James Bond Novels


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For Christmas a few years back my parents bought me a treasury of the James Bond novels and short stories by Ian Fleming. Having read these stories quite a few times, it is quite easy to notice that they can be quite different than the movies that were based off of them cough *moonraker*. Now my real question is, if you have read the stories, which one is your favourite and why? Mine is either Dr. No, or (heaven forbid) Moonraker. Dr. No because it is so quintessentially Bond, and Moonraker because it is so much better than the movie.

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  • 2 months later...

Speaking as someone who saw the films first, which then lead me into eventually reading some of the novels, I have to say that the novels are definitely a departure from the world of the films, but in a really good, intriguing way. When I first starting reading the Fleming books, I was sort of in a period of adolescence where I was beginning to find greater interest in literature in general, and historical fiction in particular, which I've always viewed the Fleming novels as being given that they're all set during the peak of the Cold War (late 50s, early 60s).

I believe the first Fleming novels I got hold of was actually a three-in-one volume which included the entire `SPECTRE trilogy` comprised of "Thunderball", "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", and "You Only Live Twice" (I found this on the clearance shelf, by the way; a great deal for an eager new Bond fan at the time). And though I've read some of the other novels since then (although I have yet to read a few like "Doctor No" and Live and Let Die"), I think my favorites are probably still these three stories, though really the first two are superior to the third. I've come to appreciate "Casino Royale" a great deal, likely because it had some of the best character development for Bond, and also because the storyline is just such classic Cold War spy thriller material. I enjoyed "Moonraker" quite a bit; the villain and his plot were a tad absurd (though certainly not anywhere remotely as absurd as the movie version), but the unique elements of it (a glimpse of Bond's domestic life, the entire story set within the U.K., the unusual platonic relationship with the `Bond girl`) were worth the price of admission for me. "Goldfinger" was one I read early on, and its stuck with me perhaps a bit more, basically because it's the sort of story you like to curl up in a comfy chair with and read on a lazy Sunday afternoon; it has a leisurely, easy-to-follow pace, some witty dialogue, and delightfully absurd climax (amazingly, even more so than the movie's climax was, in terms of absurdity).

However, the "SPECTRE trilogy" has to remain at the pinnacle of Fleming's Bond for me: it's got a believable, truly sinister continuing villain in SPECTRE (handled with much more sense than the movies ever did), more globetrotting with widely varied locations and situations than many of the other books, and some rather high stakes both professionally and personally for Bond. The height of the ongoing plot and character threads comes at the end of OHMSS, and then is bookended in shockingly satisfying fashion at the end of YOLT (which otherwise had fewer high points than the other two books, with the exception of some interesting commentary on Japanese culture and the gap between East and West). The stories of these three novels have stuck with me the strongest of any of the Bond novels I've yet read, and that surely must say something about their quality. I heartily recommend them to any Bond, or even any literature, enthusiast.

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