Monday, May 13, 2024



Ian Fleming's third James Bond book (1955) was the only one of Fleming's 14 Bond books set entirely in England. It shows Fleming continuing to hone his craft as one of the finest thriller writers of the mid-Twentieth Century. I last read this book in high school more than 50 years ago. It was a joy to re-read it now. 

Hugo Drax is a post-WWII hero. Found severely wounded and with amnesia in the rubble of WWII, he has built a fortune and now is giving back to England by building Moonraker, the world's most advanced rocket that will protect the motherland. Only this multi-millionaire hero has a flaw -- he cheats at cards. 

At M's encouragement, Bond accompanies his boss to Blades, a posh fictitious private card club based on Fleming's own private club. The battle of bridge between Bond and Drax is even more intense and suspenseful than the duel between Bond and LeChiffe in Casino Royale, and is Fleming's writing at its best. But that is only the beginning.

When the security officer at the Moonraker sight is murdered, Bond is sent in his place. And the story kicks into high gear.

It is a well-written book that carries with it more than a bit of mid-century history. It brings back the time when the world was still trembling at the thought of nuclear weapons raining down from the sky on supersonic missiles fired from over the far horizon. Fleming latches on to that fear. Still years before the public started hearing terms like pitch and yaw, Fleming does a very credible job of writing about rocket technology of the time. 

Two final points.  First, Fleming's Moonraker bears no resemblance to the absolutely dreadful Roger Moore movie of the same name. Second, this is the rare book in which Bond doesn't walk off into the sunset with the girl, in this case, Gala Brand. Instead, on the last page, she walks off with her fiance, leaving Bond on his own.

If you enjoy thrillers or books set in the first decade following WWII, this is a MUST READ.

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