Wednesday, 19 January 2011
Bond. That's right.
I once spent a week in a farmhouse in Scotland where I read through half a dozen Bond books, because they were the only things on the shelf. And possibly because they're about Bond, James Bond, as well. Mostly that, in fact.
I didn't read Moonraker then, but I did now (obviously). The best thing about switching books with friends is you end up with things you probably wouldn't pick up for yourself; the worst thing is that you were probably right not to pick them up, some of the time.
Moonraker is a little indecisive compared to most Bond books, but also the best. It's set entirely in England, and here's the main thing: nothing preposterous happens for the first half. Read that again. Nothing. It's all vaguely, squintingly believable.
But it's indecisive: after the halfway point, it gets silly. It's not preposterous enough throughout to be brilliantly insane, but it's not reasonable enough throughout to be any good.
But even the short break from ridiculum marks it as the best Bond novel, to me. The opening third is Fleming writing about a game of Bridge in a club in London. Fleming knows a lot about bridge, clubs and London -- more than he knows about rockets and women and supervillains, anyway. It's tense, it's a psychological battle, and it's claustrophobic. It's a lot better than I remember any of the other Bond novels I read being.
Up until page 180, that is, when the German supervillain building an atomic warhead in Dover for the Queen explodes a cliff right above Bond's head. Then comes car chases, Soviet submarines, and a girl who knows the co-ordinates for the rocket getting locked up with Bond, by Supervillain -- in the rocket control centre. Unguarded. Mwahahaha.
Oh well. At least it didn't have Roger Moore in it.