Saturday, June 25, 2011

Moonraker - Ian Fleming

Cover from the first edition.
 ' Bond is what every man would like to be, and what every woman would like to have between her sheets'.

 Raymond Chandler.

 Moonraker is the third of Ian Fleming's Bond novels. It seems logical to read them in order but I notice Fleming has fallen in the annoying trap of many authors who repeat information from their previous novels. I see the point as it introduces things to readers who may not have read the preceding novels, but to one who has it is somewhat pointless. In Moonraker Fleming un-necessarily tells the reader about Bond's Bentley, which is an almost word for word description from Casino Royale. One author who is particularly bad for this is Bernard Cornwell in his Sharpe's and Starbuck novel's.

 This Bond outing all but follows on from Live and Let Die. At the end of that novel Bond was given two weeks leave and in Moonraker he has been back at headquarters for only a matter of days. This novel has a superb beginning and the first 100 pages are rippers, certainly the most enjoyable of the three novels so far. It takes Bond into Blades, the very exclusive London club where M has concerns over multi-millionaire Hugo Drax cheating at cards. Bond delves back into his Casino Royale training by a card shark to beat Drax at his own game and fleece him for 15,000 Pound. The Blades scene is wonderfully described,  but the gambling is brilliant and beats that of Casino Royale hands down.

 Moonraker was published in 1955 and yet the American version wasn't called that until 1960. In the States it was initially titled Too Hot too Handle. The Spy Who Loved Me was the only other Bond novel to have an initially different U.S. title. The reasons are rather obscure now unfortunately for anyone interested. Moonraker also was somewhat 'Americanised' as it was felt that U.S readers wouldn't understand many of the British idioms. For instance in the bridge game in Blades the "knave of hearts" is changed to the " jack of hearts".

 The movie adaptation is almost unrecognisable from the novel. In the novel Hugo Drax is an ex-Nazi soldier trained by Otto Skorzeny who used a wounding to wendle his way into English society. He makes a fortune from rare metals, and becomes well respected. He then develops the Moonraker, a missile capable of hitting any European capital. It is seen as a deterrent and Drax hailed as a hero ( 'peace in our time, again' ). Of course as the plot develops his Nazi past is revealed and Bond discovers. along with sex bomb special Branch agent Gala Brand. that on its test flight Drax has the war head armed with a Russian sourced atomic bomb. He plans to detonate it over London in reprisal for Germany's defeat at the hands of the British during the war ( not too mention his personal loathing of 'this filthy isle' ).

 Of course Bond saves the day and the missile detonates in the North Sea along with a Russian submarine sent to whisk Drax off to safety. The movie adaptation varies greatly because Albert Broccoli wanted to cash in on the success of Star Wars and give Moonraker a space incursion. Again like Live and Let Die a scene from the novel was incorporated into another movie. In this case Drax's line to Bond after he losses the 15,000 Pounds says to him ' Spend it wisely, Mister Bond'. The line was used in Octopussy after Roger Moore had won at backgammon with the cheats loaded dice.

 Moonraker is also unique in that this is the only novel outside of the short stories that Bond doesn't get the girl. At the end Gala Brand meets Bond who intended to take her to France for a ravishing good time, but he gets politely brushed off as she tells him that ' I'm too marry that man over there'.

 Again with Moonraker if you have been filled with the movies like me it can be strange adjusting to the novels. The story lines are generally changed beyond recognition of the novels and if you read Moonraker expecting space stations and laser battles you will be disappointed. But as a novel it is a very good follow on from Live and Let die, and yet I think Let Die was a superior read. Moonraker has that brilliant beginning but goes a bit flat for the next hundred pages until it picks up again with Bond in a rip roaring car chaser after Drax and the finale with the missile. Suffice to say after the beating he received in Live and Let Die he gets another good one in Moonraker!!

 Another easily read novel. Not quite as good as its predecessor but it does have the best Bond scene of the first three novels set in Blades in my opinion. At 302 pages it is also the longest of the first three. Also it possibly has the most 'Ian Fleming ' in it. There is a bit of sexism at the start, and  is based on some of Fleming's wartime intelligence work, especially T- Force which he himself established. I believe he researched rockets for the novel and based Drax's research centre in Kent as it was a part of England he was particularly fond of.

 Read especially for the first 100 pages as they are superb, and the best writing of Fleming's in his first three James Bond novels.


  1. Good review again, thanks for that.

  2. Ha ha!! You'll have to start reading them to see if I'm full of the proverbial or not!