Moonraker by Ian Fleming

51EwfAnvXJL._ It’s a long way from Fleming’s limpid prose to a portly Roger Moore in a spacesuit. As with most film versions of the James Bond books, the novel provides a title and relatively little else. Anyone expecting high jinks in Rio de Janeiro and Venice may be a mite disappointed: 007 spends most of his time in Kent, shuttling between Dover and Maidstone, and even eats a fry-up at one point. He never attempts re-entry, although Gala Brand is, it’s true, one of the great unknown Bond girl names. Oh alright, the plot, the plot: Sir Hugo Drax is a wrong’un – he cheats at bridge in M’s club Blades, for heaven’s sake. But he is also a multi-millionaire Englishman, a war hero who has bankrolled the Moonraker, a rocket system that will guarantee peace in our time. We may have heard this somewhere before. Actually – doh! – Drax is a former Nazi who still dreams of world domination and, in the early 1950s, has engineered a dastardly government-approved scheme under the dirty, snivelling noses of those useless, weak Whitehall mandarins. Other former Nazis – with shaven heads and moustaches – help him. And it all means that London is about to be wiped from the map – unless with one bound, Bond can be free…. Last year I read four Bonds in a row from Sebastian Faulks’ highly enjoyable ‘writing as Ian Fleming’ karaoke effort, Devil May Care, to the final three in the series proper: O.H.M.S.S, You Only Live Twice and The Man With The Golden Gun. It was probably unhealthy, an overload of literary tartrazine. But it did taste pretty good, apart from the latter, which is Bond versus a boorish American thug, with not much else to redeem it. What strikes you is the sheer weirdness of the Bond books: Bond has Christmas lunch (no paper hats) with M in O.H.M.S.S. – while in the Japan travelogue that is You Only Live Twice, Blofeld wanders round his garden of poisonous plants, where he encourages Japanese suicides to come and end it all, in Samurai armour. Bond ends up an amnesiac, last heard heading for Vladivostok, where he is brainwashed by the Russians. Now that’s a proper film….

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