Tag Archives: Ian Fleming

Diamonds Are Forever (James Bond, #4)

Diamonds Are Forever (James Bond, #4)
author: Ian Fleming
name: Matthew
average rating: 3.59
book published: 1956
rating: 4
read at: 2018/07/27
date added: 2018/07/27
shelves:
review:

The funny thing about reading Fleming’s original novels after being so intimately familiar with the films is that one draws interesting comparisons between the two. The novels are relatively “small” stories, centered around one or two locales, with tight action; the films, on the other hand, are big and bombastic with ridiculously opulent set pieces and cartoonish villains that seems like a Bizarro World analog to the source material. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with either (I thoroughly enjoy the films every time I watch them), but it’s interesting to note what’s different and what stays the same.

In Flemming’s Diamonds Are Forever, Bond is assigned to infiltrate and topple an international diamond smuggling racket. In the film, though, the smuggling is only one small–almost unrelated–aspect of a ridiculous plot to build a satellite-mounted laser capable of incinerating capital cities. Bond would hardly even be on the case if it weren’t for his quest for revenge against Ernst Stavro Blofeld for killing his new bride in the previous film. The diamonds are just a happy coincidence in the film.

In the book, Bond once again needs to infiltrate the world of American organized crime (with a little help from and old friend) starting in New York, but instead of whisking away to the Caribbean for the third act, Bond is instead transported to the atomic-era glitz of the (then brand new) Las Vegas strip. No satellites this time. No mysterious analogs to Howard Hughes. Just Bond, his wits, and Tiffany Case who becomes the first in the line of villainous Bond Girls to be seduced and “turned straight” by 007.

Come for the suspense, stay for the action. This is one of Fleming’s best!

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Moonraker (James Bond, #3)

Moonraker (James Bond, #3)
author: Ian Fleming
name: Matthew
average rating: 3.69
book published: 1955
rating: 5
read at: 2018/07/13
date added: 2018/07/14
shelves:
review:
If your only experience with Moonraker is the Roger Moore film, please drop what you’re doing and read this book! In every respect–characterization, action, stakes, and plot development–this is the superior work. Fleming takes an oddly innocuous assignment for Bond–more of a personal favor to M, discovering a card cheat at the club–and unravels a treasonous Cold War plot that becomes the first of the familiar “Fate of The World” high-stakes gambits that James Bond is known for.

The scenery is local, but the plot reaches from Dover to Berlin to Moscow as Bond teams up with the Special Branch of Scotland Yard to investigate a murder-suicide at a defense contractor’s plant building the most advanced weapon to date: a transatmospheric guided rocket capable of hitting any capital in Europe with an atomic warhead–the ultimate defense against Soviet aggression or even a re-militarized Germany!

Fleming’s Bond in this story is far from the superhuman sophisticate we see in the Moore film of the same name. This version of Bond has a normal office job when he’s not on assignment and a human’s sense of mortality. The literary Bond gets injured (badly), he contemplates death (as he embarks on a suicide mission), and he might not even get the girl!

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Live and Let Die (James Bond, #2)

Live and Let Die (James Bond, #2)
author: Ian Fleming
name: Matthew
average rating: 3.62
book published: 1954
rating: 4
read at: 2018/06/13
date added: 2018/06/13
shelves:
review:

Fleming’s second James Bond outing is a more mature affair than its predecessor. This one feels more of the James Bond we know and love from the films: exotic locales, megalomaniacal villains, alluring women. In fact, although much of the original plot points remain in tact when this book transferred to film with Roger Moore ascending to the role after Sean Connery’s final departure, many of the individual scenes eventually made it into the various films at some point or another (Licence To Kill’s “He disagreed with something that ate him” scene primarily comes to mind).

One thing for modern audiences to note, though, is Fleming’s obvious “gentleman’s racism” toward black culture in the United States and the Caribbean. Was it a product of its time and place (London society in the 1950s?) probably. Was it okay? Absolutely not. I cringed every time Fleming described scenes within the “Negro” clubs in Harlem (I’ll spare the details, but they’re not unlike reading a description of minstrel shows from the turn of the 20th century). I understand that Fleming was trying to convey a fascination and appreciation with this entire culture that his audience would likely be unfamiliar with, but he does so in a way that reiterates the idea that African Americans are a separate (and inferior) species (as he will eventually do with Germans, Eastern Europeans, and anyone else who isn’t an Anglo/Norman Caucasian). The stereotypes he portrays as being endemic to an entire race of people are appalling and indefensible, but he uses them to great effect to describe the antagonistic Mr. Big.

If you can stomach the racial bigotry (and it’s pretty harsh, especially when Bond overhears background characters talking among themselves), come for the high adventure and thrilling suspense. If you’re a fan of the films, stay for the myriad of scenes that you’ll recognize from the whole of the series.

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