Saturday, August 6, 2011

Thunderball - Ian Fleming

 "The book is a mystery, a thriller, a chiller, and a pleasure to read."

New York Times.

 Ian Fleming initially wrote Thunderball, his 9th Bond novel, with the intention of having it adapted to film. In essence it is the first novelisation of a Bond screenplay. Written in 1961, it was the first Bond novel that 'Cubb' Broccoli wanted to adapt to film. But due to various legal wranglings, Dr. No, was awarded that distinction. In fact the legal wranglings over, Thunderball, lasted for years, and are the heart of the absurd situation that developed in 1983, with the dual release of official Bond film, Octopussy, and the non-official, Never Say Never Again.

 Well after nine novels I can honestly say I think this is the best one yet!! Dr. No is the only other one that really impressed me, with the others having their individual moments among the datedness. I always thought, From Russia With Love, would be the best. But even though I thoroughly enjoyed it, Thunderball, for me surpasses it. It just doesn't have the datedness of the preceding novels, and if anything still retains a certain freshness. I think it is because of some of names involved technology wise are still known to us, even after 60 years. I mean we all know the weapon names of Polaris, Atlas, Titan, Snark, Matador, and Super Sabre. Also just the use of nuclear weapons as a plot line still has a relevance, and can still be easily imagined by modern readers.

 Another thing as far as datedness went also leapt out at me. And that was the use of language. Before, Thunderball, the strongest word Fleming had used was bitch. But in, Thunderball, he uses crap, bloody, bastard, and the strongest word yet in, arse. Remember this was 1961, so this was heady stuff indeed! Funnily enough, even in the modern Bond films, the language is fairly straight laced and follows the novels. To be sure they are considered family films, and it is quite refreshing when you consider the amount of bad language prevalent in our modern age.
 But Thunderball does follow in its predecessor's footsteps with Fleming's sexism exposed once again. Here he has Bond being driven about by Bond girl, Domino. Through Bond, Fleming tells us why woman are such bad drivers, and the obvious fact that they shouldn't be allowed to drive AT ALL! I laughed my head off at the absurdity of it. Fleming wouldn't be able to get away with anything like that today would he??! And surprisingly, Thunderball is more sexually explicit than the last novels. It doesn't get graphic, but the sex scenes are definitely more advanced in detail than before. Surely a sign of the times, as the world was breaking down previously held taboos within literature.

 Thunderball is the novel where Bond's nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld makes his first appearance ( but without the Persian cat! ), along with his criminal organisation SPECTRE ( Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion ). Fleming used the name after becoming enamoured with if from his use of the name Spectresville ( a town near Las Vegas ) in the novel Diamonds are Forever. He also furthered it from his use of the name, Spektor, for the device from  the novel, From Russia With Love.

 Unlike many of the Bond novels, Thunderball, had almost its entirety in the film adaptation. Of course there were additions, most notably Bond's jet pack escape at the start! But otherwise the film follows the novel with very minor changes. Overall I think because of this the film is as solid as the novel. I like the film, but then again there isn't a Connery Bond film I don't like! The film definitely shows Fleming's touch, and desire, of wanting it adapted to a film.

 Yeah I liked Thunderball, and alot. I do think it is overall the best Bond novel of the nine I have read so far. It lacks the datedness of its predecessors, and with it the jerky stop start feel that it brought. I do feel all the Bond novels are worth reading, even though some have dated, and when you get to ,Thunderball, you'll be pleased you did as it is a fine novel. By this stage Ian Fleming had no excuses for writing poorly, and I quietly feel that, with this novel, he had reached his nadir. Some of the last novels had a marked lack of  previous quality, but it is recognised that by then Fleming was an ill man, and not far of his death.

 The most recommended of the Bond novels.

No comments:

Post a Comment