My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“Love of life is born of the awareness of death, of the dread of it.”
My initial thought when I began reading this novel was, ‘Hang on a minute… this isn’t the Bond I know. Nor the Fleming I’m used to for that matter. What’s going on?’ And indeed, I think a lot of people will recognise the stark difference of perspective that Fleming chose when he decided to write ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’. This time round, readers get to see Bond through the eyes of a young innocent French Canadian girl by the name of Vivienne Michel, who as things would have it is on a run from her own painful past. However, what Michel is yet to discover is that fate has more tragedy in store for her in the guise of two murderous villains Sol Horror and Sluggsy Morant.
Michel meets these two unsavories at a motel, which she has been working at for the past two weeks and has been left in charge of till the boss comes to close it for the season. The setting is as follows: Tragic and vulnerable heroine is left all by her lonesome, in the middle of a thick pine forest, with no one around for MILES. To add to the fright, a godalmighty lightning storm kicks off, knocking out the electricity supply. Can things get any worse? Fleming thinks they can. Enter two nasty guys posing as insurance people (Michel stupidly opens the door for them) and you have yourself one big, nasty party.
But Bond is never too far from the scene (apparently he is just in the vicinity), and arrives after Michel suffers a terrible night of ‘alluded’ rape and torture to take the bad guys out. Hmm… In fact, if it weren’t for Bond’s punctured tyre, Michel would never have been saved.
Ok, let’s get onto the actual review, this book shouldn’t be taken seriously. There are a lot of plot holes, and I mean a LOT. Take Michel for instance; she is an intelligent girl who had a semi-decent job in the editorial business. But she goes and sleeps with the boss (not good) who is a self-confessed nazi-minded ‘purist’. You would have thought our Michel had some sense, because before that she had the misfortune of losing her virginity to an Eton snob in a dirty forest! So why on earth did this girl think it was a good idea to travel through America by herself (on a scooter no less) is beyond me. And of all places, to allow herself to end up alone, in the middle of nowhere, in a run-down motel.
But Bond is no better. Oh no. Commander Bond, for all his suave, cold-blooded killer instincts fails to do away with the thugs at the first chance he gets. In fact, it takes him three attempts to actually kill them. I almost laughed out loud when he apologised to Michel, saying he was getting a little rusty. I think so too! I mean here’s a guy who is in a class of his own when it comes to espionage, yet two hard-boiled jailbirds very nearly succeeded in offing him. No wonder many Bond fans didn’t like Fleming’s 10th instalment. Because not only does Bond’s reputation and prowess come under scrutiny/ doubt, but we have to read the whole thing through the slightly whiny, sensual language of Michel, who can’t seem to find fault with our hero.
If you ask me, it’s good that Fleming took notice of his reader’s reactions and did not write any more novels in the same vein. I’d rather have Bond in the centre of the action, and not have to wait until he shows up halfway through the book, only to put on a mediocre show. Bond is better than this, much better. Accept no compromises people!
Overall, I can’t say it was brilliant, but it was certainly entertaining. Though I’m glad that female characters have a lot more backbone to them these days. Apart from that, it’s fun seeing Fleming attempt to write several ‘tasteful’ sex scenes.
This is one Bond novel you need to read in order to decide whether you like it or not. Can’t really recommend it.
- James Bond: Four writers carry forward Ian Fleming’s spy legacy (herocomplex.latimes.com)
- 50 Years of Bond – James Bond (creativemagezine.wordpress.com)
- What I’m Reading: ‘Dr. No’ by Ian Fleming (bisforbooksandrisforreading.wordpress.com)
- Timothy Dalton, the best James Bond? (fandangogroovers.wordpress.com)
- James Bond is a Bit of a Shit (meandmybigmouth.typepad.com)