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review 2017-05-05 09:18
The more I though, the more I raged
Casino Royale - Ian Fleming

I have so many issues with this. The rampant misogyny, of course. The fact that, personally, I find the whole espionage reason d'etre detestable. And generally, the part where this was not the story I was expecting.

Let's say I waive away the misogyny with a bit of dark amusement (passing the middle-point, I just wanted Vesper to stick it to Bond; and then there is the line "sweet tang of rape" that should be killed with fire, you can get some great examples under the spoiler tag), and take the spy tale on the hope that it'll be some fast action cheap-thrill. I did not get even that. I got a lot of card-playing, torture, and then a mess... I don't even know of what category, certainly not romantic, maybe melodrama. Hell,  I though it was already cheap that a woman couldn't be competent unless she was evil, but it was something (see, even lowering my standards to not be an angry female, what a waste), and then Vesper couldn't even rate to Femme-fatal. So no, there is no way to waive the misogyny. It's entrenched into the plot.

Someone could argue it's truer to the real world and the era, either the unexciting grimness or Bond's stance. I say fuck all that. Let us please have no more Vespers in real life, no more Bonds being glorified in fiction. Let us find other icons.

 

You can find some the shout-inducing bits here

Women were for recreation. On a job, they got in the way and fogged things up with sex and hurt feelings and all the emotional baggage they carried around. One had to look out for them and take care of them.

 

Charming, huh? Another beauty:

 

And luck in all its moods had to be loved and not feared. Bond saw luck as a woman, to be softly wooed or brutally ravaged, never pandered to or pursued. But he was honest enough to admit that he had never yet been made to suffer by cards or by women.  One day, and he accepted the fact he would be brought to his knees by love or by luck. When that happened he knew that he too would be branded with the deadly question-mark he recognized so often in others, the promise to pay before you have lost: the acceptance of fallibility.

 

Women, if they defeat you, take away you self-assurance.

 

This was just what he had been afraid of. These blithering women who thought they could do a man's work. Why the hell couldn't they stay at home and mind their pots and pans and stick to their frocks and gossip and leave men's work to the men. And now for this to happen to him, just when the job had come off so beautifully. For Vesper to fall for an old trick like that and get herself snatched and probably held to ransom like some bloody heroine in a strip cartoon. The silly bitch.

 

He really likes that word.

 

'Torture is a terrible thing,' he was saying as he puffed at a fresh cigarette, 'but it is a simple matter for the torturer, particularly when the patient,' he smiled at the word, 'is a man. You see, my dear Bond, with a man it is quite unnecessary to indulge in refinements. With this simple instrument, or with almost any other object, one can cause a man as much pain as is possible or necessary. Do not believe what you read in novels or books about the war. There is nothing worse. It is not only the immediate agony, but also the thought that your manhood is being gradually destroyed and that at the end, if you will not yield, you will no longer be a man.

 

The bad guy has more respect for a woman that the "hero". Women are more difficult, not because of some chivalrous bullshit, but because men are so attached to their organ *eye-roll*. And for the WTF crown:

 

And now he knew that she was profoundly, excitingly sensual, but that the conquest of her body, because of the central privacy in her, would each time have the sweet tang of rape.

 

It's supposed to be romantic. But then, this is just the inner character commentary, you have to still contend with the plot if you can go past that. Fuck this, I'm done.

(spoiler show)

 

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text 2017-05-04 12:13
Reading progress update: I've read 30 out of 181 pages.
Casino Royale - Ian Fleming

Women were for recreation. On a job, they got in the way and fogged things up with sex and hurt feelings and all the emotional baggage they carried around. One had to look out for them and take care of them.

 

Charming.

 

I get character thought process vs author's, but I kinda want to gag Bond with his own inflated cock.

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review 2017-04-04 22:13
The Man with the Golden Gun
The Man With the Golden Gun - Ian Fleming

M.’ s voice was gruff. ‘007 was a sick man. Not responsible for his actions. If one can brainwash a man, presumably one can un-brainwash him. If anyone can, Sir James can. Put him back on half pay for the time being, in his old Section. And see he gets full back pay and allowances for the past year. If the K.G.B. has the nerve to throw one of my best men at me, I have the nerve to throw him back at them. 007 was a good agent once. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be a good agent again. Within limits, that is. After lunch, give me the file on Scaramanga. If we can get him fit again, that’s the right-sized target for 007.’

The Chief of Staff protested, ‘But that’s suicide, sir! Even 007 could never take him.’

M. said coldly, ‘What would 007 get for this morning’s bit of work? Twenty years? As a minimum, I’d say. Better for him to fall on the battlefield. If he brings it off, he’ll have won his spurs back again and we can all forget the past. Anyway, that’s my decision.’

 

There was a knock on the door and the duty Medical Officer came into the room. M. bade him good afternoon and turned stiffly on his heel and walked out through the open door. The Chief of Staff looked at the retreating back. He said, under his breath, ‘You cold-hearted bastard!’ Then, with his usual minute thoroughness and sense of duty, he set about the tasks he had been given. His not to reason why!

It is with a little bit of sadness as well as a little bit of relief that I am jotting down my notes on The Man with the Golden Gun, the last novel in the original Bond series.

 

The sadness is most definitely a result of reading the series with an awesome buddy, who never lost his patience when I needed to rant about the stupidity of the main character or of the author or both, and who is one of these awesome fans of the franchise that impart additional information about Fleming and the books, who was (at least seemed) happy enough to just geek out on some of the aspects of the stories, and without whom I would not have continued the series.

 

The relief is largely caused by the fact that, on the whole, the books are not great, and in some cases are just pure terrible and made me wish for brain bleach. 

Of the 13 novels and 2  short story collections, I would only recommend two of the novels (Diamonds are Forever and Dr. No) in addition to the short stories to unsuspecting novice Bond readers.

(Although, saying that, I recommended Dr. No to a colleague and he DNF'd it...because the racism was too much - I'm glad he didn't try Live and Let Die...) 

 

Anyway, what about The Man With the Golden Gun?

 

 

Well, the book Scaramanga is no Christopher Lee and there is no Nick-Nack (at all!!), but let's start at the beginning:

 

The Man with the Golden Gun was the last book written by Fleming and it appears that his writing process was to jot down the major plot, some random ideas and topics he may want to pick up on or not, depending on how he felt during the next rounds of edits. During subsequent revisions, he would perhaps also add the descriptions of characters and their natural surrounding which are always highlights of the Bond reading experience.

 

Unfortunately, Fleming died after he finished his first draft, and before he could add edits. I am not sure to what extent his publisher edited Fleming's text (there is one sentence about an em-dash which made me think an editor inserted it as a joke), but the book reads really disjointed. Well, like a rough draft.

 

Other parts read like Fleming - uncut:

"Distinguishing marks: a third nipple about two inches below his left breast. (N.B. in Voodoo and allied local cults this is considered a sign of invulnerability and great sexual prowess.) Is an insatiable but indiscriminate womanizer who invariably has sexual intercourse shortly before a killing in the belief that it improves his “eye”. (N.B. a belief shared by many professional lawn tennis players, golfers, gun and rifle marksmen and others.)"

This leaves us with a story of different parts. I believe there is a distinct difference between the first part in which Bond returns to London after being MIA. 

This part includes a quite thoughtful discussion of the Cold War, and especially of espionage during the time.  

‘Well, if you found these people so reasonable and charming, why didn’t you stay there? Others have. Burgess is dead, but you could have chummed up with Maclean.’ ‘We thought it more important that I should come back and fight for peace here, sir. You and your agents have taught me certain skills for use in the underground war. It was explained to me how these skills could be used in the cause of peace.’

Fleming knew the Cambridge Spies, or at least he was friends at school with Kim Philby, but it is a reasonable assumption to say the Cambrigde Spies scandal was on his mind, considering he even put Bond in a situation where he, too, could be a double-agent.

 

And maybe it is this turn where Fleming chose to show M's true character (see opening quote), which by the way was so well played by Dame Judi Dench that I now cannot see anyone else in the role of M.

 

 

So, shorty after his return, Bond is sent to investigate the villain of the piece Francisco Scaramanga. Unlike the suave, intelligent villain portrayed in the film, the book Scaramanga is a modern day version of a Wild West gun slinger.  And this is where the book quickly loses its original promise and descends into the Western genre, complete with the following scene:

The Rasta quickly pushed up the lever and the speed of the train gathered back to 20 m.p.h. He shrugged. He glanced at Bond. He licked his lips wetly. ‘Dere’s white trash across de line. Guess mebbe it’s some frien’ of de boss.’ Bond strained his eyes. Yes! It was a naked pink body with golden blonde hair! A girl’s body! Scaramanga’s voice boomed against the wind. ‘Folks. Jes’ a little surprise for you all. Something from the good old Western movies. There’s a girl on the line ahead. Tied across it. Take a look.

Yes, you read that right.

 

So, why did I still enjoy the book?

 

My main reason is that this last work of Fleming is so incredulously craptastic that I could not take it seriously. It is such a spoof Western that it was quite fun to try and predict which cliches Fleming was going to throw in there. And for this alone, I liked it.

She went towards him like the Queen Mother opening a bazaar, her hand outstretched. 

But other than this, the book suffered from the same problems as any other Bond novel: The portrayal of women, Jamaicans, .... well, anyone who is not white, straight, male, and British or American is just plain awful.

Now it may only be myth, and it is certainly not medical science, but there is a popular theory that a man who cannot whistle has homosexual tendencies. (At this point, the reader may care to experiment and, from his self-knowledge, help to prove or disprove this item of folklore! C. C.)’ (M. hadn’t whistled since he was a boy. Unconsciously his mouth pursed and a clear note was emitted. He uttered an impatient ‘tchah!’ and continued with his reading.)

But since I cannot take this book serious AT ALL, I am going to say that the main problem with The Man with the Golden Gun is that it lacks a certain Nick-Nack.

 

 

What can I say, I'm glad I've read them, and I have had fun with the gifs, but I look forward to kicking Bond into touch.

 

For anyone, who has not lost the will to live yet after this meander of a "review", I'll update my Bond Project page shortly with all the relevant links to reviews. 

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text 2017-01-30 23:30
Bond Does Romance...
On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Ian Fleming

Bingo.

 

All right. I needed diversion and maybe this will make you smile, too. 

 

I'm not taking part in the Romance Bingo but I love reading everyone's updates and look forward to those fab bingo cards being filled in. Also, I keep wondering about whether whichever book I'm reading would fit into any of the categories. And then it hit me hard:

 

While reading the latest James Bond - On Her Majesty's Secret Service - I kept picturing the bingo card and kept filling in different categories, which leads me to this: 

 

On Her Majesty's Secret Service expressed in Romance Bingo markers.

 

 

Are you ready for some VERY tenuous links between the bingo categories and the book???

 

 

1. Insta-love - Check!

I'm not sure which one to give you here Bond or Tracey, but Tracey - in a suicidal mood - pretty much decides that Bond is the one man who can save her after they spend an hour (that is one hour) in bed together. Btw, that hour happens within a short time of them exchanging their first words with each other. I'm sure no one is shocked by this - this is Fleming after all.

 

2. TSTL - Nope.

(Inconceivable, I know, but there are no TSTL characters in this one. Apart from the girl with the chicken allergy maybe. I'm giving her the benefit of my doubt, tho. She may have had hidden depths. We never get to find out.)

 

3. "Headless" Woman - Nope.

(Again, chicken lady notwithstanding...)

 

4. Love is Murder - Check! Check! Check!

It's very dramatic and very sad. If you've seen the film, you'll know that there is no happy ending.

 

5. New Adult - Nope.

(Thankfully, the genre wasn't in vogue when Fleming wrote this.)

 

6. Young Adult - Nope.

(Again, thankfully so.)

 

7. Regency Romance - Nope.

(Although, the idea would have been fun...)

 

8. Eyeshadow and Heaving Bosom - Nope.

(Unless, I've missed this. Hm...)

 

9. Virgin - Best First Time - Check!

Ok, tenous, because as we know neither Bond nor Tracy are virgins but there is a bizarre scene where Tracy wishes she had been one for Bond. I cringed so hard at that but Fleming just was full of such lines...

 

10. Gothic Romance - Nope. 

(Again, this might have been fun.)

 

11. Blown Away - Check!

Most absolutely! There is action in this one and it is practically choc-a-bloc with "tremendous explosions", one of which has Bond hurl "forward and sideways in a Catherine wheel of sticks and skis."

 

12. Man in a Kilt - Check!

This one is tenuous again. This is the book where we find out that Bond is half Scottish. Also, he gets to impersonate a Scot. However, unlike in the film, there is no mention of Bond wearing a kilt. On the other hand, it is nigh impossible to read this book and not picture him wearing one. So, I'd say it qualifies.

 

13. LOVE - Check!

In their own stupid ways Bond and Tracy are in love. 

 

14. Rogue - Check!

Erm, Bond. You have met Bond, right?

 

15. Historical Romance -  Nope. 

(There is some genealogy and heraldry as part of the plot, but it isn't a historical romance as such.)

 

16. Secret Billionaire - Check!

 Ah, but you see this one is interesting. When Bond first meets Tracy, she's broke and in debt with the casino. This would make her a social pariah but Bond steps in just in time to save her from the social disgrace. A few pages later, we learn that Tracy's father is a millionaire and she wasn't broke after all. (It's more complicated but you get the idea...)

 

17. Twins - Check!

(Again, I am thankful that Fleming did not get to write about twins in this.)

 

18. Fairy Tale Retelling - Check! Check! Check!

Bond as knight in (and out of) shiny armor rescuing the princess (or, in this case,

Comtesse Teresa di Vicenzo) is the main theme of this book!

 

19. Wedding Bells - Check! Check! Check!

This famously is the book where Bond gets married.

 

20. Second Chances -Check!

The first encounter of Bond and Tracy does not go well. They do end up in bed together, but this means little. (This is Bond we are talking about.) It takes both of them a second encounter to warm to each other.

 

21. Key to my Heart - Check!

As we know, Bond loves a woman who can drive a car. In this book, it is Tracy's driving skills that instantly attract Bond to her. It is quite a cute scene. 

 

22. Pirates Argh - Check!

A little tenuous, but I cannot help picturing Draco's henchmen as pirates. They are Sicilian and connected with the mafia, but in my mind they are pirates. At least, they conduct their business affairs in a similar style to what pirates did.

 

23. Guy/Girl Next Door - Nope.

 

24. Interracial Couple - Nope.

 

25. Urban Fantasy Romance - Nope.

(Again, it would have been fun...)

 

I kinda wish the card had been around when we started the Bond Buddy Read, but it may have given the impression that I was not taking Bond seriously. Which, erm, of course, I am. 

 

Btw, I am still stewing over the actual review of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It just needs a little more thought...

 

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text 2017-01-22 23:05
OHMSS: Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 259 pages.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Ian Fleming

I am a tiny bit excited. 

 

This is the book in the Bond series that I have been looking forward to the most, and now finally, we have reached the stage in the Buddy Read where this book is next.

 

In celebration of finally getting to read On Her Majesty's Secret Services, I have cleared my currently reading shelf, which in itself is a first!

 

I hope the book lives up to my expectations. No, sorry, let me rephrase in view of my previous Bond experience...

 

I hope the book is not crap. I hope the book is not crap. Please book, DO NOT BE CRAP.

 

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