When AudioGo first announced this round of new recordings a couple of years ago, I was manic to have them. I own copies of the original Simon Vance r..Show More »ecordings from my pre-Audible days, which are phenomenal, but being the Bond fan that I am, I'm always curious to see what others can bring to the table. Then I found out these new recordings weren't available outside of the UK, and my heart sank. I prayed Audible would bring them to me.
At last, my prayers have been answered, and wouldn't you know, I had to hunt for them. Instead of referring to them by their official series name of "007 Reloaded," they're called "celebrity performances." Well, by any other name, it means my 2 credits a month are dedicated for the next few months (barring Star Wars releases), and not being independently wealthy, I can't afford to spring for them all at once as I'd like to do. Curses, foiled again.
Be that as it may, I have begun the series, and I'm over the moon impressed with this new performance by Dan Stevens. He impressed me with his work on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and his work here is every bit as nuanced and incredible. I almost wish he could do the rest of them too, but the point is to have a variety of talent for this series, so I'm looking forward to riding that wave. As many times as I've gone through the original novels, I'm still not as familiar with them as I am the films, and this provides the perfect excuse for me to dive in again and live with them for a while.
For those new to the original Fleming novels, this is a great introduction to the series. You almost have to forget what you've seen on screen and take Bond in his original cold war context, but thanks to the recent Daniel Craig films coming closer to Fleming's work, the in-road to the classic version has never been friendlier. It might take some getting used to Bond using a Beretta instead of the Walther PPK, or driving a Bentley instead of the Aston Martin, but the core of everything that is Bond starts here and evolves into what we've come to know and love throughout the series. Fleming's incredible detail brings these stories to life at every level, from Bond's scoping the room for signs of intrusion and tampering, to food and drink, to the gambling tables, to the torture sequences, and beyond. It's visceral in a way that can only come happen thanks to practical, real world experience. That's what separates Bond from his world of knock-offs and wanna-be copycats. Setting the standard of all that's come before and all that will come to be in the action/spy genre, regardless of medium, there's only one name you need to know. The name's Bond. James Bond.
I have to say I disagree with the reviews they call this book racist. The book was written in 1954. The language it uses it typical of that time. rath..Show More »er than being racist, this book is actually very Pro African American, as its antagonist is a brilliant, powerful man whose organization proves more capable than the combined resources of the FBI, CIA and MI6. All this in a book that was written while Jim Crow laws were still in effect. Rather than being reviled as racist, this book should be recognized as an early piece of civil rights literature.
wonderfully written and a fun read. the detail of each character partnered with the narrating by Bill is awesome. He does a slightly different voice f..Show More »or each character and their character is so well written you know who is talking without being prompted. the story will keep you guessing as well.
This is not Bond in the white dinner jacket, flicking his gunmetal Ronson lighter onto his Turkish cigarette as he beats the bad guys and beautiful fe..Show More »mmes at chemin de fer and anything else they care to play. Instead of Monte Carlo and the rugged capitals of Europe, or the sun-drenched Caribbean islands that are Bond's usual haunts, this book has Our Spy tracking down diamond smugglers in the U.S. -- which is fine while he's in New York City, but James Bond in Saratoga Springs (shudder), Las Vegas (double shudder), and a Nevada ghost town (giggle) as he brings down Jack and Seraffimo Spang and their "Spangled Mob"--well, sorry, Ian Fleming this one just didn't work for me.
There are no fun toys or gadgets in this one. And Bond, with supercilious disdain for (ethnic slur) criminals, does some really stupid things. The only things that save him are (1) the Spang brothers do even stupider things and (2) Bond girl Tiffany Case, having gone over to the Good Guys almost instantaneously after meeting James once, frees him when he's held prisoner by the mob bosses she's served for years. What a surprise!
The early Bond books are well written, atmospheric period pieces. This one, the fourth in the series, was published in 1956; one of the most interesting descriptions was of Bond's London to New York flight, a 12-hour journey complete with meals, booze, and sleeper seats in the days before jet engines hit the commercial airways. Once in New York, Bond's idea of an elegant dinner date starts with pate and three martinis, followed by steak with Bernaise sauce accompanied by a bottle or two of wine, and topped off with dessert and champagne. Women--even a strong women like Tiffany, who's by far the best character in this episode--are arm candy in black velvet cocktail dresses.
It's a different world, and of course a world highly romanticized by Fleming, but I enjoyed the novels in my younger days, am a huge fan of both the early (Sean Connery) and recent (Daniel Craig) cinematic incarnations, and have enjoyed several of the audio renditions by Simon Vance. This new release of all the novels in audio form, each read by a different well-known British actor, is an intriguing concept. Damian Lewis, with his uncanny gift for flawless American accents (as anyone who's seen him as "Homeland's" Sergeant Brodie knows), was a perfect choice for narrator. He moves between British, American, and American ethnic accents so fluidly you're unaware of it, you just know immediately which character is speaking. I just wish the material had been more worthy of Lewis's art.
Picking up in the wake of events from the more mediocre Diamonds Are Forever, Fleming's next one in the series turns out to be one of the most heralde..Show More »d. It's certainly the one that really got James Bond's name out there to American audiences (thanks, JFK). But is the hype around this one worthy?
Simply put, yes. From Russia With Love brings us ever closer to the style fans associate with both Fleming and Bond. Even though we're still a few years away from the big screen version, Bond is finally developing the personality that Sean Connery would later refine and make his own. Interestingly, Bond is overshadowed whenever Karim Bey is in the story. Bey is the largest personality in the book, and Fleming had a lot of fun writing him. What's more, this is the first time we really get to spend some time with the villains without Bond being there. Bond doesn't really get any character time until chapter 11, leaving room for Fleming to show us how things are done behind closed doors at SMERSH, creating characters that would be translated more or less accurately for the film later on. The only major difference is that the film has these characters defecting from SMERSH to operate with SPECTRE, an organization that doesn't feature in the books until Thunderball.
Roger Moore once quipped that Bond was the worst secret agent because everyone knew everything about him. This may be the book that inadvertently set that stereotype into motion. This time SMERSH is out for vengeance, seeking to murder both 007 and his reputation. The setup is a bit hard to swallow, and Fleming knew it too, which is why Bond questions it right from the start. But the story is told with such enthusiasm, you really don't care once things are set into motion. That enthusiasm changes everything. After Diamonds, it's like Fleming found a renewed interest in Bond. Or it could just be that better villains make for better stories.
Toby Stephens' narration is superb, except for the offending "oh-oh-seven" pronunciation. This still bothers me, and probably always will when both Fleming and the popular culture say "double-oh seven." Even so, I'm learning to accept this is just how it's going to be. A British woman explained it to me like this: I'm an American, so I get no say, regardless of how Fleming did it, and as a Brit, whatever she says is automatically correct. Seriously, how do you argue against that?
This book is wacky and wrong in so many ways, and it wouldn't be Fleming's Bond if it were any other way.
Picking up with the cliffhanger end..Show More »ing of From Russia With Love, M sends Bond on a "rest cure," a routine inquiry at the insistence of the American Audubon Society on behalf of some endangered birds. The location is, naturally, Jamaica and surrounding areas, Fleming's home away from home that features so prominently in the Bond lore. For Fleming, it's a working vacation site, and so it is now for Bond as well. For those readers who are more familiar with the films, it's worth noting that Dr. No is one of rare instances where the movie is largely faithful to the source material. There are a great many differences, certainly (such as the glaring absence of Felix Leiter), but the basics are here for the film to build upon later.
Since a Bond novel is all about fighting an outlandish foreign villain in the name of British superiority, let's talk about the elephant in the room that Fleming readers know so well by this point: racial stereotypes. Dr. No is largely built on the "Yellow Peril" stereotype that was so familiar to pulp readers in the 30s and 40s (i.e., Fu Manchu or Shi-Wan Khan). This includes inhabiting an island that's home to a "dragon," because... why not. While he's not a moustache-twirling, cape wearing Snydley Whiplash caricature, he does manage to improve on the "tie the girl to the railroad tracks" motif. Like Fleming's other noteworthy villains, Dr. No has the physical maladies that pinpoint his villainous status. In this case, his hands were cut off, and his heart is on the wrong side, allowing him to be shot and survive. This inevitably means he bears a grudge, has something to prove, and is hard to kill. His specialty is torture, and he embraces the fact that he's a maniac. This means that 007 is in for a particularly rough adventure. But then, isn't that supposed to be the point? Suffice it to say, Fleming has ensured that our hero faces a worthy adversary who likes to monologue. His backstory is the stuff of comic book legend. After all, it takes a special kind of crazy to convert guano into gold and use that as your cover story for the real threat.
While Honey Ryder sets the on-screen standard for the Bond girl, her print counterpart was merely the next in line of Bond's feminine leads. She's introduced without the iconic bikini (or anything else), and then Fleming manages to *ahem* flesh out her character, giving her an in-depth backstory, as though to convince you she's more than just a pretty face. And then Fleming has her throw away that advantage, setting the women's rights movement back a few decades in the process. Bond's responses to her shameless advances are surprisingly gentlemanly. Bonus points for class and character development, Mr. Bond.
It's interesting to see just how unlike Connery this version of Bond can be. In addition to treating Honey far better than she obviously wants to be treated, Bond is also considerably less brutal in this novel than what we've come to expect. That the book has so much in common with the movie by comparison of other titles in the series makes the differences stand out even more.
One of the great behind-the-scenes stories tells of how a gun expert named Boothroyd wrote a letter to Fleming, explaining to him that Bond's Beretta pistol was "a ladies' weapon," extolling the virtues of the Walther PPK as a viable alternative. Fleming was so grateful that Boothroyd became the armorer in the story, and Bond was properly outfitted with the weapon of choice that would become synonymous with him in print and on screen. That's when he starts to look like Connery in my head, which as I say, is heavily contrasted with the way he's written for the entirety of the book.
Hugh Quarshie is a fantastic choice for this book's narrator. I know him best from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and Highlander, but that didn't tell me what he would bring to the table for Bond. Right up front, I was given that annoying "oh-oh-seven" pronunciation that's become something of a running gag in these reviews, but he corrected that in short order to "double-oh-seven." I immediately felt better about that, and from there it was easy to just let him run with the diverse characters of this story. He's got a smooth British voice, and he also does a convincing Jamaican accent that's needed for Quarrel. His female and Chinese characters are a bit cartoonish, but then, we've established Fleming writes them tat way too. Even so, it's evident that Quarshie had a great deal of fun performing this one. Always a plus.
After the horror-show that was Goldfinger, I was a little leery about starting another Bond novel. The overall ridiculousness, misogyny, and racism w..Show More »as pretty hard to stomach. But I figured I’d give it another go with Bond’s 8th book. This one is a collection of 5 short stories and I was curious to see how they fared compared to the novels. I’m happy to say that it blew them away.
The stories are extremely varied, ranging from vendetta killings to chasing down Italian drug lords.
A View To a Kill – The murder of a government courier sends Bond on an investigation to discover the killer’s identity. This story follows the classic “Bond Opening” prevalent in the films, by starting with the problem, then bringing Bond in to deal with it. The story uses the infamous Bond Gadgets like in the films, though he’s not the one using them. It served as a solid opening story and rekindled my faith in the character.
For Your Eyes Only – Bond goes on an “Off the Books” assignation job for M. Great story. A moment or two of misogyny, but tame compared to most of the previous books.
Quantum of Solace – Bond goes to a party and talks. Yup. That’s it. No Bond Adventure, just a story of Bond hearing a story about a man who fell in love with a flight attendant and was trapped as a cuckold in a loveless marriage. Bond learns a valuable lesson on judging people. While good, it really sticks out because Bond, like the audience, is merely listening to a story about people we’ve never met and without all the things that one picks up a Bond story to read about. I spent more time than I should have waiting for it to get good, rather than just enjoying it. Much better tale in hindsight than during the actual telling of it.
Risico – Bond travels to Italy to track down the source of a heroin ring. Great deal of action, and even some old-fashioned betrayal. Good contrast to the previous story.
The Hildebrand Rarity – This one is strange. Bond is for some random reason on a boat with a god-awful man in search of a rare fish for the Smithsonian. The boat owner is deplorable and Bond wrestles with the knowledge that his host is abusing his wife. Bond also exhibits a huge amount of sympathy for a fish. It’s more of a moral crisis for Bond than in any other story so-far. I’m 50/50 on this on how much I enjoyed it. It’s not a bad story, but it isn’t a good Bond story.
Overall, I enjoyed this book more than most of the Bond series so-far. Fleming was able to get to the adventure and employ his wonderful prose, but didn’t have much time to stop and straight-up insult people like he does in the novels. I really think the shorts are his strength.
Samuel West did a very fine performance, especially with accents in this international adventure.
This is a very different James Bond story. The novel has more depth and empathy for this three dimensional character. She appears to have a life befo..Show More »re and after "Bonding" that give the reader a unique character arc to savor. For a 1962 story, this was WAY ahead of its time. Bravo for Vivian!
From a modern perspective, it could be easy to dismiss this novel as offensive and racist. Fleming is not always known for little things like tact an..Show More »d awareness. However, it should be noted that eastern culture wouldn't become truly open or appreciated in the West for a few more years. Add to that, the culture wasn't nearly as "westernized" as it is by comparison of today, so the attitudes of the culture that Fleming is portraying is an honest assessment, if stereotypical, at least insofar as Fleming's personal perception of it. To his credit, he does play it as respectfully as he knows how, though he does drop some rather offensive slurs here and there per the common western lingo of the time. Even so, if you can work past that, the highlight of differences between East and West provide a unique insight, keeping in mind Fleming's own wartime career in intelligence and the contacts he gained as a result. As to be expected, where there's a different culture, Fleming delights in sharing the nuances of it, especially food, drink, and fighting techniques.
You Only Live Twice was published about the time of Fleming's death, giving the suggested meaning of the title that extra edge. "You only live twice: Once when you're born, And once when you look death in the face." The intended meaning, of course, is in reference to the events of the previous novel, and to this one as well. Taking place nine months after On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Bond has since become reckless and unreliable, a danger to himself and others, living only for the moment when he can acquire his next drink. To fix his broken agent, M gives him a new assignment designed to appeal to Bond's overdeveloped ego and sense of patriotism, an improbable task that requires him to temporarily shed his 00 number, reassigned to the diplomatic corps as agent 7777. Bond, to his credit and true to form, rises to the challenge. This assignment is precisely what he needs to back on his feet in the wake of the last novel's events.
Bond's contact in Japan is Tiger Tanaka, who serves as a guide to Bond and to the reader in all things Japanese. In wartime, Tanaka was a spy in London, trained as a kamikaze pilot. His intended fate was interrupted by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and he returned to Japan with a deep respect for the British people he came to know, and with a need to expunge his dishonor as "one of the vanquished." To this end, Bond is given a personal inside education into the ways and means of Japanese culture in order to complete his mission objectives, with limits. In addition to Tanaka's friendship and tutelage, Bond gains from him information involving a Swiss botantist, Dr. Shatterhand, who has built a Garden of Death. Fleming takes particular delight in this invention, listing off the names and origins of the poisonous plants as well as their lethal effects. Shatterhand becomes a player when it becomes known that he has somehow acquired all of information about Tanaka that should be a state secret. As a result, in exchange for Tanaka finally releasing the information Bond needs for his mission, he asks that Bond kill Shatterhand. To accommodate this, he is disguised as a local so as to get close without notice and given a crash course in the use and techniques of ninja equipment. Amongst the intel that Tanaka provides, photos of Shatterhand reveal to Bond the true identity that's of no shock to the reader thanks to spoiler in the book's summary blurb.
The story's main thrust plays out exactly Fleming readers know it must, but the ending gives us some surprising twists, which I won't spoil here. Suffice it to say, it's interesting to consider the possibilities. All in all, it's a satisfying read for what it is, keeping in mind that the overall story has virtually nothing in common with its big screen counterpart aside from character names and settings.
As narrator, Martin Jarvis is an interesting choice. I admit I was not familiar with his name, and upon looking up his extensive list of screen and voice acting credits, I realized I've been aware of his work for a number of years. Funny how that works sometimes. In keeping with the running tally of how the narrators pronounce "007," I'm pleased to say he properly gives us a "double-oh-seven" instead of giving us that offending version that I still can't fathom. Character-wise, Jarvis has to do some international acrobatics in regards to his accent, juggling from British to Japanese to Australian to German with an odd character out here and there for a change up. His standard voice sounds to me to be similar to that of Doctor Who's Jon Pertwee, only without the slight lisp. The accents and character voices he uses might seem stereotyped to some, but no less so than the way Fleming writes them (as always), and Jarvis puts his A-game into this, approaching it with professional enthusiasm. The result is that the story is actually more engaging than it might otherwise be in print.
Published post-mortem, The Man With the Golden Gun is, for me, the weakest of the original 007 books. For those familiar with the movie, put it out o..Show More »f your mind. In this case, the golden gun is just a gold-plated revolver instead of one of the most iconic gadgets ever conceived for film, and the man wielding it is nowhere near as cool as Christopher Lee. The more Fleming's characters describe Scaramanga, the more laughable he becomes, ultimately coming across as a cheap thug.
The setup for this novel is interesting. A year after the events of You Only Live Twice, Bond has been missing in action, presumed dead. Now he turns up at MI-6, brainwashed by the KGB into assassinating M. The assassination fails, however, and M believes the best way to get Bond past his brainwashing and to strike back at those who did it is to send the assassin back at them. Bond's assignment is to kill Scaramanga, the freelance assassin who has given many state agencies a problem since the war.
Bond returns to Fleming's classic stomping grounds of Jamaica, infiltrates Scaramanga's group, and spends much of the novel thinking "it'd be easy to put a bullet in him right here." For as much short as this novel is, and as detailed as it's not by comparison of the other entries in the series, this one suffers from way too much padding. This is likely due to the novel being finished by someone else after Fleming's death. Even so, it's still a good read for the diehard Bond fan. It's just not the greatest. It ultimately comes down to how big of a fan you think you are.
To offset the story, Kenneth Branagh puts forth his thespian talents to carry this tale about as far as it can go, and he does a remarkable job, all things considered. Some voices are stereotyped, but nothing's over the top. In keeping with the running report on pronunciation, I'm pleased to say Branagh gives us a proper "double-oh seven" instead of saying "oh-oh seven."
I have to confess that I found and then immediately downloaded this title by typing Tom Hiddleston's name in the search box on Audible. I have been a..Show More » long-time fan of the James Bond movies and have been encouraged to read the books so this seemed like a complete no-brainer. Tom Hiddleston voicing 007? Yes, please! This title contains 3 stories: The Living Daylights, Octopussy and The Property of A Lady. I knew by the length of the download that these were fairly short, but there is quite a lot of detail in each one. I was surprised that they were not done solely in James Bond's pov, which I found disappointing at first, but I quickly got used to it thanks to Mr. Hiddleston's fantastic narration. The stories have sparked my interest in listening to more of James Bond's adventures. After experiencing Mr. Hiddleston flawlessly voice a Chinese character, I find myself wondering if there is anything he doesn't do well! I've seen him do impressions of his fellow actors on YouTube and after listening to this title I am convinced he has a golden opportunity to add audiobook narrator to his list of skills. Someone please tell this man the world needs him to read more audiobooks! Please?