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DOCTOR NO By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2009 by stanleyriiks

It’s difficult to read a James Bond book and think about it critically. Bond is a character I grew up with, and still want to emulate! I couldn’t help but watch the true James Bond (Roger Moore, come on people!) seducing women, killing baddies and quipping while they die, an eyebrow raised mischievously. Having grown up with the films, in the same way I grew up with the Conan novels, I can’t help but cherish them and know that no matter how life changes, they will always have a place in my heart.

I’ve probably seen the Doctor No film, or at least bits of it, dozens of times. Some of the scenes are so familiar they are instantly recognisable, although I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually watched Ursula Andreas walk up the beach in her bikini.

But the books are slightly different, as you would expect. Moonraker bares little if any resemblance to the original novel.

I can’t remember the film enough to do a critique of the development of novel into film and I’d prefer not to. People with too much time on their hands can do that while I simply offer my opinion on a book that cleverly encompasses the extremes and thrills of the pulp era, whilst nodding towards the realism and action of the modern thriller. That’s what sets the Bond novels apart from many of their contemporaries, such as Chandler. There’s still a healthy dose of nostalgia for earlier times, a retro pulp action-thriller feel to the novels.

When two secret agents go missing in Jamaica, Bond is sent in to investigate, with the help of Quarrel Bond finds himself on an isolated island owned by the mysterious Doctor No, who protects his privacy by murdering all trespassers. Bond meets up with a young innocent girl, Honeychile, who turns up naked on the beach searching for shells in the area. Unfortunately Doctor No’s troops are alerted to their presence and set out to find them, and the poor girl is dragged into a cat and mouse chase across the island, until they are eventually caught by a dragon!

The pulp tradition is strong in this novel, our hero is tortured by the mad genius, and must go through a series of hideously painful challenges, which even include fighting a giant squid. But where Bond moves the genre forward is the level of detail and the general realism that Fleming uses to describe his hero and the situations he faces, and his weapons.

Bond is the essence of the modern pulp hero, he’s courageous, he’s strong and intelligent, and despite the backing of the British Secret Service, he’s on his own fighting all manner of super villains. In the same way that Batman or The Spider fight crime, with his hands, his ingenuity and his weapons, Bond is also a superhero in the same league, having no special powers (apart from his own God-given abilities) and fighting crime simply because it’s wrong and must be stopped.

Fleming’s original books have dated, just as the original Batman comics and the adventures of The Spider, Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan have also dated, but they were a product of their time, and that’s what still makes them so powerful. Because back then there was hope that one man could make a difference, and that’s why I find these pulp characters so appealing. There’s no modern cynicism to get in the way of the innocent enjoyment of the books and comics and films.

Bond lives forever, unstoppable, in the hearts of his fans, and that’s why he continues to live on through his many different incarnations, but the original books will also live on forever.

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