Bond Books: Check!

I was raised at the end of James Bond’s Walther PPK for most of my life. I remember inventing a way to comb my hair while living in California (so I was between five and eight) and calling it the “Sean Connery.” By the tender age of 14 I had seen every movie in the series at least thrice and had even attended the premieres of some of the newer Timothy Dalton ones in the theater (even though I had to cover my eyes when a mobster was blown up in a decompression chamber).

Agent 007 continued to be relevant to me through my high school and college careers. I had my first, terrible “date” experience while seeing Goldeneye, snuck inside and surprised some friends when I randomly discovered their parked car outside of a cineplex after seeing Tomorrow Never Dies, and I procrastinated from college work by starting (and not finishing) a James Bond fan site.

I had truly experienced everything there was to experience with the character … except the initial source: Ian Fleming‘s novels! In 2002 Penguin rereleased the entire collected works of Bond in great, stylish covers and my interest was piqued. The completist in me screamed to encounter all 12 novels and 9 short stories and I’m here to announce that, nearly two years later, that dream has been realized!

I must admit that I went into this endeavor believing that the Bond books would turn out to be Tom Clancy-ish: good reads, but hardly more than just plot point after plot point. I was enjoyably wrong! The books are polar opposites of their movie counterparts – with little to no explosions and gadgets – and all suspense and psychological threats. They are worldly, not just by having a dozen different backgrounds like in the movies, but with Bond’s dandyish comments on the best local food, architecture and customs of the places he visits. If someone speaks a different language they do so here with no translation. This really helps to give the impression that the reader is traveling with James as he methodically tracks his prey from country to country.

I’m not sure if everyone could get through all 14 books, though I only found myself bored during one section of one story. They really are extremely well-written and interesting and I recommend every one of them, but here’s a quick list of the best:

From Russia with Love – appeared on John F. Kennedy’s top 10 favorite book list. This is probably Fleming’s best-known book and it involves his most complicated plot. A whirlwind of espionage.

The Spy Who Loved Me – a Bond book with James Bond as a supporting character! Told by the point of view of the “Bond girl.” The closest thing Fleming came to a horror novel with the character.

Moonraker – just in case you want to finally see Bond not get the girl in the end.

Casino Royale – the first and best in my opinion. There’s almost no fighting, just a book about one card game. You’d be surprised how great it is. And Bond’s thoughts at the end of the book will surprise any fan.

Please also note that pictures from the Memorial Day BBQ are up on photoDB. Yes, this is the infamous night of clam shots, multicolor frisbee portraits, and when I nearly broke my foot.

  • Tuesday, June 12th, 2007 at 11:59 | #1

    I need to read a few more Bond books. I’m afraid to admit that I have only read one – Dr. No – and although I enjoyed it I don’t believe it is one of Ian Fleming’s better works.
    It does highlight one aspect of the author’s personality that unfortunately was far to prevalent and accepted in his time.
    Throughout the book Bond makes derogatory comments on what he considers the ‘lower races’ – Asians, Blacks and anyone else who didn’t go to Eton or Sandhurst or who was regrettably born outside of the British Isles. These traits were left out of the movies and only the sexist characteristics of Mr. Bond remained.
    But, Fleming was a good writer and I should read at least one or two more of the original books.

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