The Man with the Golden Gun (Novel)

Worth reading if you’ve read the other eleven books

What it’s about

A brainwashed James Bond has tried – and failed – to assassinate M, his boss. Now Bond has to prove he is back on form and can be trusted again. ‘All’ 007 has to do is kill one of the most deadly free-lance hit-men in the world – one Paco ‘Pistols’ Scaramanga, the Man with the Golden Gun.

My thoughts

​This is the final of Flemings twelve Bond novels, but unfortunately it is far from the best, and in fact arguably is the worst. Before getting onto the problems, as most people who plan to read this book will likely have seen the film, the only real similarity between the film and the book is the fact that Bond is doing battle with Scaramanga a.k.a. the Man with the Golden gun.

So the book and the film are two completely different kettles of fish, that means if you are expecting the book to be similar to the film, and as a result a better version of the story than the film, you will be disappointed.

With that said onto the problems with this book, the first being that James Bond himself does not appear properly for far too long, in fact he does not really make a proper appearance until about one third into the novel. The majority of the first third of the book is based around M dealing with the reappearance of Bond after he had been missing for a year.

Basically Bond went missing a year ago and was presumed dead but in fact has been captured and brainwashed by the Russians – he now sees British Secret Service as the enemy. As a result of his brainwashing he attempts to assassinate M, but fails and as a result is captured by the British and sent to a facility to be basically un-brainwashed.

We don’t follow him to this facility instead we jump straight to him being released from it, though we do learn a little about it, some sort of shockwave therapy was used on him, and now he has to prove it has worked and redeem himself by killing Scaramanga, who has been killing British agents.

M makes out that this Scaramanga is an unbeatable gunman and believes that James Bond, due to M sending him after him, is likely being sent to his doom, the trouble is the so-called man with the Golden gun just never really seems that smart or that good.

But before getting to that, so after all this build up and all this blah blah, the book finally starts because we finally start following James Bond, he is in Jamaica where Scaramanga is believed to be holding up. The last time Bond was in Jamaica was in Dr No, and Fleming is not shy about touching upon this fact though only briefly as there is no link between the stories, but it is a quite nice touch if you have read Dr No.

But back onto the main point of the bad guy just not seeming that bright, firstly, Bond first meets his deadly nemesis in a whore house, he just so happens to go to a whore house which has been put up for sale at the exact time that Scaramanga makes an appearance, Scaramanga is a very difficult guy to find and yet Bond manages to find him before really even beginning to start looking for him.

I’m diverting from the point here, next Scaramanga decides to employ Bond, who pretends to be someone else, as a bodyguard as such, which allows Bond access to Scaramanga’s secret base where a secret meeting will take place by a secret faction which is linked to the KGB. Felix Leiter and his CIA buddy are of course already there spying on this secret mission.

So just to put this into perspective Scaramanga, this super skilled killer who we’re supposed to believe is every bit Bond’s rival if not his superior, has hired the CIA and James Bond is an effective protection for this supersecret mission, and is clueless of the fact that he has done so, the reason being he met them in random places and so assumed they clearly must be legit.

Don’t get me wrong this is a novel and poetic licence is allowed, but considering just how clever Scaramanga is supposed to be, it just seems a stretch that he could be so unlucky as to hire three agents. And I have not even mentioned the elephant in the room yet, Bond could have killed him many times but does not, it seems he is battling with his conscience, doesn’t like killing in cold blood…

You read that right, Bond could have killed Scaramanga many times over but does not because he battles with the morality of killing in cold blood, so basically this is a story of Bond in effect waiting for Scaramanga to try to kill him before killing him because he doesn’t like the idea of killing in cold blood. James Bond, licensed to kill assassin. Not wanting to kill the man who has been killing his fellow agents, despite being given the order to kill him…

I have read the Bond books and I have to say it just does not feel like this is how James Bond would ever act, I get he is supposed to be knocked off his game due to this brainwashing but, still, it just doesn’t really make for a compelling story, at least not the way it is written.

Perhaps if the story had been solely focused upon Bond having lost his nerve for killing it could have worked but it just wasn’t about that, in fact it seemed more a story about eavesdropping and learning about the KGB secret operations which they had been running out of Jamaica, along with their future plans for Jamaica, but that just did not make for compelling reading. To be honest I could go on and on with the complaints but I will just leave it there.

In regards to the action at the end, it isn’t bad, it’s nothing special, but it does at least keep you turning over the pages, there is also a corker of a final line, though feminists beware of this line as it is most definitely probably the closest moment James Bond comes to to feeling like James Bond in this novel. I won’t give it away but it will either make you smile or will infuriate you.

All in all I can’t really give this book a thumbs up but if you are a fan of Bond, and as this is the last in the series, it is still worth reading even if only so that you can say that you have read them all.

Writer: Ian Fleming

Genre: spy thriller, mystery, action

Year: 1965

Moonraker (novel)

One of Ian Fleming’s best Bond stories

What it’s about

Sir Hugo Drax is a multi-millionaire tycoon and war hero, revered by the British public for his Moonraker missile defence programme. But he cheats at cards and in doing so risks his reputation and the Moonraker project. Bond is tasked with putting a stop to his cheating ways before they are exposed, but in doing so uncovers a very dark plot indeed, a plot so dark it puts the lives of millions at risk.

My thoughts

​First things first, the book is very very different to the film version, in fact it is in a different stratosphere to the film version. The film version which the vast majority of people will know of, sees Roger Moore’s James Bond uncover a devious plot by Spectre to destroy the world, all the while repopulating it with some selected people who will be protected from the Earth’s destruction by taking refuge on a space station.

In reality Moonraker the film is Bond gone sci-fi with half the film spent in space with laser guns. The book on the other hand is nothing at all like this, the book is a basic espionage story which sees Bond uncover a plot by a group of Nazi’s from the war who have infiltrated society and plan to do some real damage to the UK, all in an effort to bring the Nazis back to life.

In terms of how good it is, this is the third of Fleming’s Bond books and it is one of the best ones, all throughout the book there is a real sense of high tension and suspense as well as impending doom as Bond digs deeper searching for what the truth of this dastardly plot is and its links to Hugo Drax and the Moonraker project.

So on an entertainment level as a Bond novel it is top-notch. But what is perhaps most interesting about this novel is how in effect Bond rather than playing his typical role as a spy and thus working abroad is playing more the role of a standard detective. In fact this could be argued as being more of a MI5 style story than a MI6 one, after all MI6 is supposed to be tasked with missions abroad not at home, which is the playing ground of MI5.

That means unlike other Bond novels this is a story set entirely in the UK. Basically Bond is tasked with taking over security of the Moonraker base after the previous head of security was killed. He needs to work out both who killed him and why he was killed, inevitably he has the aid of a lady friend who helps him along the way as well as joining him in the bedroom, this is Bond after all.

But this novel, though incorporating all the elements of Bond from the cardplaying to the bravado to the girl to the villain, places Bond in a slightly different world than the other novels meaning all in all from me it gets a thumbs up as it is indisputably an entertaining read.

Writer: Ian Fleming

Genre: spy thriller, mystery, action

Year: 1955

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