After reading and reviewing Casino Royale, and Live and Let Die, and after about a year’s hiatus due to ‘real life stuff’ getting in the way, I continue my James Bond Challenge with Moonraker, the third Bond novel written by Ian Fleming, in 1955. 

As ever, my book review style is just a brain dump of my thoughts and comments whilst going through the book. Moonraker is a film that I remember being a bit ‘out there’ so I was curious to see how the book compared.

  • Interestingly this book doesn’t have a Contents page with all the chapters on it
  • Also interesting that the first Chapter is preceded by “Part One: Monday”. This made me think it might be quite a short timeframe story and therefore quite action packed. It actually all happens in the course of 5 days
  • p6 – Fleming writes that the Secret Service headquarters are near Regent’s Park, which is different from the current location of MI6 on the river in Vauxhall
  • p9 – We learn that 008 is called Bill
  • p9 – There is also a 0011. When you see a number like 007 or 008 you feel like it should go up to 100. But we then discover there is a 0011 which just makes the numbering system feel a bit weird! We also hear that there are only three 00s and Bond is the senior. So I guess they just give new people a higher 00 number and don’t replace old ones. I feel like someone should write a prequel story about 001. Maybe someone already has!
  • p9 – It kind of feels weird Bond having a desk and an office and a private secretary. But I guess he can’t spend every day out on assignment. The man would be shattered!
  • p10 – There is some fascinating information here about Bond’s everyday life. He only has two or three assignments a year. His office hours are ten to six. He has lunch in the canteen. His evenings are spent either playing cards, or “making love, with rather cold passion, to one of three similarly disposed married women”. Weekends playing golf. He doesn’t take holidays. He earns £1,500 per year but can spend whatever he wants on assignments.
  • p10 – It also states that he would be taken off the 00 list at the age of 45. Interestingly this was Roger Moore’s age when he STARTED playing Bond
  • p20 – M says Bond is the best card player in the secret service and MI6 paid a lot of money to put him on a course in card-sharping before a job in Monte Carlo! He then lists a fascinating list of names of card-sharping techniques
  • p25 – Absolutely fascinating information about the Blades cards club. It’s a fictional place. I wonder if it was a place Fleming had as a fantasy of his or if it is based on anywhere that actually existed. There is a rule that every member has to win or lose £500 a year on the club premises, otherwise they pay a fine of £250. The food and wine are the best in London. The cash paid out is all brand new notes and coins. Every newspaper is ironed. The waitresses are all young and beautiful and often known to frequent members’ bedrooms upstairs.
  • p28 – We learn that M is an Admiral
  • p33 – M says “Bond, James Bond”
  • p35 – We learn here that M’s name is Miles! (I have subsequently learnt via the internet that we learn in Fleming’s final book that M’s name is Vice Admiral Miles Messervy)
  • p37 – Bond ordering food is amazing. “I’ve got a mania for really good smoked salmon,” said Bond. Then he pointed down the menu. ‘Lamb cutlets. The same vegetables as you, as it’s May. Asparagus with Béarnaise sauce sounds wonderful. And perhaps a slice of pineapple.” He sat back and pushed the menu away.
  • p41 – Bond using Benzedrine to stay alert!
  • About a third of this book is the Bridge game at Blades. I love that. Feels like a real in-depth intimate read.
  • It’s encouraging to read that even James Bond gets hangovers
  • p60 – Bond deduces “with some irritation” he will have to find a new place to hide his gun on planes and at airports!
  • p62 – So sex maniacs were a known thing in the 50s too apparently
  • p68 – In a meeting with M, Bond is more concerned about buying his new Bentley. I really do love this book for showing us a more real side to Bond, his life and his daily concerns
  • p75 – Bond is perusing the girl’s vital statistics on her file. Including Hips, Waist and Bust measurements, and a mole on upper curvature of right breast. “Hm! thought Bond”
  • p76 – Black and White whisky is mentioned in this book, not Haig or Old Grandad like previous books
  • p79 – There is a Peter Lorre reference. Interesting as he played Le Chifre in the Casino Royale TV special a year prior to this
  • p83 – When Bond first meets Miss Brand he seems almost equally impressed by her beauty as by her authority as a policewoman. Almost strange comment though when he says “Altogether, Bond decided, she was a very lovely girl and beneath her reserve, a very passionate one. And, he reflected, she might be a policewoman and an expert at jujitsu, but she also had a mole on her right breast. With this comforting thought Bond turned the whole of his attention to the conversation between Drax and Walter…“. Does this mean that the mere presence of a mole on someone’s right breast makes them a seductive object of desire rather than an impressive professional peer? Also interesting that Fleming chose to reference Jujitsu. I thought Karate and Judo were much more popular until the late 70s or early 80s.
  • p85 – There’s a typo here where Drax is spelt Drex
  • p90 – I loved the conversation between Bond and Drax about moustaches!
  • p91 – “On Wednesday morning Bond woke early in the dead man’s bed.” I love that opening line to the chapter. The disarming details about the day and early make the fact it was the bed of a dead man so shocking.
  • p95 – I love that Bond uses the mental alarm clock method of visualising a clock in the position of 7am before he falls asleep to let his body clock wake him up on time. I’ve done that myself many times.
  • p100 – Another Hoagy Carmichael reference
  • p120 – “Bond turned away and was rackingly sick“. I’ve never heard that word before but I totally know how sick Bond was.
  • p135 – “There was a flash of wonderfully releasing pain.” This is a common theme in the books, some people say suggesting that Fleming was a bit of a masochist
  • p164 – Bond saying to Drax “And now let’s get on with this farce, you great hairy-faced lunatic” made me laugh. “Hairy faced”? Wash your mouth out with soap, James.
  • p165 – The word “brainstorm” is used here to suggest anger and frenzy
  • p167 – Bond is near death, severely beaten and about to blow up himself or the whole of London, but… result! He finds some Haig & Haig whisky!
  • p169 – Nice reference of “The boy stood on the burning deck
  • I love the whole chat with M about the aftermath and how M has to deal with the press and the Prime Minister and how it will be covered up etc. I found that fascinating.
  • Nice ending, with the scream of a rose callback, and the goodbyes between them.

I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Already Fleming is proving he isn’t just following a cookie cutter structure for each book. I found Casino Royale had quite a strange/interesting structure in some ways, and Live and Let Die was fairly normal. And Moonraker, as mentioned above, has about a third of the book just about a came of cards. But I like the variety, and in particular in this one I love how much we learn about Bond. The intricacies of his life, and what makes him tick.

Current and ranking and scoring
Moonraker – 9
Casino Royal – 8.5
Live and Let Die – 7