My James Bond Challenge continues with Dr. No, the sixth Bond novel written by Ian Fleming, and published in 1958. 

Once again, my book review style is just a brain dump of my thoughts and comments whilst going through the book. I’m particularly interested to read this one as Dr. No is of course the first book that was made into a movie, so I was intrigued about what the book would be like.

  • Interesting to read more about Fleming’s Jamaica that he loved so much
  • p5 – Richmond Rd is where the ‘best’ people lived. I’m pretty sure Fleming didn’t live there, so maybe that’s a little dig at the ‘elite’
  • p20 – I love the conversation about the guns and Bond getting his first Walther PPK
  • p28 – Interesting to see M be tough on Bond, and Bond hating him for the first time.
  • Fleming turns his racism to the Chinese in this book. He really does seem to hold his most negative, direct racism to the Asian nations.
  • p55 – It’s a caterpillar in the book as opposed to a tarantula in the movie. Funny quote about Bond being shocked by his hair standing on end. “How extraordinary! How very extraordinary!”
  • I like how the Bond books aren’t too formulaic. Sometimes he gets a mission, sometimes something happens while he is on vacation or it’s a favour for M, sometimes the book starts with the enemy for the first third of the book, sometimes it starts with long games of gambling. Fleming keeps mixing it up and trying new things and I find that refreshing.
  • Loads of embarrassing phonetically-written Jamaican accents here
  • If I’m reading correctly I’m pretty sure Bond put a human decoy driver in his car but that car got attacked and the driver killed? But there doesn’t seem to be any remorse for the driver at all!
  • Bond drinks a quarter of a bottle of Rye before his big night mission?! Hardcore.
  • Fascinating hearing Bond talk Honey out of being a callgirl
  • Bond’s colleagues always seem to die! It’s like someone becoming friends with Angela Lainsbury. Be careful!
  • p112 – Bond gives M’s real name! Is it not supposed to be a secret?
  • p128 – I love hearing Bond ordering drinks. “And I would like a medium Vodka dry Martini – with a slice of lemon peel. Shaken and not stirred, please. I would prefer Russian or Polish vodka.”
  • p129 – Dr. No seems to have artificial eyes too? Maybe it’s just contact lenses?
  • I’m loving Dr. No as a villain. Properly scary
  • Great ‘run the gauntlet’ sequence. Bond would do well on ‘Ninja Warrior’ or ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’
  • Giant squid! This is becoming like the Goonies
  • ‘Slave-time’. Judging by the chapter title and Honey’s constant slave-time sexual references, it appears that Bond is about to have a… wait for it… Bondage session?

I thought this was a really great book. There are many elements within it that were to become Bond tropes in the movies. Which makes sense if this is the first movie they made. It really feels like a proper James Bond spy adventure. To be honest I imagined that all the novels would be like this one but a lot of them have had very different structures and approaches which surprised me and I’ve found very interesting. I have this in my Top 3 Bond books so far I reckon. I’m finding it hard to separate that top 3 without reading them all again. The reason Moonraker still stands out for me is the relationship between Bond and Gala Brand. She is such a strong ‘Bond woman’. Dr. No is a super-fun, pulpy spy adventure but, although Honeychile Rider is a very interesting and unique character, I just didn’t feel their connection as much as some other Bond relationships. But there is so much to like in this book.

Current ranking and scoring out of 10
Moonraker – 9
Dr. No – 9
From Russia, with Love – 9
Casino Royale – 8.5
Live and Let Die – 7
Diamonds are Forever – 6.5