James Bond novels (non-Fleming)

DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
edited July 2012 in Reviews Posts: 19,724
Please post all reviews of James Bond novels, not written by Ian Fleming here.

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  • timdalton007timdalton007 North Alabama
    Posts: 65
    James Bond And Moonraker By Christopher Wood:

    There came a point where the James Bond films, which had begun by being adaptations of the novels of Ian Fleming, began to simply take character names and maybe a couple of elements and create who new stories out of cloth from them. So much so that screenwriter Christopher Wood was able to novelize the two late 1970s Roger Moore Bond outings The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker with publishers simply putting “James Bond And...” at the front of the title to separate them from the earlier Fleming works. While Wood's novelization of The Spy Who Loved Me stands out as one of the better Bond novelizations, his adaptation of his own Moonraker script does not.

    That is something that is due in large part to the lack of depth in this volume. One of the great things about Wood's The Spy Who Loved Me was that it delved into the backgrounds and back stories of many of the characters including villain Stromberg and the henchman Jaws (who readers discovered actually had a real name). Moonraker here lacks that depth with almost everyone involved being rather two dimensional and cardboard, not too different then the way they were written for the film. The one exception to that might be 007 himself though the characterization of him is almost schizophrenic at times with him being described like Fleming's original character and sometimes even coming across like him but spouting Roger Moore one liners and acting like Moore's Bond at other times. It's something that hampers the book considerably.

    As does Wood's prose. With the previous novelization, Wood showed he was capable of doing some strong Bond writing and even pastiching Fleming himself at times. Here though the prose feels flat, workman like, often lacking in details. Worse, it often comes across as rushed and forced with lengthy paragraphs that feel like that might never stop. Far more than before, Wood feels like he is almost copying and pasting the script onto the page with little thought for filling things in for the reader. Neither of which is a good sign given that this runs a mere 220 pages.

    Which isn't to say that it is one hundred percent identical to the film. Where Wood does makes changes, is when the novelization has moments of interest. If like me you've ever wondered why in the world a Space Shuttle was being loaned to the British government, Wood answers the question just a couple of chapters in which helps to fill in one of the big plot holes in the Bond franchise. In an interesting callback to the original (and essentially discarded) Moonraker novel, Hugo Drax here is described like Fleming's original character right down to the red hair, scarred face, and a couple of knowing moments where Wood hints at a potential Nazi background. The character of French pilot Corinne Dufour is replaced by a California blond named Trudi Parker in a callback to what Wood originally intended before practical considerations led to a change in character (plus a certain line of dialogue that Wood later rewrote for the final film is left intact here). Even during the final battle sequence, there is an entirely new sequence involving Bond which comes across rather well.

    Perhaps the most notable thing about the novelization is its tone. While the one liners are by and large intact and characters like Jaws still make appearances, much of the more cringe-worthy elements of the film have been toned down. The Gondola chase in Venice for example is presented in and ends with a far more straightforward note for example, avoiding the ridiculousness of the film. The same is true throughout with Jaws appearing far later in the narrative then he did in the film and being presented in a more threatening light as well (though Wood can't make what the character does in the final act any more believable). Even the battle sequence at the end, being about as sci-fi as Bond has ever done, comes across far better than it did on screen. It's things like this and the changes he makes elsewhere that make this work as well as it does.

    At the end of the day, James Bond And Moonraker feels like a bit of a letdown. It has moments of interest and difference that will make it of interest to the die-hard 007 fan. Yet comparing it even with Wood's other novelization, it feels like a flat and lifeless work much of the time. 007 may have gone out of this world but Wood's novelization feels like it never quite leaves the launchpad, something that feels like a shame given what might have been an even better version of that ill-regard Bond film outing.

    timdalton007
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