26

Re: Bond novels, reviewed in 500 words or less

"I just read those Higson's Young Bond adventures earlier this spring, they're awesome! much better than any of the proper continuation authors I've read, since maybe Christopher Wood."

I agree- Higson's efforts stand up well on rereading, despite the basic concept being pretty far from Fleming.


"It's interesting you started with those books. How old were you? Had you seen the films? I assume the books were intended to be a child's first BondLit experience, but I never met such anybody who started with Young Bond til now."

From memory I was around nine or ten, browsing a bookshop when I came across the then-latest Higson- I think Hurricane Gold. At that point I had only seen a few Roger Moore films, and was vaguely aware of Daniel Craig being the current Bond. I persuaded my mother to buy it for me on the strength of the Bond name slapped across the cover, and I remember thoroughly enjoying it. Not the Bond I was used to, but still a gripping read all the same.


I quickly collected all the young Bonds by Higson, and a couple of years after that moved on to the originals with Fleming's FYEO.



My other strong memory of Higson's young Bond is lending Hurricane Gold to my mother back when I first read it. She promptly gave it back, unable to get past the torture scenes in chapter one with the sadistic 'rat run' ordeal. Looking at it now I realise Higson's fare is pretty gruesome stuff for younger readers...


I still find it a bit ironic that Higson's young Bond saga manages to evoke Fleming more successfully than most of the 'proper' continuation authors...

27

Re: Bond novels, reviewed in 500 words or less

That's a good origin story, SPECTRE. Clearly Higson's books succeeded in doing their job.

They were more explicitly gorey than anything Fleming wrote, or probably any of the grownup authors. I think Hurricane Gold is the one where one of the bad guys suffers a head injury early on, and his brains are literally falling out of a hole in his skull for the rest of the book, even as he continues to walk and talk for a couple hundred more pages.
I figured the books were aimed at young boys who consider gorey messes cool?

28

Re: Bond novels, reviewed in 500 words or less

"They were more explicitly gorey than anything Fleming wrote, or probably any of the grownup authors. I think Hurricane Gold is the one where one of the bad guys suffers a head injury early on, and his brains are literally falling out of a hole in his skull for the rest of the book, even as he continues to walk and talk for a couple hundred more pages.
I figured the books were aimed at young boys who consider gorey messes cool?"


I guess the publishers figured that the violence was so over-the-top that it was impossible to take seriously. I well remember the character whose brains start falling out- elsewhere, a different villain is buried alive by swarms of ants in the jungle, Indiana Jones-style, while another character drowns in quicksand.


I've just checked over my copy of Hurricane Gold and it carries the dubious recommendation on the back cover, from an Observer review, that there's "more flesh-crawling deaths than ever before!" This on a book apparently aimed at younger readers...

29

Re: Bond novels, reviewed in 500 words or less

For Your Eyes Only (1960)



After seven consecutive Bond novels in as many years, Ian Fleming decided to experiment with the formula a little, resulting in 1960’s For Your Eyes Only. Rather than a full-length novel, the author instead produced a collection of five short stories, comprising a set of brief vignettes depicting the dangerous life of a secret agent. Fleming’s FYEO ultimately succeeds in offering a unique reading experience, albeit with a few misfires along the way.


The first story presented here, ‘From A View to A Kill’, involves a melancholy Bond attempting to solve the mystery of disappearing NATO despatch riders. The shadow of the Second World War casts a pall over Bond’s thoughts during the gloomy opening, with his cynical distaste for the French capital: “Bond had decided to give the town one more chance…Since 1945, he had not had a happy day in Paris…it was its heart that was gone…” Combining intriguing allusions to Bond’s war service, vivid imagery “thundering stream of black metal”, and a well-drawn portrait of a lonely and bitter 007, Fleming crafts an exceptional introductory scene.  As the story progresses there occurs a tense setpiece, with Bond’s surveillance of the villains’ forest hideout, and the ensuing climactic battle delivers. FAVTAK makes for a fine start to the collection.


The high quality continues with the second instalment, “For Your Eyes Only”. The tale entangles Bond with a striking heroine in Judy Havelock, whose independent spirit sets her apart from many of Fleming’s other romantic foils for Bond: “She would walk alone through life and have little use for civilisation…Bond thought she was wonderful…” Overall, FYEO marks another triumph for the collection as a whole.


The next story, “Quantum of Solace”, is where the standard of storytelling begins to tail off somewhat. Here we’re treated to a bored Bond listening to the Governor of Nassau tell a long anecdote about unlucky civil servant Philip Masters’ disintegrating marriage. While Fleming will return to the subject of marriage later on in the series, with superior results, here the Governor’s lengthy yarn on the topic comes across as rambling, lacking Fleming’s usual flair. The penultimate story, “Risico”, is better, with a pleasing focus on the myriad deceptions and lies of genuine spycraft, as well as a memorable setpiece in Bond’s stroll across a deadly minefield. Finally, Fleming contributes “The Hildebrand Rarity”, the last and best of the stories featured here. With colourful imagery, a rich setting in the form of the Seychelles, and an intensely creepy and repelling villain in the odious Milton Krest, THR represents essentially the most ‘Flemingesque’ of these five adventures, ending with an unsettling twist.


In conclusion, “For Your Eyes Only” is a worthwhile read. The short story format generally works quite effectively, with the disappointing exemption of the middling QOS. With four hits and a miss, “For Your Eyes Only” remains an interesting and distinctive variation of the usual Bond formula.

30

Re: Bond novels, reviewed in 500 words or less

Good review, SoD, thanks for that. I'd have given "Risico" more coverage, though. It deserves more than one sentence!

31

Re: Bond novels, reviewed in 500 words or less

I love the FYEO compilation. These stories, QoS aside, are among my favorite of Fleming’s work.

32

Re: Bond novels, reviewed in 500 words or less

Interesting reviews - keep them coming!

My Top 10 Bond Films: Octopussy, Goldeneye, From Russia With Love, The Living Daylights, Tomorrow Never Dies, Licence to Kill, For Your Eyes Only, Moonraker, Goldfinger and The Spy Who Loved Me.