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Literature / Zero Minus Ten

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The first James Bond novel by Raymond Benson, published on April 3, 1997.

On the eve of Hong Kong being handed back to the People's Republic of China after 150 years of British rule, several important government and business figures are assassinated there, with all fingers pointing to China being the culprit. In order to stop a potential war between Britain and China, Bond is sent 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.

This novel has examples of:

  • Action Prologue: The story begins with two assassins ambushing Bond as he returns to his residence in Jamaica. They're both "single-oh" agents, 03 and 05, and the whole thing is part of their training.
  • A.K.A.-47: The Triad gang members in the second chapter smuggling heroin into the UK use "COBRAY 9mm" submachine guns that resemble the "MACH-10." In reality, Cobray actually manufactured the M-10 SMG, which is properly spelled "MAC-10."
    • AK-47s are the main weapon the bad guys use, though this being China, it would be more accurate to refer to it as the "Type 56 rifle" which is the licensed Chinese copy of the gun... especially in the case of the actual Chinese soldiers Bond has a run-in with in Guangzhou.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License History: The story uses Statue Square as the site for the handover ceremony, but the actual ceremony was done at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, a five minute drive away. This is a pretty reasonable example considering the book was published three months before the ceremony occurred and the ceremony location was still being chosen at the time, and Statue Square was one of the proposed sites.
  • As You Know: Almost a third of Chapter 4 is devoted to Bond and M talking about the history of the Opium Wars in the 19th century leading up to Hong Kong being ceded to the British Empire. It's even lampshaded that Bond feels like a schoolboy again.
  • Big Bad: Guy Thackeray.
  • Bland-Name Product: The Dragon Wing Society is said to be an offshoot of the San Yee On Triad, a stand-in name for the real life Sun Yee On.
  • 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.
    • 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. The ASP was his gun of choice in John Gardner's novels.
    • The 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 Plan: Angry at both Britain 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.
  • Food Porn: A good chunk of Chapter 5 is dedicated to talking about Cantonese cuisine and Bond's dinner at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. Bond himself even thinks it's one of the most delicious meals he's ever had.
  • 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 to 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.
  • Leg Focus: Sunni Pei has long, sexy, wonderful legs that further enhance her beauty. Her unusually tall height for a Chinese woman makes her even more attractive.
  • Old Maid: Bond estimates that Sunni Pei is in her late 20s as she is noticeably older than the other hostesses at the Zipper nightclub, which she later confirms when she mentions that her mother was always worried she was almost thirty and still not married.

  • 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.
  • Sex for Solace: After Bond and Sunni find her mother has died from natural causes in her apartment, and then narrowly escaping back to the SIS safehouse after the Dragon Wing Society's assassins come to kill her, she comes to him in the night and they have sex.
    She opened up to him that night, over and over again. He filled her with strength and security, helping her achieve a release from the demons that had tormented her since the evening began. She needed the climaxes, for they allowed her to forget her troubles and lose herself in a floating world of ecstasy and passion. It was three or four hours later when, totally spent, they finally fell asleep in each other's arms.
  • 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.
  • Shown Their Work: To the point of Infodump, which has been cited as a detriment in several reviews.
    • The Opium Wars and how the UK came to own Hong Kong, Kowloon, and the New Territories are accurately summarized in Bond's premission briefing with M.
    • Bond stays at the Mandarin Oriental hotel and has dinner at The Chinnery lounge, which even mentions the lounge was a mens-only location until 1990 when women were admitted.
    • The history of EurAsia Corp, though fictional, bears enough of a resemblance to many other British import-export ventures from the 19th century that a disclaimer had to be printed in the book's opening that it is not a real company, and it's even compared to Jardine Matheson.
    • Bond's first meeting with Guy Thackeray is set against the backdrop of an absurdly detailed mahjong game.
    • The layout of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank building in Chapter 11 is accurately described.
    • Chapter 13 is called "Triad Ceremony" and follows an incredibly elaborate description of a Triad initiation ceremony.
    • Chapter 20, "Walkabout," has Bond stranded in the Australian Outback and having to rely on old SAS and Aboriginal survival techniques to find drinkable water and navigate using the stars.
  • 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.
  • Vague Age: Bond's first impression of Li Xu Nan is how difficult it is to tell his age. He could either be "a man of forty or a youngster of nineteen" with the proper clothes and posture. His actual age is closer to the former.
  • 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.