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James Bond News • James Bond Articles • James Bond Magazine
At number two, our silver medalist:
ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE
Six members put OHMSS in first place, the most of any of the novels. Three more gave it second place and two participants rated it third.
Three members rated this one relatively low, with one 9th, one 10th and one 11th spot. Fair to say, these three ratings took OHMSS’s total down a bit, as it has to settle for second place.
OHMSS obtained a total of 199 points.
Which brings us to our gold medalist, and the winner of this contest:
MR turned out to be the favourite Fleming novel of five members. Six more rated it second and another four participants put it in third.
Those of you who are good in fast math may probably have noticed that leaves only two placements outside the top 3: one of those was a 5th place and the other one a 6th place.
With only one finish outside the top 5, MR acquired a phenomenal total of 220 points, which proved to be enough for a comfortable victory.
OHMSS had so many faults for me that I'm always keep mentioning here, especially the Tracy character which is a let down, and definitely one of the weaker Bond girls, she's just a damsel in distress, she didn't do anything, and exists outside the plot.
She's a vast improvement in the film, largely thanks to Diana Rigg.
Also Blofeld's plot being limited to UK and Ireland doesn't make sense, I prefer in the film that it's worldwide, for a much higher stakes.
And there's some slow and languid chapters, where it's such a slow burn to read.
That's one of the reasons why I've put it at #10.
Moonraker for me, along with FRWL and CR is one of Fleming's best, Gala Brand is one of the best Bond Girls, she's independent, tough and the one who'd resisted Bond's charms.
Hugo Drax is also a great villain, his plot was realistic, it's also limited to UK, but it's a lot more believable and also makes sense because it's a rocket, unlike Blofeld who's using a big time plot.
There's no slow or languid scenes, it's exciting from start to finish, OHMSS on the other hand is a slow read particularly at the middle act.
Fleming perfected his writing in Moonraker.
MR of course is perfect. Fleming may have spent a little too much time writing about Krebs ogling his torture machine and I can't believe he actually used the phrase that Gala's heart leapt into her throat, but other than that, it's perfect.
As much as I love the entire body of work, and particularly love my Top Ten, MR stands alone as the defining 007 novel. Not only does it serve up all of the needed elements, it serves them up brilliantly and perfectly. And Man is it an intense read. Whenever I give it another go I find myself absorbed so completely and so quickly. It may be my favorite novel, period.
2. From Russia, with Love
3. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
4. Casino Royale
5. Dr. No
6. You Only Live Twice
7. The Man with the Golden Gun
8. For Your Eyes Only
9. Live and Let Die
12. Octopussy and The Living Daylights
13. Diamonds Are Forever
14. The Spy Who Loved Me
1) Casino Royale
3) Dr. No
4) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
5) From Russia, with Love
6) Diamonds Are Forever
7) You Only Live Twice
8) Live and Let Die
11) The Spy Who Loved Me
12) The Man with the Golden Gun
13) For Your Eyes Only
14) Octopussy and The Living Daylights
On the one hand, the structure is made simpler at the beginning. I don't think this is necessarily a failing of the novel, and actually it's rather sophisticated starting the story in media res (it's the sort of thing I can imagine an episode of a very good television show doing nowadays). It certainly allows us time to be shown how Tracy and Bond's relationship unfolded. It's understandable the film version would adapt it differently though, especially for a film in the 60s. Tracy's depression is placed in the background of the film. I mean, obviously from these forums the literary Tracy is a bit contentious, and Fleming didn't always write the best female characters. I do think alot of these elements in the novel work and feel, in my own experience anyway, quite raw and realistic (the scene where they've just made love and Tracy randomly starts shouting at him is one).
The best decision the film made was to give Tracy a more prominent role during the climax and having Blofeld capture her. It legitimately raises the stakes and gives Draco a stronger reason to get involved.
On the other hand, there are things lost that I think are integral to this book. Lazenby's Bond is not the burnt out agent we see at the beginning of this novel, and even if his acting ability were stronger he'd never have been able to convincingly play it like this. From the very first pages Fleming writes about people visiting the beach, families crowding it, and we even go into these little snapshots of Bond's childhood memories. The man's clearly in that reflective frame of mind. This is expanded upon as by the next chapter we learn our hero is drafting a resignation letter from the Service, and there's even a nice parallel to what happens next in the sense that he's visiting Vesper's grave. This sense of reflectiveness, memory, the past etc. is all wonderfully written by Fleming, and I'd go as far as to say that some his prose in this novel is both genuinely well written and some of his best. To me, it makes sense reading the novel that it ultimately ends in Bond getting married, and to this rather enigmatic woman at that.
The Piz Gloria sections with Bond undercover genuinely feel like Bond is in danger throughout, and one wrong move could cost him. I feel the film never quite managed this. The main plot of a biological attack on Britain's agriculture is dated, but in the context of the post WW2 era makes makes more sense as this was more of a key industry at that time. The film's decision to make it a worldwide attack is more timeless, but we go get some silly stereotyping of various nationalities which also somewhat dates the film, so... hey ho.
I can see why some people are more drawn to this novel than others, and like I've done I think it's always going to be compared to the film. I will say, however, that the ending in both is great. It'd have been tempting for Fleming to write Bond breaking down in tears, go into some long passage etc. Instead, we get Bond looking down at the body of his dead wife - his chance at happiness and a life outside the Service gone - and we get a few lines where he says she's only sleeping, they'll be moving on soon. This is genuinely something some individuals do in moments of trauma. It's as if Bond knows what has happened, but he doesn't want it to be true. It's heartbreaking to read and it's a really astute decision by Fleming.
Overall, I'm a fan of OHMSS and I do think it showcases some of Fleming's best prose. That said, I'm glad MR got the top spot. It's my favourite of the series and it's one I come back to the most. I'll post a little review of it later.
I think this is a really overlooked point. While I love the OHMSS film, I think this is the part that makes it a bit inferior to the novel.
Not that SP isn't awful for so many other reasons...critically, making Oberhauser and Blofeld one and the same.
That's one of the reasons why I'd liked the film more, think of Casino Royale being adapted in a different time period (1953 and 2006), they need to change things from the novel, but unlike OHMSS, it didn't worked.
OHMSS, on the other hand, modernized the novel quite a bit, but for the better, especially Tracy who isn't gave much of a role and personality, some of her dialogues also gives the book somewhat a sexist/misogynist touch to me, and her behavior in the book didn't aged well.
Tracy (in the book) isn't the woman Bond deserved, she's not the woman I'm seeing Bond would get married to, agree with @Some_Kind_Of_Hero when it comes to this, it's really hard to see.
She's more of a liability, a baggage than an asset for Bond, first of all, she exists outside the plot, in terms of plotting, her scenes didn't make sense.
She's not as competent as the other Bond Girls, she didn't do anything that satisfied Bond, did she helped him? No, she's more of a decoration, a design, an eye candy (dare I say it) more than a real character with intention. Tracy was simply a helpless character that didn't served any purpose other than just be a romantic foil to Bond.
It didn't helped that when she returned and cured, she's already subservient to Bond, she's almost a lifeless character when she'd cured and returned.
She's in the same vein as Stacey Sutton for me.
I just don't buy her as Bond's one true love as Vesper does, because Vesper was more deeply connected to Bond, in mission, in his feelings, and in the plot.
Dare I say it, Tracy was a victim of Fleming's misogyny, his sexism, it's all a culmination of it.
About Blofeld's plot, it's like in Casino Royale, many people prefer Poker than Baccarat because it would make sense for the time period, but in OHMSS, the worldwide plot makes more sense, especially that his plot involves biological warfare, thus raising the stakes much more higher, it's more threatening, it's modernized and makes more sense.
And again, one of my complaints with the novel is it's so long and slow, that there's so many unnecessary scenes going on that could be cut, it could be more shorter.
Like I said, Fleming was mixed when it came to writing female characters, and there's also an element that we're looking at it from a different, more modern perspective, which is completely legitimate. I think what makes the novel work is because Bond is at that point in his life and is in that reflective state of mind. It's a similar dynamic to the CR novel for me - I personally think Vesper is a rather weakly written character, but I understand why Bond would want to settle down with such a woman. By the end of that novel he's disillusioned with the Cold War and the spy game. Even if Vesper is this rather enigmatic figure she presents an alternative life for him. Tracy in OHMSS is that too.
In that way, I think considering who is the 'love of Bond's life' is a bit misleading, and it's more a question of why these women. Tiffany Case is a much better written and more interesting character than either Vesper or Tracy, and Bond even has a relationship with her. Arguably if he were at a different point in his life (at least in the sense of the novels) he would have settled down with her, but he doesn't. Then again there's also a case to be made that Bond can never settle with any woman and have that happy life. Even in NTTD he can't ever have that... it's kinda the tragedy of his character.
For what it's worth, I think Tracy in the novel does have her positive points. I think having Diana Rigg play her the way she did in the film was better suited to that medium though, and I don't think the depiction of Tracy's mental illness would have worked for a film of that time.
As for Blofeld's scheme in OHMSS, I really don't think it matters whether it's a worldwide or nationwide threat. Even in the film it's not as much a 'ticking bomb' device but more something to allow Bond to thwart. It's not inherently a high stakes plot as is the case with TB or MR. It's more a story about Bond himself, finding his 'white whale' in the form of Blofeld (which interestingly leads to tragedy), coming to a different point in his life. Essentially it makes little difference on the viewer or reader for me. If anything the fact that it's specifically targeting Britain's agricultural industry in post WW2 would have meant more for readers at the time.
As for the book being long and slow, as I said I think Fleming's prose is inherently constructed in this one to really give that sense of reflectiveness and memory. It explains the vivd descriptions at the beginning, the structure of the first third etc. I think it's great to read personally. But to each their own.
Yes, I'm at it, but again, this is the most personal for Bond himself, it's all about him in this book, it's him who's been given the much more concentration than those happening around him, that's why I think this novel didn't worked as a Bond Adventure, but more of Bond's story, just like The Spy Who Loved Me is all about Vivienne Michel's.
I wished Fleming made it more like TSWLM with Bond instead of Vivienne, instead of entangling Bond's personal arc with SPECTRE, it's a bit inconsistent, it's a book that's trying to be a personal story for Bond whilst being a standard Bond adventure, that didn't worked.
And it didn't helped that the characters weren't fleshed out, Draco for example and even Blofeld himself (whom like what I've said had been given a weak description after Thunderball), and the romance that's also rushed and not fleshed out.
It's an overstuffed novel, but not cooked.
It's a pretentious one.
No, I don't see any positive points from Tracy, aside from driving Bond out of the situation in Switzerland (which was a coincidence or accidental), I don't think she'd done something that would earn her as an individual character for me, she's just helpless, she didn't do anything.
We never got to learn what she could do, other than to look beautiful and sympathetic in front of Bond himself.
Again, just like Stacey Sutton, heck even Stacey Sutton had been given more of a role than what Tracy in this novel, at least Stacey helped Bond beat Max Zorin, with Tracy, she just didn't do anything, she's just there.
Yes, to each their own, I'm with @Some_Kind_Of_Hero when it comes to this, the middle sections where Bond returned to England from Switzerland was also really slow.
I have problems with TSWLM. For starters Viv isn't all that well fleshed out from a character arc perspective. She is a woman who goes through two bad relationships, the men in her life walking out on her during tough times. She gets in trouble and James Bond shows up, rescuing her from a life threatening situation. That's an interesting set up, and as story convention necessitates, she falls for him.
The problem is by the end Bond does the same thing to her that the other men did. He leaves her. We get a nice little aside by a policeman who says (rather correctly) that while Bond isn't a gangster, he's a man wrapped up in a very dangerous profession, and isn't the sort of man anyone should fall for without knowing this. It's a very interesting idea, and using this woman's story it's about how she (and by extension the reader) views James Bond, challenging the way some people are prone to idolising him when he's a man with some very serious flaws.
My issue is by the end Viv doesn't seem to take this advice to heart, and reminisces over her encounter with Bond, saying any 'scars' from her experience were wiped away by him. It's a shame because I feel it defeats the whole point of what Fleming was trying to do with this story. Essentially Viv learns nothing from her experience.
In this sense, OHMSS works better for me and feels more consistent. There are criticisms to be made about Tracy (same for many other women in Fleming's writing) but by prioritising Bond's perspective you have a story which feels a bit more rounded, consistent and makes more sense. TSLWM I find is the weaker novel.
To each their own. I thought Draco was well fleshed out. He's a character designed in the same vein as Darko Kerim, Tiger Tanaka, and indeed many other allies in the Bond novels. They blur the lines between good and evil in the sense that they aren't particularly moral men. I mean, Draco's on par with Kerim in the sense that he admits he raped Tracy's Mother and is a gangster. Bond would never have anything to do with him if it weren't for Tracy, and it's a dynamic I feel Fleming writes very well in the scenes between him and Bond, as well as in what Draco does.
Blofeld is an odd, and on the surface contradictory character in the novels, but I think if you read TB, OHMSS and YOLT together there is a clear arc there. In TB he's an ambitious criminal, and seems in it for the money. Perhaps he has some grand ambitions and egomania behind this (as one would have to have to have to come up with such a plan) but this is his driving motivation. By the beginning of OHMSS, SPECTRE has been 'outed' and if anything has been broken up. What I find interesting about the character is that the smaller his criminal organisation becomes, the more his egomania takes hold. By YOLT he has a full on Napoleon complex and seems to believe he's some sort of 'great man', but it's very much there in OHMSS too, and I think Fleming plants these seeds effectively. Things like Blofeld wanting to assume the title of a Count, changing his appearance into this unrecognisable figure (in a sense reflecting how his character changes throughout this trilogy) do seem well thought out to me.
Like I said, I think there's a lot of great writing in there. Among Fleming's many qualities I don't think pretentious is something I'd ever apply to any of his writing. But again, to each their own.
It's not 100% accidental. Tracy was specifically looking for Bond, Draco fearing he was in danger after not hearing from him for a long period.
Anyway, I think her rescuing Bond and driving him out of danger is meant to be the point at which narratively Bond truly falls for her, seeing a change in her. I mean, at least Tracy has a character arc throughout the novel. At the beginning she is suicidal, nihilistic, but as the novel progresses she is able to face her demons and come out of it with a new lease on life and is more resourceful by the end. Viv doesn't change throughout TSWLM fundamentally.
Not saying it's perfect nor beyond criticism - essentially this change is necessitated and pushed by the men in her life, and certainly the film improves on aspects of Tracy's character in the way she's written and what plot adaptations they chose to make. But I wouldn't say she's Fleming's worst female character, nor the worst in the Bond series in general.
I think at the end, she became almost a subservient character, and saying those words like "I will obey you, and do everything that you will said".
Her arc wasn't completely well written, we never got to know how she changes, we've just suddenly met her cured all of a sudden, it's quick.
And yes, she became this woman who's prepared to follow Bond's orders like a slave towards the end, Bond even told her to be a Good Girl.
There are no worst Bond Girls, they all have their merits, but Tracy is probably my least favorite Fleming Bond Girl, she's even not on par with Solitaire because at least Solitaire had at least relevance to the plot and helped Bond defeat Mr. B.I.G.
But Tracy's not the worst, I still give her credit for marrying Bond, but aside from that, as an individual character, there's nothing.
Vivienne Michel is where I could see Bond getting married to, because they're almost the same, both are hurt and got through many love affairs, in many experiences and challenges, betrayed by their lovers, no trust in everyone and cold, and that shaped them into who they are.
Vivienne Michel is a bit flawed or damaged but without getting too sentimental and weak, like Bond.
Vivienne Michel's arc is more complete than Tracy, because we're told how she changed.
With Tracy, it's almost quick after her long absence.
For me, GF is the sole instance where I prefer the film to the novel. But upon this latest read I was reminded of how much great stuff is actually in there that we don’t see transferred to the film.
Hmm, not sure if I'm seeing any of that with Viv unfortunately. Like I said, her character set up is interesting, but she has no self-reflectiveness and doesn't fundamentally change. Like I said, another character even spells it out for her: do not fall for such a man, you are idolising someone who is flawed. One would think it'd be a good lesson not only about James Bond, but how she approaches the other men/relationships in her life. But no, by the end she can't even admit that the situation will have a long term impact on her due to the fact that she was 'saved' by this hero of a man. I feel it's a bit of a lost opportunity on Fleming's part. He understood that his protagonist was flawed, and that there were readers who idolised him without acknowledging this. Why could he not have the narrator of his book come to this conclusion too? Sure, Viv and Bond have had relationships that haven't worked out in the past, but they don't exactly discuss or bond over this. Viv is also rather subservient to Bond, as are many of the women in these novels. She doesn't learn from her experiences, so while she might be more interesting than Tracy in a sense, she doesn't really have an arc. It's something I find frustrating with that novel anyway.
I'm not saying the literary Tracy is beyond criticism, nor that her arc isn't influenced by the men around her, but there is an arc there. She does have an impact on the plot by rescuing Bond, and I'd say she has more impact on the story (and Bond) in this sense than Solitare did in LALD objectively (she doesn't really do anything to help Bond uncover Mr. Big's plan and even when she defects from him she's only captured again). Bond constantly tells the women in these books to be 'good girls' so it's nothing new to Tracy.
I mean, she's no Tiffany Case or Honey Rider, or even a Gala Brand. Yes, the film version did a lot to improve her character. It's very much a common criticism with these novels though, and I don't see how Tracy is any worse than some of the others.
Let s hope they use some more of it in the future .
2. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
3. From Russia, with Love
4. Dr. No
5. You Only Live Twice
6. Casino Royale
7. Live and Let Die
9. For Your Eyes Only
11. Octopussy and The Living Daylights
12. Diamonds Are Forever
13. The Spy Who Loved Me
14. The Man with the Golden Gun
As you might have noticed I used the Michael Gillette covers for presenting these novels during this contest.
Here are three more designs that were not used for the presentations (I decided to thrown them in as bonus since I love these designs so much):
I believe @michael_gillette is even a member here, although not sure if he’s a regular visitor or not.
Really liked the Quantum of Solace one.....
I have a few ideas. John Gardener, Raymond Benson or all of the one off continuation authors.
I doubt we have many members who have actually read these. The Fleming books barely managed to find enough participants.
I remember there was quite an audience for the pre-title sequences, so I was considering that one to be next…
Enjoy it! Take your time, it's okay. 🙂
Sounds good to me.