Force 10 from Navarone (novel)

A slow starter but an electrifying finisher

What it’s about

This follows on immediately from the highly acclaimed The Guns of Navarone, Keith Mallory, Andrea and Dusty Miller are parachuted into war-torn Yugoslavia with the task of rescuing a division of Partisans. But they also have a secret mission, a one that is so deadly that it must be hidden from even their own allies.

My thoughts

​If you have not read The Guns of Navarone though it is not a prerequisite to reading this book, I would highly recommend that you do in fact read a first as it is literally a direct follow-on. So this book starts right at the moment that the last book, The Guns of Navarone, ends

However, the stories of the two books are very much different so really the importance in regards to reading the predecessor is more about getting to know the main characters. So like I say even though I highly recommend reading the predecessor first it is not a prerequisite.

With that said, now onto the story of Force 10 from Navarone, it is a highly entertaining one, basically the small incursion team led by Mallory plan to blow a dam to bring down a bridge just as a German brigade is crossing, and though the story of the predecessor is arguably better in terms of pacing and action this novel probably comes up trumps.

And what really perhaps makes this book stand out and really come into its own, is the dynamic between the original team, which is Mallory, Andrea and Miller, and the young upstarts who have joined them, Reynolds, Saunders and Groves.

There is great mistrust between them, but different sorts of mistrust, Mallory and his team do not trust Reynolds and his team have what it takes to do what has to be done. This lack of trust needs to Reynolds and his team misinterpreting what is going on and frequently wondering whether Mallory is perhaps up to no good.

As the novel progresses the dynamic changes and the teams come to trust each other but that trust comes with a very heavy price leading to a very poignant moment at the end. I have to say a big fan of the dynamic between the characters in this book, it really does create some great tension but also makes you think about the rights or wrongs of what the characters are doing and thinking.

Regarding readability, it is quite difficult at the beginning to make sense of just what is going on, who they are helping and who they are not helping and much more.

Really the problem is there are too many names that are difficult to remember, and there are too many different messages being told to too many different characters, meaning you really have to pay attention to make sense of just who they are helping, who they are fighting and just what it is they are actually going to do.

But in all honesty you are able to get the gist of it without rereading, and I didn’t bother rereading as I assumed that I would make sense of it later on in the book which I did. And it is later on in the book that this story really comes to life.

To say the least the buildup to the ending of this book is electrifying in its pacing, and in fact the way the text seamlessly bounces us from place to place, from character to character showing us different scenes which all interconnect and help build up to the electrifying climax, is very cinematic in style.

In fact at times it feels like you are reading a film, except that is in the format of a book and so you feel much closer to the characters and action than if you were watching a film.

All in all despite the information overload at the beginning, this is an electrifying and very much high octane action story. That means from me it gets a definite thumbs up and is unquestionably a worthy follow-up to The Guns of Navarone.

Writer: Alistair MacLean

Genre: war story, action, adventure

Year: 1968

Where Eagles Dare (novel)

Arguably Alistair Maclean’s best novel

What it’s about

A team of British Special Forces commandos parachutes into the high peaks of the Austrian Alps on a rescue mission, the chief planner of the Western front has been taken prisoner. To save the war effort they must free him, but he is being held in an invulnerable alpine castle, accessible only by aerial gondola, which just so happens to be the headquarters of Nazi intelligence.

My thoughts

​Despite popular belief this is not based on a true story, and is entirely fictional. With that out of the way this is arguably Alistair MacLean’s best novel, most people probably better know it as the film which stars a young Clint Eastwood along with the legendary Richard Burton.

In regards to which is better, both are equally brilliant, but there are some minor deviations the biggest perhaps being that in the book there is much less violence.

Also the characters in the book are a little bit more humorous, you also get a far greater sense of place in the book, along with the claustrophobic feeling of truly being inside the headquarters of Nazi intelligence. But perhaps the biggest difference is the fact that the stakes even though they are near enough the same feel in the book just so much bigger.

What the book really succeeds at is making you really buy into just how big the stakes are, and how if this mission fails it could truly mess up the planned invasion on the Western front i.e. D-Day.

But outside that really the big differences are what you would normally expect to get from a book versus a film. For example, in the film the stakes are high but the characters always seem to be ahead of the game, while in the book you really get a sense for just how desperate this mission is. Pretty much all throughout you also get the feeling that actually they might not succeed, which you don’t really get in the film i.e. Richard Burton’s character always seems like he is going to succeed.

So in the book you are just much closer to the characters and action and they feel more like real people rather than action stars.

But the film is great, and the book is great which means all in all I don’t really have a great deal to say other than this is a brilliant read, highly entertaining, simple English and written in a way that means it is highly improbable that you will need to reread any sections to make sense of what is going on.

That means from me this book gets a solid thumbs up, and is a highly entertaining World War II rescue story.

Writer: Alistair Maclean

Genre: war story, action, adventure

Year: 1967

Dr No (Novel)

Arguably the Best of Fleming’s Bond Novels

What it’s about

Dispatched by M to investigate the mysterious disappearance of MI6’s Jamaica station chief, Bond was expecting a holiday in the sun. But when he discovers a deadly centipede placed in his hotel room, the vacation is over.

My thoughts

​Despite being billed at the time of its release as sex, snobbery and sadism, by today’s standards it would be PG rated. If you have watched the film which the vast majority who decide to read this book will have done then you already know the basic jest of the story, but there are enough differences in the book to make it still worth reading.

The build up to the end is especially compelling reading and is so well done even people who are not claustrophobic will be filled by with horror by it. And if you have watched the film though you will already know the final outcome you will be shocked at just how different the run up to the ending is.

Also surprisingly the female character is not quite as helpless as a person who has watched only the films would expect. She is written in a way as a sort of tame woman from the wild who becomes increasingly desperate to have sex with James Bond, turning to more into predator then prey, she also has a damaged nose which she is self-conscious about and wants to go to America to have it fixed.

Yet surprisingly by the end Bond decides that he doesn’t want her to have it fixed because it’s part of who she is. So expect her to worship Bond like a God but don’t expect her to be quite as tame as the female characters in the films, also don’t expect Bond to be quite as superficial as he is in the films. Though this is still James Bond, and that must never be forgotten.

All in all a must read for any Bond fan as this is arguably the best of Fleming’s Bond novels, which means all in all it most definitely gets a thumbs up from me.

Writer: Ian Fleming

Genre: adventure, mystery, spy thriller

Year: 1958

The Bourne Identity (Novel)

One of the Best Spy Thrillers There Is

What it’s about

The Bourne Identity is a 1980 spy fiction thriller by Robert Ludlum that tells the story of Jason Bourne, a man with remarkable survival abilities who has retrograde amnesia, and must seek to discover his true identity. 

My thoughts

​Any person who has watched the film and expects the novel to tell a similar story will be in for a shock. Other than the beginning and this being a story about Jason Bourne searching for his true identity they have little in common.

But at the same time any person who has watched the film despite the film being brilliant will likely find that the book is better. What writer Robert Ludlum does so well with this novel is to really bring to life Jason Bourne’s desperation to find out just who the hell he is.

Literally the pages scream with that desperation, and the world he creates along with the skills that Jason Bourne finds himself make for a truly compelling reading.

However, it should be remembered that this is a book from a writer who was trained in a very different era, or rather modern novels of the mainstream kind tend to very much use a much more simplified level of English.

But this book is by no means advanced, in fact far from it and any person with a decent grasp of the English language will have no trouble reading it.

All in all this book is fast-paced, clever and will undoubtedly leave you wanting more at the end. If you like spy stories a must read which means it definitely gets a thumbs up from me.

Writer: Robert Ludlum

Genre: adventure, mystery, spy thriller

Year: 1980