Which Bond novel are you currently reading?

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  • Posts: 2,639
    As Fleming said, Bond's adventures are implausible but not impossible. He had a talent for rationing each book's dose of craziness, to avoid excessive goofiness. The books are triumphs of an incredible imagination--and sometimes a nutty one.
  • ImpertinentGoonImpertinentGoon Everybody needs a hobby.
    edited February 2021 Posts: 1,157
    Just finished Carte Blanche.
    Backstory:
    My mother reads a lot of Jeffery Deaver's books and when I was younger and still reading around a book a week (before the internet came and fried my brain) I would often pick them up, too. So I've read maybe a dozen other Deaver books, although none in some time. I had read Carte Blanche already, eventhough I couldn't remember a whole lot about it (more on that later). This past Christmas, my mother decided to give everyone in our family one of her pre-owned books, because she couldn't really go out and buy new books as she would normally do. For me she decided on: Carte Blanche. Apparently, after I head read it and stuffed it into a bookcase in my old room, she also got a copy and didn't know I already owned it. So now I technically own the book twice. Not to be a dick and because I had rekindled my interest in Bond and read most of the Fleming books last year, I took the copy she gifted me with me to my new place (the other copy still resides in my parent's guest room). Sometime last week I felt I was in a rut reading-wise and thought I always ran through Deaver and Bond books like a hot knife through butter, so why not pick this one up to get a few easy pages in.
    This is the first (and still only) continuation novel I've read. This is the only Bond book I've read in German, not English.

    Observations:
    This isn't a Bond book, it's a Jeffery Deaver book that happens to star James Bond. I guess the main thing one has to talk about is the need Deaver seems to feel to pack a dozen twists into the final 60 pages of his books. This is something I clearly remembered from his other books I've read and something I expected when starting this one. Some of them are still annoying. I don't know what it is like to someone who hasn't read his books before, but for me there came a point in the book, where I just knew: From here until the final page, everything "consequential" that is described, hasn't actually happened that way. The part that is annoying is that I felt specifically with Carte Blanche that a lot of the twists feel very contrived and you already know from the way certain things or people are explained that there is something else to come, but don't really have a chance to figure it out yourself, because the author just doesn't give you information even the character whose POV you are in has. This also alienated me from the characters quite a bit. In other books by him, I have thoroughly enjoyed this kind of cat and mouse between author and reader and there are some where the effect he achieves through this is really cool, when you suddenly realize that one of the POVs is actually the killer and has been telling you all along, you where just too cought up in story stereotypes to notice. It doesn't work as well here, eventhough there are instances where you only realize that a certain little thing in chapter 43 was only there to set up something in chapter 62 or something, but most of those are telegraphed about a mile away.
    And I am not saying that twists are in some way un-Bondian or something. Fleming to me was a master of the end of chapter cliffhanger. But his twists always felt less gimmicky I would say.

    The main plot are fine. I like Hydt and Dunne as stereotypical Bond villain and henchmen with a modern variation. Project Gehenna is actually interesting in a Flemingesque way in that it takes something quite relevant in today's world and puts an evil twist on it. The information part of Gehenna was one of only two things I recalled from reading the book the first time, by the way. The other was that Bond drives a Subaru at some point. Weird how the mind works.
    The final, final twist is not needed. It would have made for a good standalone story though.

    As for the whole reboot/modern setting: I actually don't mind it. Yes, a part of the charme of the Fleming books is that they are not just a travelogue to different places, but also to a different time. But that time has passed and to have someone who lives in our time write about the past is categorically different from reading something written 70 years ago by someone who just described the way things are to him. This is not a judgement on Horowitz and Boyd, I haven't read those books. As far as I know they are much better received than this one. I am just trying to say I don't believe novel Bond has to exist in the 50s and 60s. There is value in situating him in our time and seeing our societies through his lens. As for the actual update: I didn't actually need to know how a 00 section could be situated in the modern British security apparatus, but I like the solution he came up with. It's not a big thing, but especially in the Craig films it has bothered me a tiny bit that apparently the entire leadership of the Secret Intelligence Service of (still) one of the most influential nations on earth is occupied by keeping tabs on this one field agent. Splitting M, Tanner and everyone else off into a smaller, more intervention oriented and actually secretive side agency makes sense. It keeps that scale of the operation at a point similar to the way it was in the 50s without ignoring that the SIS is a massive government department nowadays. It gives it back some of the mystique that modern MI6 doesn't have anymore since their existence was officially acknowledged in the 90s. He could have come up with a cooler name than Overseas Development Group though.

    Other stray observations: I am okay with the gadgetry in this one. They largely feel appropriate and not too over-powered. Sensible use of smartphones. The problem is with when and how the author let's us know what gadget can do what and what Bond has in his arsenal. There are two or even three instances where Bond just gets an undisclosed gadget drop, something bad happens, but it didn't actually happen because Bond had the exact thing he needed from that previous gadget drop and had already cleared the situation before it even came up. If there are gadgets of this calibre, I prefer it if we know what they are and then Bond uses them in interesting ways once situations arise. A lot of the twists I mentioned above rely on this obfuscation of what Bond has at his disposal.
    Everything about Steel Cartridge should have been edited out.
    And why is Bond looking for a stable relationship? The last sentence of the book hinges on his realization that his job means he will always be alone in a way, which I think is something he reflects on much, much earlier and is pretty obvious I would say. Weird.

    So final Verdict: I am not mad at it. There are things I liked and more things I didn't. I don't think I am going to read it a third time. It should have been about 200 pages shorter.
  • MajorDSmytheMajorDSmythe Moderator
    Posts: 12,979
    Icebreaker
    Maybe a little more double/tripple crosses than I would have liked, but otherwise a decent entry in the cannon. And nothing embarrasing like the ending of the previous book.
  • Jordo007Jordo007 Merseyside
    Posts: 1,703
    At the moment I'm rereading From Russia With Love, there's nothing like revisiting Fleming
  • Posts: 5,224
    Jordo007 wrote: »
    At the moment I'm rereading From Russia With Love, there's nothing like revisiting Fleming

    My absolute favourite of the books!
    A great read!
  • echoecho 007 in New York
    Posts: 5,159
    For me it's DN. Perhaps the easiest of the books to read straight through.
  • Posts: 5,224
    echo wrote: »
    For me it's DN. Perhaps the easiest of the books to read straight through.

    Yes, you're probably right there, but I find FRWL the most satisfying of Flemings novels!
  • goldenswissroyalegoldenswissroyale Switzerland
    Posts: 3,778
    Mathis1 wrote: »
    echo wrote: »
    For me it's DN. Perhaps the easiest of the books to read straight through.

    Yes, you're probably right there, but I find FRWL the most satisfying of Flemings novels!

    FRWL is the best novel imo, while DN is the book I'm always in the mood for. DN is a great, entertaining adventure. I could almost say the same about the two movies. Both are very good, FRWL even better but I'm more often (which means: always) in the mood for DN.
  • mtmmtm United Kingdom
    Posts: 11,661
    Started on Saturday and finished Higson's second Young Bond novel (Blood Fever) today. Is it allowed to say (as an adult) that I loved it? A page turner with great characters, a lot of action and much more violence as you would expect from a book for teenies.

    They're terrific books, probably the best post-Flemings; I keep meaning to go back and re-read them.
  • MaxCasinoMaxCasino United States
    Posts: 2,926
    Just started Forever and a Day by Anthony Horowitz. I heard it’s the best Bond continuation novel ever. Fits in Fleming, they say.
  • MartinBondMartinBond Trying not to muck it up again
    Posts: 852
    I'm about 20 pages into From Russia, With Love. For some reason this one doesn't grab me in the same way Live And Let Die and Moonraker did, hoping it's gonna change or I'm in for a long read...
  • goldenswissroyalegoldenswissroyale Switzerland
    edited March 2021 Posts: 3,778
    MartinBond wrote: »
    I'm about 20 pages into From Russia, With Love. For some reason this one doesn't grab me in the same way Live And Let Die and Moonraker did, hoping it's gonna change or I'm in for a long read...

    Hmm, that's unexpected. While LALD bored me a bit in the beginning, FRWL amazed me from the first page. But is indeed different from the others because Bond is absent from the first third of the novel.
    MaxCasino wrote: »
    Just started Forever and a Day by Anthony Horowitz. I heard it’s the best Bond continuation novel ever. Fits in Fleming, they say.

    @Birdleson would definitely disagree.
    I liked FAAD a lot but prefer his other Bond novel Trigger Mortis.
  • mtmmtm United Kingdom
    edited March 2021 Posts: 11,661
    Yeah I reread them both over the last few months and Trigger is more like it for my money. Forever and A Day gets a bit caught up in Bond actually investigating the case like a policeman, picking up clues and the like, and it's a bit boring and not really Bond. Bond isn't just a 'stupid policeman': he has adventures!

    It's still a decent read though. If it were a film some certain members of the Bond community would be up in arms though: not only is the 007 number not his, but he actually gains several of his accoutrements (Morlands cigarettes, martinis) from -gasp- a woman! :D

    She is one of the best and most interesting Bond heroines ever though, I'd say.
  • goldenswissroyalegoldenswissroyale Switzerland
    edited March 2021 Posts: 3,778
    Yes, the bondgirl in FAAD is interesting. I also like the main villain.This guy knows how to scare Bond and deserved a longer appearance.
  • Almost finished up my reread of From Russia With Love. I’ve really done a 180 on this one, as previously it was perhaps my least favorite of the novels I had read. I think it benefits greatly from being read in sequence with the other Bond books rather than, as I had the first time, coming to it fresh and quite a while after the last Bond book I read. The first third of the story, rather than being a bit of a drag as I waited for Bond to be introduced, reveals itself more fully as an exciting structural gambit (here the separate “parts” offer more substantial function than the last time Fleming played with structure like that in Moonraker). I very much enjoyed the Russian nesting doll reveal of the different aspects of the plot against Bond, each portion slowly making the picture clearer after that mystifying (yet compelling) opening in Red Grant’s compound by the sea. Crucially the first part doesn’t give *everything* about the plan away. It gives you just enough so that the “execution” portion of the book is dripping with suspense (which makes up for the lack of action compared to the other books), but not quite so much that you don’t have to stay on your toes to anticipate exactly how things will shake out. Istanbul makes for a rich setting as well, I love how there’s this air of death and seediness about it which wonderfully reflects the themes of the book (which, considering this was intended at one point to kill off Bond forever, are rightly preoccupied with death). My favorite portion being the unsettling nocturnal journey with Karim to murder his would-be assassin, which is played far more melancholy and eerie than in the film. And then of course the extended portion on the orient express is really where the novel all comes together and marries luxury of a bygone era, travelogue, romance, and tons of suspense in a way only Fleming could. I’m coming up on the final confrontation between “Nash” and Bond, and I can see this one becoming my favorite of the series thus far, a far cry from my first read through.
  • goldenswissroyalegoldenswissroyale Switzerland
    Posts: 3,778
    Good post @SomethingThatAteHim. I'm glad that you have a much better time with this novel now. I'm sure you will also enjoy the last part of the book this time.
  • talos7talos7 New Orleans
    Posts: 6,806
    I'm embarrassed to say that I have only read one of the Bond novels, On Her Majesty's Secret Service". I'm a huge Bond fan but until now limited to the film 007.

    It's time to rectify that; I am going on a week long beach vacation and plan to bring 3 Bond novels. After a bit of research one that I've chosen is "Moonraker". For the other two I'm turning to the experts here, any suggestions?
  • goldenswissroyalegoldenswissroyale Switzerland
    Posts: 3,778
    MR is a great choice.
    DN because it is adventurous and is fitting because of the locations.
    FRWL because it is VERY good.

    Or (if you still remember your OHMSS read): Complete the Blofeld trilogy with TB and YOLT)
  • ImpertinentGoonImpertinentGoon Everybody needs a hobby.
    edited March 2021 Posts: 1,157
    Do you plan on getting to the other books at some point or is this - for now - your only foray into the novels?
    I think one should have read Casino Royale just because it is the first and it just really puts you into what Fleming was doing with his hero. If you'll get around to it at some point you can skip it now maybe.
    I agree with @goldenswissroyale. DN and FRWL are really good calls if MR and OHMSS are already taken care of.
    I also enjoy FYEO (short stories, not a novel), but I wouldn't put it at the front of a reading list. Hell, I basically enjoyed all of them, but you get what I mean.
  • talos7talos7 New Orleans
    Posts: 6,806
    Absolutely, I will be reading all of them.
  • If you’re going to read all of them, make the other two Casino Royale and Live and Let Die. It’s been very enjoyable reading them in sequence.
  • MaxCasinoMaxCasino United States
    Posts: 2,926
    If you’re going to read all of them, make the other two Casino Royale and Live and Let Die. It’s been very enjoyable reading them in sequence.

    Yes they are! In particular, the Dynamite Comics versions, by Van Jensen.
  • talos7talos7 New Orleans
    Posts: 6,806
    I'm going with four, DN, MR, CR, LALD; thanks for the suggestions.
  • ImpertinentGoonImpertinentGoon Everybody needs a hobby.
    Posts: 1,157
    talos7 wrote: »
    I'm going with four, DN, MR, CR, LALD; thanks for the suggestions.

    Good call. Have fun. Report back.
  • mtmmtm United Kingdom
    Posts: 11,661
    I remember those all being pretty cracking.
  • KronsteenKronsteen Stockholm
    Posts: 578
    Colonel Sun, for the umpteenth time. Love it as always!
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy My Secret Lair
    Posts: 13,384
    Every so often I make a point of re-reading the Fleming novels, always
    entertaining.
  • Finished up From Russia With Love and I think this can safely claim my favorite entry in the series thus far. That being said, I do have a couple quibbles with the climax. While I think it’s within Grant’s character to explain more or less the details of the plan to Bond since he gets a sadistic pleasure out humiliating him since this will be his biggest achievement in murder yet, it’s pure contrivance that he gives the exact time, place, and room number for his meeting with Klebb. It would have been more believable that Bond found it written on a scrap of paper in Grant’s jacket after he killed him or something (still too convenient but maybe less so). The film version also suffered a minor misstep in the Grant confrontation when he was able to be caught off his guard by the promise of gold sovereigns (why wouldn’t he just kill Bond and then take the money, if you believe he cares about money in the first place?). I think that I actually do prefer the novel to the film, I might like the Red Grant showdown in the film better. I’m glad Bond didn’t get killed off in this book too because while the ending is fine for a cliffhanger, if it were the ultimate fate of Bond I’d find it to be a bit unsatisfying as written. But, those minor issues aside, the book is wonderful. You can really tell that despite Fleming tiring of writing Bond books he really channeled that into a novel that flexes the boundaries of the formula to this point, shaping it into a structure and story that feels vital and exciting. Going to take a short break from reading Bond but up next will be Dr. No, which is actually the first Bond book I read and the last of the Bond novels I’ve read before. I read it when I was very young and remember little of it, other than that I liked it a lot and it contained a giant squid or something which certainly feels like the biggest escalation of the pulp elements of the books since LALD’s hunt for pirate treasure. Looking forward to cracking it open in the warm weather.
  • ImpertinentGoonImpertinentGoon Everybody needs a hobby.
    Posts: 1,157
    Finally finished Thunderball.
    Read this one out of order as I at first couldn't get my hands on a copy. I find it hard to judge it due to the story of course being spoiled every which way by the films and me already having read the rest of the books.
    I was again fascinated by the way Fleming began and ended his books. The openings are usually where he puts all of the continuation stuff. Development and exploration of Bond's character, those things. And the endings - where one might expect or be condition by more modern stories to expect set-ups for future stories - are often very abrupt and only endings to the specific mission of the week type stories he weaves after those openings. Here we get an almost romantic ending between Bond and Domino and the larger plot (Blofeld!) that will occupy the next two and a half books (I haven't read TSWLM yet, but I heard Bond is technically on Operation Bedlam but is distracted by the plot of that book?) is kind of dealt with in a half sentence by Leiter and Bond couldn't care less it seems. I also would have enjoyed even more underwater action. The film famously has the reputation that it overdose the underwater action scenes, here I could have taken a bit more of the climactic battle and it's aftermath.
    As I already mentioned, I knew the plot from the film, although one never really knows how close the two will actually be, so there wasn't a huge sense of tension for me. Maybe that was one reason why it took me a bit to get through this. There is no way for me to know how I would have reacted had I not known the film, but it felt like there was a distinct lack of red-herring here. Bond cottons on to Largo's plot pretty early on and from then on the tension is in a way, whether he can convince himself, Leiter and his superiors that he is in fact correct. We as the reader of course know all the time that he is in fact on the right track in pretty much every count. Not every story has to be a whodunnit, of course. Following the good guys during their attempts to figure out what we already know can be riveting. For me it was maybe a bit too straight forward at times.
    Still, the book, like everything by Fleming, has some fantastic moments. I bristled at the opening at first but now find it very interesting and pretty amusing. The coincidence factor with Lippe being at the same health retreat as Bond just as he plays a role in the biggest blackmail operation the world has ever seen, is if course off the charts and I think I recall correctly that, unlike in the film, the Shrublands episode has no connection to Bond being sent to the Bahamas.

    Anyway. Like I said, it didn't necessarily grip me like other Bond novels, but I would still say it's a 6 out of 10 for me. A bit like the film Thunderball which isn't necessarily a massive favourite but still has some fantastic parts and is something I gladly stay with when I come across it on the TV.
  • edited March 2021 Posts: 2,639
    Here we get an almost romantic ending between Bond and Domino and the larger plot (Blofeld!) that will occupy the next two and a half books...is kind of dealt with in a half sentence by Leiter and Bond couldn't care less it seems.

    "Top man's called Blofeld, but the bastard got away--or anyway they haven't caught up with him yet, according to C.I.A."

    The ending of Thunderball has always struck me as one of the most melancholy in the series, despite its romance: a drugged-up, angry, hysterical Bond staggers out of bed, shouts at the kindly doctor, and staggers to Domino's room. And the moment he gets to her, as she says "You are to stay here. Do you understand? You are not to go away," he falls asleep--metaphorically going away. Domino has no option but to sigh and go to sleep alongside him.

    These strong scenes of emotion and genuine romance are entirely missing in the film, which is true to the letter but not the spirit of the book, where Bond couldn't care less about Blofeld or his mission at the end: he just wants to see Domino.
    I also would have enjoyed even more underwater action. The film famously has the reputation that it overdose the underwater action scenes, here I could have taken a bit more of the climactic battle and it's aftermath. As I already mentioned, I knew the plot from the film, although one never really knows how close the two will actually be, so there wasn't a huge sense of tension for me.

    I also read the book after seeing the film, which I regret, though it was almost inevitable. My first reaction was like yours--I wanted more of the action that was in the film, and I didn't feel much tension or suspense. The second time around I read the book at its own pace and tried forgetting the film. I no longer needed more action.

    You might be interested to know what happened when I gave a copy of the book to a friend who'd never seen the film. He told me the scene of Bond and his team swimming out to intercept Largo for the final battle was incredibly tense and suspenseful. I was surprised but realized this would be true for anyone who didn't know how the book would end and who didn't--at that point--know where Domino or Largo really were. Afterward he enjoyed the film but didn't find it as exciting as the book.
    The coincidence factor with Lippe being at the same health retreat as Bond just as he plays a role in the biggest blackmail operation the world has ever seen, is if course off the charts and I think I recall correctly that, unlike in the film, the Shrublands episode has no connection to Bond being sent to the Bahamas.

    That's right, and there's a further outrageous coincidence in Largo happening to be dating the sister of Petacchi: "Probably even Largo, if Largo was in fact involved in the plot, didn't know this."

    It's odd that despite receiving plot assistance from McClory and a professional screenwriter, Fleming would include two such outrageous coincidences. But they don't bother me as much as they should, and Fleming brazenly explains them by saying that life is full of unbelievable coincidences and oddities. As Felix says, "How many people would believe the files on some of the cases you and I have got mixed up in? Don't give me that crap about real life. There ain't no such animal.''
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