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.
Pick up a copy on Amazon (affiliate link)