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James Bond

Premium Bond

Published August 22, 2021

Premium Bond

I’ve previously watched all the James Bond movies to date, pending Time to Die, in a big journey from the opening credits of Dr. No to the closing sequence of Spectre. It was a heck of a ride full of highs and lows and good action sequences and questionable moments, and I loved it. So having completed the movies, tick, tick, tick, what next? I decided I wanted to read the books - a series of 12 novels and 2 collections of short stories published between 1953 and 1966.

Octopussy and the Living Daylights by Ian Fleming

Published August 11, 2021

Octopussy and the Living Daylights by Ian Fleming

This felt like the most random of the James Bond books, like a sweeping together of previously unpublished stories following Fleming’s death. Of course it’s fine to do that, but it just makes it hang together a little oddly. As with the previous couple of books, Bond’s growing antipathy to his work shows here too - being reluctant to shoot a female assassin, and letting someone decide their own fate rather than arresting or killing them himself. The last story wasn’t really a story at all, but more of a search by Bond for good eggs in the city of New York. Odd, but still quite fun.

The Man With the Golden Gun by Ian Fleming

Published July 21, 2021

The Man With the Golden Gun by Ian Fleming

You can tell that this book wasn’t fully formed before Fleming died. It was published posthumously and was going through the editing process at the time, and by all accounts Fleming wasn’t very happy with it. So it’s not a surprise that it doesn’t have quite the same impact as other stories. It feels shorter, less complete, and there’s a lot less depth in certain areas. But it has all the elements a good Bond novel should have - a bad guy to chase, a thrilling action sequence, plenty of intense personal danger, and a leading lady or two.

You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming

Published July 13, 2021

You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming

Not a bad entry in the Bond canon, this book delves very deep into Japanese culture with a lot of detail about how James has to try and adapt to fit in with a whole new world to him. It feels like Fleming was leaning in to having a more over-arching series in the last few books - Blofeld has become a running theme, and in this book we find Bond dealing with the death of his wife which we witnessed in the previous book. Earlier novels felt more standalone but now we’ve got a character who is learning and growing. Super interesting ending too, with Bond left adrift in a foreign country having lost his memory. What will happen next?

On Her Majesty's Secret Service by Ian Fleming

Published June 23, 2021

On Her Majesty's Secret Service by Ian Fleming

In terms of the story, this is one that really aligns so closely with the film you can almost picture every scene, and it’s such a good adventure. I also thought Bond’s decision to marry was so interesting, this is probably one of the least fleshed out women of the series and this is who he chooses to attach himself too, I think it says a lot more about Bond at this time in his life. But that brutal ending was just as harrowing to get through as it was in the film. Great book.

The Spy Who Loved Me by Ian Fleming

Published May 28, 2021

The Spy Who Loved Me by Ian Fleming

What a weird entry in the Bond back catalogue? It’s like those Sherlock stories where the eponymous hero doesn’t come in until right at the last minute and there’s all this bizarre backstory that you have to fight to care about beforehand. This is similar, in that we hear all about Vivienne’s life history and it’s not until the last minute that Bond appears. Also, it’s not like a big conspiracy that the agent needs to resolve, it’s just a situation that he stumbles across and barely makes it out of alive. It’s just odd from start to finish!

Thunderball by Ian Fleming

Published May 12, 2021

Thunderball by Ian Fleming

At first glance, this feels like a good, traditional Bond story, with a big bad to overcome, a girl or two to deal with along the way, and some help from Felix Leiter just when it’s needed. But actually when you look closer, the book veers so far from the debonair James Bond that we know it’s almost a different character.

For Your Eyes Only by Ian Fleming

Published April 22, 2021

For Your Eyes Only by Ian Fleming

I really liked this, James Bond works well in the short story format, potentially because there’s no time for all the in depth explanations of card games and golf courses. Bond’s interactions with women seemed a little better in this collection of stories too - he’s still the man that he is in the time he was written, but perhaps making a tiny step forward.

Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

Published April 16, 2021

Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

The last couple of Bond adventures haven’t totally grabbed me but I liked this one quite a lot more than I was expecting. The opening chapters were so familiar from the film - Bond foiling Goldfinger’s cheating card scam - it was amazing. I wasn’t as keen on the following pieces where a game of golf is described in excruciating detail… but then we get to the Fort Knox plot and it all picks back up again.

Dr No by Ian Fleming

Published December 27, 2020

Dr No by Ian Fleming

I listened to the audiobook version of this, read by Hugh Quarshie, and it was a great reading but I can’t promise that I enjoyed the book as much as I was hoping. I was surprised at how close it was to the first film in the Bond series - I recognised a lot of the scenes in my head as they played out.