Which Bond novel are you currently reading?

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  • Posts: 12,216
    It's not the most orthodox way to celebrate Global James Bond Day, but I did so by reading TSWLM, the most unique of all the Fleming Bond novels. Its brevity made me feel confident in being able to read it all in one day. I fully understand and respect the common consensus that this is one of the least liked Bond novels...

    ...That being said, I absolutely adore this book and I don't care that I'm probably almost alone in considering it as awesome as I do! Ian Fleming, who, as I understand it, disliked this book himself sadly, made me truly love and care about Vivienne Michel. The use of first-person POV and extensive look at her background makes Viv objectively the most fleshed-out female character of the entire series. I'm not a woman, but I related to her at several points in the story, feeling like a "bird with a wing down" in similar ways. She's just written so well and so real. Her wanting for love the way she does, her frustrations with how to feel or not feel about things, choosing to hit back at the world instead of continuing to be so nice, and the perfect combination of physical vulnerability but plenty ability to fight back is all perfect. I really, really love her character; I could go on and on about her! I will, for just a bit more, in fact!

    Admittedly, some of Fleming's language does unfortunately undermine opportunities for this novel to be a triumph of feminism (quite the opposite at a few points, regrettably), but there are several instances I really felt like Fleming was making a point to show how ugly and mean so many men can be, especially concerning sex. Viv herself I'd argue is welcomingly believable in fending for herself but sometimes losing and not being able to do everything (two experienced criminals against one civilian in the main conflict is rather unfair, after all), but by no means fully a damsel in distress, even though she needs Bond's help. She fights and helps to show she's not at all useless, but realistically can't do it all by herself either. A solid balance was achieved here in my opinion.

    Bond himself of course does not come in until a little over the halfway mark, but Fleming himself made everything else so riveting that I don't mind at all. FRWL is a similar case, although the characters are talking about Bond often until he actually appears. I can totally understand why some readers would be put off by this, just wanting to get to classic James Bond action, but this is obviously a very experimental novel. I love seeing James Bond through another character's first-person lens! It's a fresh take and I think Fleming executed it very well. Bond himself is rather clumsy in this outing, too, which he himself admits to. Having the usual main hero screw up as he does depicts him as more believable and relatable, and shows he's not the perfect "knight in shining armor" for Viv, even though he does obviously help her very much. The brief relationship Bond and Viv share is lovely - a perfect blend of spicy but also romantic.

    Sluggsy and Horror are some really despicable bad guys that Fleming writes well. Their physical descriptions, nasty dialogue, and revolting actions all certainly fit the bill of villainy, so to speak. The constant threat of rape and actual physical assault on Viv can be rough to read, but gets the point across of them being awful and makes us all want to see them go down. Their scheme / the main plot being a smaller scale affair after TB is a wise change of pace, in addition to the many other new things the novel tries. The other characters like Derek, Kurt, the Phanceys, and police officers at the end are all well-written, too. The novel is one of the most effectively atmospheric in the series for me; the motel in the rainy setting is so clear in my mind when reading, and though many dreadful and thrilling things happen in the book, there's a certain coziness about the book no other Bond novel has. Also, even if one isn't crazy about the direction this book took, one HAS to admit that the fiery climax is a terrific, classic, action-packed sequence that stands out nicely in the series!

    The praise and good feelings I have for this novel may well fall on deaf ears, but I'm at peace with that. Like I said, I can understand why this novel would rank last or near last for Bond fans, as it's not all about Bond himself so much, but TSWLM really speaks to me in a special way. I also love the short story QOS despite it barely featuring Bond himself, even though it's ranked last right now in my short story section. Anyway, final words on TSWLM. Viv's a very lovable, 3D character, and her story before and after meeting Bond fully captured my attention on both occasions I've read the book. The first time I read this, in fact, it was raining outside all day, which really helped boost things! The truth is that I loved it just as much this go around without rain, though, so the book is plenty magical for me on its own. I'm ready for the heat I may get for my ranking. I shall be TSWLM's main defender and lover if need be!

    Novel Ranking:
    1. From Russia with Love
    2. Dr. No
    3. Moonraker
    4. For Your Eyes Only
    5. The Spy Who Loved Me
    6. Casino Royale
    7. Live and Let Die
    8. Thunderball
    9. Diamonds Are Forever
    10. Goldfinger

    Short Story Ranking:
    1. Risico
    2. For Your Eyes Only
    3. The Hildebrand Rarity
    4. From a View to a Kill
    5. Quantum of Solace
  • MaxCasinoMaxCasino United States
    Posts: 3,968
    TSWLM is Kim Sherwood's favorite Bond novel. I appreciate it for being something different. A bit slow until Bond appears, but at least it is a unique character study. A few other Bond characters in general could have this style applied to them, in my spinoff series that I'm thinking about.
  • SIS_HQSIS_HQ At the Vauxhall Headquarters
    edited October 2023 Posts: 3,373
    TSWLM is a good Bond book, and I liked Vivienne Michel, she's a realistic character, but somehow, sympathetic.
    Vivienne Michel is one of Fleming's best Bond Girls.
    For me, it's a solid Bond book.

    Vivienne Michel is in many cases, a real equal for Bond after Vesper: a woman with failed relationships, strong willed, independent, always puts her emotions under her sleeve, professional, cold, using sex as a way to escape past tragedies, and sensual, and there's a resemblance that despite of all the failed relationships, they're still prepared to open their hearts for someone whom they would love.

    I could see Vivienne Michel being more compatible for Bond, the woman he should settle down with, I could see their relationship lasting forever.

    And it's a bit unfortunate that there's a bit drop off in quality in Tracy (I've expected so much after Vivienne Michel that Fleming would upped his game in creating more great female leads, but it fell short in Tracy, a character whose an opposite of the earlier Bond Girls, not fleshed out, self pitying, selfish, and devoid of any personality).

    For me, Vivienne Michel is the last great Bond Girl:

    Tracy - whiny, self pitying, immature, clingy, too showy and selfish, I don't see her as a match for Bond, if anything, she's Bond's opposite, Bond fell in love with her because she's good in bed, Tracy in the book comes off more like Stacey Sutton (just more emotional).

    Kissy - she's a normal Bond Girl (and I quite liked that), but she's opportunistic in the way she kept Bond as her fake husband, I could see the immatureness in that, not a fan of both book and film version, I very much prefer Aki.

    Mary Goodnight - She's another version of Solitaire, a trophy girl for Bond after the mission.
  • Posts: 12,216
    Glad to see some more nice words about TSWLM / Vivienne. I also feel like Vivienne probably best fits Bond. Such a great book and character, really hope it keeps getting more appreciation over time like the OHMSS movie did.
  • SIS_HQSIS_HQ At the Vauxhall Headquarters
    Posts: 3,373
    FoxRox wrote: »
    Glad to see some more nice words about TSWLM / Vivienne. I also feel like Vivienne probably best fits Bond. Such a great book and character, really hope it keeps getting more appreciation over time like the OHMSS movie did.

    Yes, she is.
    I wished Bond married her instead, for me, she's his equal, his match.
    They're compatible.
  • CharmianBondCharmianBond Pett Bottom, Kent
    Posts: 533
    Okay so I've still got my notes from last year for Strike Lighting, the penultimate Young Bond novel going spare so I thought I'd share them and I'll try to keep it brief :D

    It's Cole at his most Higson, the prologue and James finally at Fettes draws similarities to SilverFin. Helped on by the fact that it brings back Higson's characters Perry and my gal Charmian (I know she's technically Fleming but it was one paragraph) but I think he does a good job with them, I think James was the weak link actually.

    Building up a conspiracy with even Charmian doubting James is really interesting and Cole brings a lot of atmosphere.

    It's a good bit of characterisation to have James spout patriotic dogma, it feel like something a kid would do and then it pays off when the Fleming novels make him more world weary. And there's a teeny bit of moral ambiguity sprinkled in here too.

    Also James and Perry go to see the new Tarzan film which doesn't pay off immediately but it'll pay off for reasons I'm sure will be obvious 😂

    Kitty Drift the nerdy trainspotter from Yorkshire is so adorable. Her, James and Perry work really well together it reminds me of the trio in Colonel Sun.

    But with Cole the coincidences and deus ex machinas can be a little hard to swallow and the elephant in the room is the enormous mech-suit. I mean SilverFin did have growth hormones turning a man in a 'monsterous' creature beyond any real life biology so I still went with it but for adult readers it might be a sticking point.

    Having said that though it was certainly my favourite of the Cole novels I'd read at that point. And I might have to reread it but it's probably the best of the bunch although I really like Red Nemesis but I think that book has lower lows.
  • Posts: 12,216
    A hiatus again, but I'm back with another post, this time after reading OHMSS, my first Bond book of the year. Don't worry, no quitting on this marathon ;) only going to be two more full-length novels and one more collection of short stories after this!

    Rereading OHMSS for the first time was an interesting experience. On my first trip through all the books, I considered this to be the best + my favorite one, but like many other changes that have occurred this marathon, I'm afraid this one is going to have to drop a bit. The middle section of this book when Bond is at Blofeld's lair is some of the best stuff Fleming ever wrote IMO, but the pacing before and after that is on the rough side, especially all the parts after Tracy leaves Bond after his proposal up until the raid on Piz Gloria. I find myself itching to get to more action after the little break between Bond's escape and his proposal, but there is a whole lot of explaining and setup stuff until things get thrilling again. It's not like it's completely boring, but things moved at such a perfect, steady rate for several chapters when Bond was in disguise as Bray, and the other bits of the book fail to be quite as terrific for me.

    As usual, Fleming's characters are all fascinating and fun to read about. Getting a little more of Blofeld, but still not too much, was handled well, especially the bit when he casually asks Bond about being a spy during a particularly tense sequence. Irma is a unique, more psychological kind of threat to Bond, especially him having to second-guess what she knows and thinks about what he's been doing. Tracy is a good tragic character, and of course her infamous death at the last second makes for an all-timer of a shock ending. Draco is a great example of a larger than life ally who has some wonderful dialogue and moments shared with Bond.

    I'm a sucker for snowy / icy locations in fiction, so the settings of OHMSS rank high on my list of favorite locations in the books. The ski escape, like in the movie, is definitely a wonderful highlight that makes great use of the snowy landscape. Something I preferred the movie did was having more action of Bond raiding Piz Gloria at the climax, instead of just skipping straight to the Blofeld chase. The movie actually did several things better I think, including the added tensity between Bond and M, the Gumbold sequence, and the overall romance between Bond and Tracy. Still, the book offers a very riveting tale, featuring no major downsides, just a few aspects I think could have used some tightening up.

    This literary Bondathon has been quite an experience for me, seeing so much of my ranking change. The one thing that remains consistent though is my enjoyment of every one, and how in the case of Fleming Bond works, there is only good and better! OHMSS is a tough one to rank for me at this point, but I'll give it my best shot. I think overall it's a more engaging Blofeld story than TB, but I do find myself preferring a few of Fleming's earlier works to both. I will go with this for now.

    Novel Ranking:
    1. From Russia with Love
    2. Dr. No
    3. Moonraker
    4. For Your Eyes Only
    5. The Spy Who Loved Me
    6. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
    7. Casino Royale
    8. Live and Let Die
    9. Thunderball
    10. Diamonds Are Forever
    11. Goldfinger

    Short Story Ranking:
    1. Risico
    2. For Your Eyes Only
    3. The Hildebrand Rarity
    4. From a View to a Kill
    5. Quantum of Solace
  • I think OHMSS has the benefit of having the best action setpiece in the series: the ski chase is incredibly well written, with the Shaun Campbell bit before and the punch with the watch really build the scene, and then when he meets Tracy at the end it is a romantic ending almost out of a Christmas movie (ignoring the gaffe of having Bond sleep with Ruby).
    Some detractions I have: Bond isn't in his prime (which is both a good and a bad thing) and I'm curious to see how a more professional Bond would have done this. I feel like previously Bond would have tried to get into their bedroom to see what's going on and draft a plot to flirt with Ruby, or something like that. Also, the infiltration of Piz Gloria with the army-esque climax feels like TSWLM and MR movies: bit too cinematic for me. I'd like Bond snooping in to try a break in.
    But a brilliant novel overall: It's my top 4 for sure (CR, FRWL and MR all float round it)
  • SIS_HQSIS_HQ At the Vauxhall Headquarters
    edited January 20 Posts: 3,373
    I agree with @FoxRox in here.

    OHMSS is decent book for me, perhaps with the set locations and although Bond falling in love here was not as handled as good as the previous books like CR and DAF (both have more convincing romances than in here), the romance of Bond and Tracy in this one, to say is a bit forced and rushed, more like an afterthought, although I understand it's sidelined to give more space to Blofeld and his plot, but DAF and CR did a great job of balancing the plot and the romance more.

    Bond humanizing in this book was not already groundbreaking, it's done before in the previous books, sure there's that marriage angle, but the romance in this book lacked any believability, I don't buy Tracy and Bond's romance, it's almost too quick to happen and too shallow, no depth at all, no gravitas, there's no weight in it for me to buy it.

    Tracy is a shallow character for me, we didn't get to see her more or know her more, she's a good driver, okay? But that's all what we've got from her, and her actions towards Bond made her unlikeable as a character for me, the previous girls in the series were complex and mysterious characters too, but they add so much more, they've made an interesting banter with Bond, something that's missing between Bond and Tracy, her dialogues were lacked inspiration, to say the least, her pairing with Bond lacked any spark and there's no chemistry in their romance or their banter. Her death and the marriage angle are what makes her character iconic, but if not for those, she's not as great as a character, she's a paper thin character, I will dare to say it: One Dimensional.

    Vesper, Tiffany and even Vivienne were still better than Tracy for me, I could even rank Tatiana Romanova, and Kissy Suzuki or Domino way above Tracy because they're much more interesting as a character.

    Diana Rigg did a great job of elevating the character in the film, giving her so much more, fleshing out the character more.

    Blofeld's plot was also a bit shallow, I mean the intentions, it's a larger scale plot, but the intention or the motivation for that plot wasn't justifiable, he wanted a title for such a big scale plot, the film did another improvement of making Blofeld's goal against the United Nations, threatening UN to give him amnesty for his past crimes, and making it worldwide compared to the book which was limited only to UK and Ireland, it worked in Moonraker, but here, it's obvious that this was more aimed towards larger scale, with such a generalized plot.

    And yes, like what you've said, Fox, it did really got a bit slow in the middle, and yes, the film did a lot more improvement by including more action, especially in the climax in Piz Gloria and other action scenes.

    It's not in my higher tier of Fleming novels, but I appreciate it's move to humanize Bond more (although had been done in the previous books already), okay by making a move by settling him down, but the way the book handled that aspect wasn't as properly handled as how it should be.
  • SIS_HQ wrote: »
    I agree with @FoxRox in here.

    OHMSS is decent book for me, perhaps with the set locations and although Bond falling in love here was not as handled as good as the previous books like CR and DAF (both have more convincing romances than in here), the romance of Bond and Tracy in this one, to say is a bit forced and rushed, more like an afterthought, although I understand it's sidelined to give more space to Blofeld and his plot, but DAF and CR did a great job of balancing the plot and the romance more.

    Tracy is a shallow character for me, we didn't get to see her more or know her more, she's a good driver, okay? But that's all what we've got from her, and her actions towards Bond made her unlikeable as a character for me, the previous girls in the series were complex and mysterious characters too, but they add so much more, they've made an interesting banter with Bond, something that's missing between Bond and Tracy, her dialogues were lacked inspiration, to say the least, her pairing with Bond lacked any spark and there's no chemistry in their romance or their banter. Her death and the marriage angle are what makes her character iconic, but if not for those, she's not as great as a character, she's a paper thin character, I will dare to say it: One Dimensional.

    The thing is the romance is quite poorly handled and is the biggest missed opportunity: which I can't believe I'm saying in a book (and a romance) quite as iconic. Tracy is a daredevil, fun, but neurotic (very much in the mold of Tiffany Case). So while with Tiffany it's an on and off progression of the romance, Tracy very much accepts Bond from the start.
    Instead of them making love straight away, I think they should have dinner after the casino stuff, Tracy invites Bond back to her hotel room for "drinks". But after the drinks, Tracy sends Bond to his hotel room to his confusion. Then after the talk with Marc-Ange, we need to see them more together and enjoying each other. Maybe Bond drafting a letter to her in his head at Piz Gloria. Maybe some regret for sleeping with Ruby (better cut altogether).
    The way we have it in the book, it is a big action sequence, Bond's tired, sees her and thinks "yeah she can take care of me." Not exactly entirely built up to!
  • SIS_HQSIS_HQ At the Vauxhall Headquarters
    edited January 20 Posts: 3,373
    SIS_HQ wrote: »
    I agree with @FoxRox in here.

    OHMSS is decent book for me, perhaps with the set locations and although Bond falling in love here was not as handled as good as the previous books like CR and DAF (both have more convincing romances than in here), the romance of Bond and Tracy in this one, to say is a bit forced and rushed, more like an afterthought, although I understand it's sidelined to give more space to Blofeld and his plot, but DAF and CR did a great job of balancing the plot and the romance more.

    Tracy is a shallow character for me, we didn't get to see her more or know her more, she's a good driver, okay? But that's all what we've got from her, and her actions towards Bond made her unlikeable as a character for me, the previous girls in the series were complex and mysterious characters too, but they add so much more, they've made an interesting banter with Bond, something that's missing between Bond and Tracy, her dialogues were lacked inspiration, to say the least, her pairing with Bond lacked any spark and there's no chemistry in their romance or their banter. Her death and the marriage angle are what makes her character iconic, but if not for those, she's not as great as a character, she's a paper thin character, I will dare to say it: One Dimensional.

    The thing is the romance is quite poorly handled and is the biggest missed opportunity: which I can't believe I'm saying in a book (and a romance) quite as iconic. Tracy is a daredevil, fun, but neurotic (very much in the mold of Tiffany Case). So while with Tiffany it's an on and off progression of the romance, Tracy very much accepts Bond from the start.
    Instead of them making love straight away, I think they should have dinner after the casino stuff, Tracy invites Bond back to her hotel room for "drinks". But after the drinks, Tracy sends Bond to his hotel room to his confusion. Then after the talk with Marc-Ange, we need to see them more together and enjoying each other. Maybe Bond drafting a letter to her in his head at Piz Gloria. Maybe some regret for sleeping with Ruby (better cut altogether).
    The way we have it in the book, it is a big action sequence, Bond's tired, sees her and thinks "yeah she can take care of me." Not exactly entirely built up to!

    The thing is there's a development with Bond and Tiffany Case, there's a life and it created a different dynamic in their relationship, it's very dimensional, there's the vibrancy in their banter, we saw Bond and Tiffany Case having some back and forth banter together, there's that wit in their conversations, it's like Tiffany Case is matching Bond's wits, so that makes their relationship more interesting, we've seen them got to know each other personally, it's deep, not as straightforward as it's with Tracy, where it's dull, because there's none of that banter.

    Also, Tracy was messed up when she had met Bond at the beginning, she had even kicked him out of bed, and pushing him away, that's not Tiffany, she's being this helpful towards Bond as he's her contact, but she showed to Bond how cool she was, Tracy wasn't like that, she's blaming Bond for her troubles, for her pain, where Bond was completely stranger of, it even made Bond questioned himself as to why she's acting the way she did ("what the heck?!").

    Meanwhile, there's a level of understanding between Bond and Tiffany, Tiffany never let her troubles got the best of her, she tried to keep them under her sleeve and be diplomatic and professional towards Bond.

    Even after several pages, I'm still wondering what Bond saw in her? The only thing that I can see to which is not entirely justifiable was, she's a good driver, she drove him out of the trouble, that's it, despite of the fact that the previous Bond Girls had done much more things than this girl had done in the book's entirety.

    Then there's Draco who had even bribed him to marry Tracy which further removed the naturality of their relationship, I even think that Bond just became more close with Tracy because the fact that her father was helping him against Blofeld, so there's that debt that needs to be paid.
  • MaxCasinoMaxCasino United States
    Posts: 3,968
    I started reading The Union Trilogy by Raymond Benson. High Time to Kill was just finished. It was enjoyable, with a few twists that were a bit hard to follow. Every time that I read Roland Marquis, I heard Richard White (the voice of Gaston from Disney's Beauty and the Beast). It must have a case of similar egos. All in all, a good start, hopefully I will finish the overall Union Trilogy by the end of the month.
  • Posts: 987
    Only a few days ago I said on here "is there anyone else here that hasn't got the slightest interest in the Young Bond and Kim Sherwood stuff", (or words to that effect). Anyway, you can currently get the first Kim Sherwood book, hardback on Amazon for £5.99, and it's still the first edition one with the embossed gold. A bargain!
    So, I started it yesterday and it's shaping up very nicely. I'm up to chapter five. . .

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  • MaxCasinoMaxCasino United States
    edited February 9 Posts: 3,968
    I just finished The Union Trilogy plus Blast from the Past by Raymond Benson. A unique set of Bond stories, clearly written with screen adaptations in mind. All in all, I enjoyed them. A season of all three could work in the future. They were written truly nasty at times, with the text of sex and violence, even by today's standards. Blast from the Past could make for a good epilogue for a Spectre story one day. When I read Roland Marquis, I could hear Richard White (the voice of Gaston in Disney's Beauty and the Beast), mainly because of his showoff personality. Dear Barbara, Marquis is worse at getting under Bond's skin than Safin did! I see why Benson brought some of Fleming's characters back: they're timeless. However, I can see why some people were upset with what he did with them! I will read Choice of Weapons soon.

    My ranking:
    1. High Time to Kill
    2. Never Dream of Dying
    3. Blast From the Past
    4. DoubleShot
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