who notes to Bond that he really should shoot him now that he has him at his mercy, but cannot take the risk of Bond's body or anything else remaining of it in his mine, so he is going to put him in his plane alive, and have him shot wherever it lands and have his men leave the body there.


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