Quick Big Mi6 Fleming Novel Ranking

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  • GoldenGunGoldenGun Per ora e per il momento che verrà
    Posts: 6,780
    Right folks, we’re halfway through, and as @Birdleson predicted correctly, at number 7 we have:

    LIVE AND LET DIE

    tumblr_p7urx6NCsM1wltejzo1_1280.jpg

    LALD managed to obtain one bronze medal and two 4th places. Three members rated it just outside their top 5, at 6th.

    No last places for this one, though it did receive three bottom 3’s, with one penultimate place as its worst ranking.

    In total LALD secured 120 points.
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger Das Boot Hill
    Posts: 45,489
    I gave it the bronze. I must be its biggest fan. The underwater sequence with Bond here is one of the best in the series. A shame the film was so poor in comparison.
  • edited August 2022 Posts: 2,882
    I think I put it 7th. It's one I enjoy a lot. While CR ranks a bit higher, this is an excellent follow up, and for me is the first time Fleming begins to understand how to write a James Bond novel. In comparison to the low key, almost character drama we got with CR, LALD gives us a more escapist, but surreal adventure featuring hints of voodoo and allusions to the supernatural. It's the first time I got the sense that Fleming was dipping his toes into the fantastical, all while keeping things grounded with fallible characters (there's of course Leiter getting his leg and hand eaten off, while Bond himself sports a broken finger throughout the book). We get a bit of globe trotting with some excellent descriptions of Jamaica as well as New York too.

    Most of the racial politics are dated, to put it politely. Stuff like Quarrel having certain features which resemble a white man's is a bit questionable looking back on it nowadays. Still, I've read a lot worse. I actually like Mr. Big as a villain. For me, he's a template for the stronger Bond villains to come in Fleming's novels - his striking appearance, the egomania, his way of talking etc. He's not as grotesque as Le Chiffre was in CR, but feels like more of a threat to Bond.

    I think Fleming would continue to hone his storytelling, but for me this novels serves as great precursor to where he would go later. Without LALD, I can't see how we'd ever have gotten something like YOLT, nor can I see a villain like Goldfinger or Blofeld being the same without this one.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson Moderator
    Posts: 2,161
    Number 9 for me, still a “favorite”, there are just eight I love even more. Great villain, great location, and great climax.
  • 7 for me. From here on out it was very difficult to rank as they’re all pretty great. Live and Let Die is one of the best as a pure thriller — there’s a reason so many of its set-pieces have been pilfered across the movies, and they’re just as exciting on the page. Fleming’s language is very descriptive across the book, which makes both the settings and the action feel very alive.

    It’s also fairly unique in that its above-average level of violence and quasi-supernatural vibes make for a rather mean and eerie novel, and I love its pulpier elements like pirate treasure plot and island fortress protected by barracuda. Mr. Big is also a fantastic villain and I hope the films will incorporate his unused elements one day.

    What hold it back from upper tier are that Solitaire is a pretty weak character who is really just a trophy for Bond, and its not until Felix is kidnapped that the book really kicks into gear (though I do like Felix and Bond pal-ing around New York). I also find the racial stereotypes distasteful even considering the age of the material. But really it’s a damn fine thriller and Fleming really finding the template for what the future Bond novels would be.

  • edited August 2022 Posts: 12,264
    LALD was just outside my Top 5 at #6. It’s a wildly entertaining outing, and a much more fantastical romp than the very grounded debut of CR before it. The story, the bad guys, the girl, the action - all of it clicked great for me! Only downside that comes to mind is the awkward racial stuff. But the book is a superb adventure, and where I realized for sure the Fleming novels would be for me.

    I’m guessing either DN or YOLT is up next.
  • GoldenGunGoldenGun Per ora e per il momento che verrà
    Posts: 6,780
    LALD is not an easy one for me. I always read Bond in English (when I understand the original language, I usually stay away from translations), but it is not my mother tongue and some of the ‘slang’ dialogue in LALD is written in such a way I have to reread it a few times to really get what’s being said.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 23,536
    This is a great follow-up novel to Casino Royale. I love the tense climax, how Bond deals with the thugs early in the story, his conversations with Mr Big, everything about Solitaire... There is still some strong competition, but LALD is a great book in itself.
  • SIS_HQSIS_HQ At the Vauxhall Headquarters
    Posts: 3,390
    #12 for me, but still prefer it than the film, at least there's no Bond tricking Solitaire into sex, inflating Kananga and Bond being able to survive because of his gadgets instead of wits.
  • BirdlesonBirdleson Moderator
    Posts: 2,161
    "...Bond tricking Solitaire into sex..."

    One of my favorite moments! The audience exploded.
  • echoecho 007 in New York
    Posts: 5,975
    *Only* Roger Moore could have done that scene...it might be the only moment in the series where you could not swap in another Bond.
  • Posts: 2,882
    echo wrote: »
    *Only* Roger Moore could have done that scene...it might be the only moment in the series where you could not swap in another Bond.

    I'd argue the opposite. If anything I suspect Connery would have gotten away with it due to the fact that his films often have Bond behaving rather... well, let's just say even for the time questionably towards women (I'm thinking of things like him randomly kissing the nurse in TB and the infamous barn scene in GF). It helps that he played the part rather humorously when needed and had that 'cheeky' quality to his Bond which didn't make it feel sleazy or dark.

    Moore's Bond, on the other, always comes off as an a*sehole in that scene for me. Same for how he treats Goodnight for most of TMWTGG. Moore was a great actor, far better than many believe him to be, but it took them until TSWLM to get to grips with how his Bond was to be written.
  • GoldenGunGoldenGun Per ora e per il momento che verrà
    edited September 2022 Posts: 6,780
    At number 6, maybe slightly surprising, we have:

    CASINO ROYALE

    casino-royale-book-4.jpg?w=301&h=&zoom=2

    Only one participant gave CR the gold medal, while it also received one silver and two bronze medals.

    Further down the top half, it was given four 4th and two 6th places. On the other hand, one member also gave it the penultimate spot.

    CR received a total of 151 points.
  • edited August 2022 Posts: 2,882
    It's definitely one of Fleming's best novels, and obviously it got the ball rolling with regards to the literary Bond series. I love the opening particularly where Fleming describes the smoke and smell of sweat in the casino, and we're then introduced to this mysterious secret agent. We read of the little traps he's set up around his hotel room to ensure no one has broken in, the fact that he sleeps with a gun under his pillow etc. It all conveys really effectively the kind of profession Bond has and how he's constantly on his guard.

    Apart from that we have some great secondary characters. Mathis is the original Bond ally and has a sort of rougish charm to him that would be expanded upon with characters like Darko Kerim going forward. I love Felix and Bond's interactions too and Feming sets up their friendship effectively. Le Chiffre, of course, is a highlight. He's rather more grotesque and sadistic compared to his movie counterpart, but I never got the sense that he was an evil man. A bad one, sure, but unlike other Bond villains in the series he's a man who has made a mistake and is scrambling to save his own life. The contrast between the brutal torture scene and Le Chiffre's quiet, polite 'my dear boy' talk is actually really chilling.

    Bond himself isn't quite the same character in this one that Fleming would develop him into later. He certainly comes off as a younger, more arrogant man when we first meet him (very sexist as well, and not in a way I think Fleming intended to be charming, but in a rather caddish 'women should be in the kitchen' manner). Even the fact that Vesper states he looks like a young Hoagey Carmichael is jarring as a reader today, assuming this reference brings anything to mind at all. Still, by the time we get to the third act. Bond becomes immediately cynical about the spy game and ultimately decides to retire. Of course, Vesper's suicide and revelation changes this, but he's a changed man. Much like the SM that the SMERSH agent carves on his hand he's marked for life. It goes a long way to explain why the literary Bond is the man he is in later novels - his bouts of melancholy, his tendency to fall in love with the women he encounters, his deep rooted cynicism towards his profession despite the fact that it's all he can really do with his life.

    Great plot, and certainly some expertly written gambling scenes. The writing is tense when needed and keeps the reader hooked. While it doesn't quite have Fleming's flair for the fantastical that he would hone later, it's a gripping Cold War tale. My only major complaint about it is, surprisingly, Vesper. Fleming's ability to write compelling female characters has always been 50/50 for me. Unfortunately, I've always found Vesper rather lacking in personality. It's actually surprising that Bond decides to quit his job and settle down with her (I've always maintained that Bond was simply a younger man and highly disillusioned with the Service, and likely would not have made the same decision later on). Her spiral into paranoia and suicide is, of course, heartbreaking to read, but overall I think Fleming would write stronger, more compelling love interests later on. Still, it's a great read and serves as a foundation for the literary Bond.
  • SIS_HQSIS_HQ At the Vauxhall Headquarters
    edited August 2022 Posts: 3,390
    Why?! I'm getting disappointed now!

    It's #2 in my rankings! I really love this book how realistic it was from the villain, the plot and every scene, very realistic, menacing and the danger was real! You really feel the threat coming to Bond.

    The relationship between Bond and Vesper was fleshed out and developed, second best relationship or romance after Bond with Tiffany Case.

    Vesper is one of the best Bond Girls, mysterious, innocent yet intelligent, she's a great character, the plot twist at the end was unexpected because it's not obvious to her.

    I easily get why Bond fell in love with this woman, he's his equal, a reflection of himself, they both have a same attitudes.

    Vesper was more of a strong willed character, she's independent.

    The ending alone was much better than the film, I mean it's atmosphere was silent so you really feel the melancholy with Bond just grieving when he reads Vesper's note, the film had the ridiculous CGI sinking house and shoehorned action scenes, there's no sadness, because instead of to feel sad, your mood will be diverted by those action sequences.

    Why?! Just why?! This is excellent! And dare I say it, it's much better than the film!

    I don't know how anyone can put this above the other novels especially OHMSS (which was weirdly constructed novel, brainwashing beautiful Irish and British girls anyone 😂?)

    I'm depressed!

  • edited August 2022 Posts: 2,882
    @MI6HQ It is interesting that it came in 6th, isn't it? I put it ever so slightly higher on my rankings, but I'd also maintain it's not my personal favourite. Still, it's up there.

    Like I said, it really sticks out in the context of the Bond series in the sense that it's more 'realistic' and character focused. Again, LALD was where Fleming seemed to lean more into that 'pulpiness' and escapism, evoking outlandish things like the supernatural etc. I'm not sure if the books would have been as popular had Fleming continued in CR's direction. I certainly don't think if they'd adapted the book's ending closely in 2006 this would have done them any favours (I actually agree to an extent, the sinking house is stupid, but the film needed an action sequence and Craig does sell the emotion rather well).

    I do think OHMSS and YOLT are where these two sides of Fleming meet better and his storytelling becomes more mature. On the one hand you have his knack for describing exotic locations, crafting absurd but compelling characters/scenarios etc. On the other you have his focus on character, his tendency to explore ideas like Bond's cynicism, him falling in love etc. Perhaps this is why CR is ranked slightly lower than these?
  • SIS_HQSIS_HQ At the Vauxhall Headquarters
    edited August 2022 Posts: 3,390
    007HallY wrote: »
    @MI6HQ It is interesting that it came in 6th, isn't it? I put it ever so slightly higher on my rankings, but I'd also maintain it's not my personal favourite. Still, it's up there.

    Like I said, it really sticks out in the context of the Bond series in the sense that it's more 'realistic' and character focused. Again, LALD was where Fleming seemed to lean more into that 'pulpiness' and escapism, evoking outlandish things like the supernatural etc. I'm not sure if the books would have been as popular had Fleming continued in CR's direction. I certainly don't think if they'd adapted the book's ending closely in 2006 this would have done them any favours (I actually agree to an extent, the sinking house is stupid, but the film needed an action sequence and Craig does sell the emotion rather well).

    I do think OHMSS and YOLT are where these two sides of Fleming meet better and his storytelling becomes more mature. On the one hand you have his knack for describing exotic locations, crafting absurd but compelling characters/scenarios etc. On the other you have his focus on character, his tendency to explore ideas like Bond's cynicism, him falling in love etc. Perhaps this is why CR is ranked slightly lower than these?

    But people keep criticising those, calling it weird, and some call it bad, and I still don't understand why.

    People complain on OHMSS being weird because it's different (him falling in love and brainwashing plot, but it's just the same as in the book) while ranking CR higher because of its groundedness and realism, people didn't liked those elements (when it comes to the films).

    So I expect the same on books, but it's rather different, but maybe only in this forum, I mean, we here in mi6community were much more nicer and kinder than those fans outside, (I mean in this forum the films were equally ranked as the books).
  • edited August 2022 Posts: 2,882
    MI6HQ wrote: »
    007HallY wrote: »
    @MI6HQ It is interesting that it came in 6th, isn't it? I put it ever so slightly higher on my rankings, but I'd also maintain it's not my personal favourite. Still, it's up there.

    Like I said, it really sticks out in the context of the Bond series in the sense that it's more 'realistic' and character focused. Again, LALD was where Fleming seemed to lean more into that 'pulpiness' and escapism, evoking outlandish things like the supernatural etc. I'm not sure if the books would have been as popular had Fleming continued in CR's direction. I certainly don't think if they'd adapted the book's ending closely in 2006 this would have done them any favours (I actually agree to an extent, the sinking house is stupid, but the film needed an action sequence and Craig does sell the emotion rather well).

    I do think OHMSS and YOLT are where these two sides of Fleming meet better and his storytelling becomes more mature. On the one hand you have his knack for describing exotic locations, crafting absurd but compelling characters/scenarios etc. On the other you have his focus on character, his tendency to explore ideas like Bond's cynicism, him falling in love etc. Perhaps this is why CR is ranked slightly lower than these?

    But people keep criticising those, calling it weird, and some call it bad, and I still don't understand why.

    People complain on OHMSS being weird because it's different (him falling in love and brainwashing plot, but it's just the same as in the book) while ranking CR higher because of its groundedness and realism, people didn't liked those elements (when it comes to the films).

    So I expect the same on books, but it's rather different, but maybe only in this forum, I mean, we here in mi6community were much more nicer and kinder than those fans outside, (I mean in this forum the films were equally ranked as the books).

    I think it depends. From my point of view I can understand why MR, YOLT, OHMSS, DN and FRWL are more compelling reads for many over CR. That's not to say that CR is a bad novel, far from it, nor that those other novels are wholly escapist and devoid of interesting character ideas.

    Personally, I think things like otherworldly, maniacal villains, strange gardens in Japanese castles, even brainwashing beautiful women etc, silly as they are on paper, are fundamentally a part of what makes Bond stories unique. I certainly don't think Bond should ever be wholly 'realistic' in the vein of a Le Carre novel, and I'm thankful they aren't (even the CR novel doesn't approach that and retains a level of fantasy). Maybe some readers on here believe this too, while also prioritising compelling characters and drama. In that sense it might just be a case where they rank this book high, but ultimately don't think this is Fleming necessarily at the peak of his storytelling abilities. I dunno, it'd be interesting to hear why others ranked this book where they did.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 23,536
    It's the clear number 1, no doubt about it. It's Fleming's very best novel. It's brisk, original, packed with tension, and it has all the elements already in place. You don't need half a book to get to know Bond--you get him right away. Fleming's words fire off like rockets. I don't care whose mistake this is: CR is the best Bond novel, there's simply no way around that.
  • Posts: 12,264
    Sorry guys, I’m one who put this one down at #8. It’s unorthodox and probably objectively incorrect, but I just preferred several of the later works. Ironically, the more “grounded” approach tends to lead to my favorites in the film series, but I have a bit of preference for the fantastical when it comes to the novels. CR is a very good book, and I find little wrong with it honestly. I do love it. But, just as a matter of opinion, I got more enjoyment from numerous sequels. Vesper I liked much better in the movie. But the suspense, Bond’s character (the very first chapter is so cool), Le Chiffre, Felix, and just the setup of the whole universe was all brilliant. Great stuff!
  • Posts: 2,882
    FoxRox wrote: »
    Sorry guys, I’m one who put this one down at #8. It’s unorthodox and probably objectively incorrect, but I just preferred several of the later works. Ironically, the more “grounded” approach tends to lead to my favorites in the film series, but I have a bit of preference for the fantastical when it comes to the novels. CR is a very good book, and I find little wrong with it honestly. I do love it. But, just as a matter of opinion, I got more enjoyment from numerous sequels. Vesper I liked much better in the movie. But the suspense, Bond’s character (the very first chapter is so cool), Le Chiffre, Felix, and just the setup of the whole universe was all brilliant. Great stuff!

    I wouldn't say it's objectively incorrect at all. It's all preference. That's the beauty of Bond. There are so many different stories even in Fleming's novels alone.

    Anyway, I'm actually similar in my preferences. My favourite Bond films are FRWL and SF which are arguably the more 'down to earth' films in the series (although I think they contain a healthy dose of fantasy). When it comes to the Fleming novels I think that stuff like maniacal villains, strange lairs, elaborate scenarios etc. are handled better because while escapist they're written with much more 'grit' than the films tend to present these ideas (again, I don't think it's strictly speaking 'realism', but I can believe what's happening if that makes sense).
  • SIS_HQSIS_HQ At the Vauxhall Headquarters
    Posts: 3,390
    I'm guessing OHMSS or YOLT comes up next.....
  • BirdlesonBirdleson Moderator
    Posts: 2,161
    I'm rather surprised. I had it at #4 and thought that I was underserving the book. Near perfection.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 23,536
    Birdleson wrote: »
    I'm rather surprised. I had it at #4 and thought that I was underserving the book. Near perfection.

    Drop the 'near' and we're cool. ;-) I honestly can't think of a better-written book in the series. Perhaps some of the later novels have more fantastical, more exotic stories, but show me a Fleming book that is as fast-paced, as bold and as exciting as CR. And yes, I'm in fanboy mode here.
  • SIS_HQSIS_HQ At the Vauxhall Headquarters
    Posts: 3,390
    DarthDimi wrote: »
    Birdleson wrote: »
    I'm rather surprised. I had it at #4 and thought that I was underserving the book. Near perfection.

    Drop the 'near' and we're cool. ;-) I honestly can't think of a better-written book in the series. Perhaps some of the later novels have more fantastical, more exotic stories, but show me a Fleming book that is as fast-paced, as bold and as exciting as CR. And yes, I'm in fanboy mode here.

    True.
  • ThunderfingerThunderfinger Das Boot Hill
    Posts: 45,489
    It s a great book, but several later are a lot better. No. 10 for me.
  • goldenswissroyalegoldenswissroyale Switzerland
    edited September 2022 Posts: 4,394
    CR is #4 in my ranking. I like that it is a bit shorter than others. All the chapters in the Casino are great, the card game is a master piece. Is there anyone else who is able to write about card games in such an exciting way?
    The book is perfect up to the moment Bond is recovering in the hospital. From there on, the last third, doesn't catch my attention that much. It works fine the first time but wasn't that interesting to reread.
    The book-Vesper doesn't hit me as hard as the one on screen.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!Moderator
    Posts: 23,536
    CR is #4 in my ranking. I like that it is a bit shorter than others. All the chapters in the Casino are great, the card game is a master piece. Is there anyone else who is able to write about card games in such an exciting way?
    The book is perfect up to the moment Bond is recovering in the hospital. From there on, the last third, doesn't catch my attention that much. It works fine the first time but wasn't that interesting to reread.
    The book-Vesper doesn't hit me as hard as the one on screen.

    I can see what you mean with that last comment. Eva Greene is electrifying, while Fleming wrote a typical (?) '50s damsel into his book.
  • SIS_HQSIS_HQ At the Vauxhall Headquarters
    edited September 2022 Posts: 3,390
    DarthDimi wrote: »
    CR is #4 in my ranking. I like that it is a bit shorter than others. All the chapters in the Casino are great, the card game is a master piece. Is there anyone else who is able to write about card games in such an exciting way?
    The book is perfect up to the moment Bond is recovering in the hospital. From there on, the last third, doesn't catch my attention that much. It works fine the first time but wasn't that interesting to reread.
    The book-Vesper doesn't hit me as hard as the one on screen.

    I can see what you mean with that last comment. Eva Greene is electrifying, while Fleming wrote a typical (?) '50s damsel into his book.

    Same for Tracy, she's not as electrifying and sexy as Diana Rigg's version.

    What Fleming wrote was a stereotypical 50's subservient and underwritten woman into the book "Treat me like the lowest whore in creation" line anyone? And her line "I will do anything for you" once Bond cured her, for me, she's dated more so than Vesper.

    That's one of the downsides of the novel OHMSS for me (and i think why the film is better), so I'm expecting it to come here next.
  • Very surprised by the placement, I hd CR at number 2. There’s so much energy in Fleming’s writing here, it makes for an incredibly propulsive read — and though I wouldn’t want Bond to be characterized like this for the whole series, I do admit I enjoy how much of a ruthless bastard he is (or machine, as Mathis put it). It’s the most hard-edged and “realistic” of the novels, and as such has a weightier sense of danger and melancholy to it. Fleming would polish what the Bond novel would be, but he never quite captured the same spark of Casino Royale.
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