This is a fantastic Bond book. A classic in every way (and my personal favourite).
The story begins with Bond in London tied up in boring paperwork (yes paperwork! Something they don’t show you in the films. But he is a civil servant as well as a spy). As there is not much action going on M asked for his help in a personal matter. An eminent man, war hero and top industrialist, Sir Hugo Drax, is suspected of cheating at cards in M’s posh London club. The scandal it could cause! Bond, the gambling expert, is asked to teach him a lesson at the card table to put him off cheating and avoid a scandal. This relatively mundane beginning leads unexpectedly to action and drama and the whole city of London under threat.
After successfully deterring Drax from cheating ever again Bond dismissed the affair as the quirk of a brilliant man and agrees to go down to Drax’s factory in Kent to help out with a security matter. Drax is developing the Moonraker, a powerful weapon that will ensure Britain’s military supremacy. The project is so important that Bond is happy to let bygones be bygones and work side by side with Drax, but poor Bond doesn’t realise Drax’s true intentions or recognise what a dangerous enemy he has made…
I like this novel so much as we get to see so many different sides to Bond and his world. One thing that is missing is the jet-setting as this is the only novel where he doesn’t leave the UK, all the action is in London and Dover (how glamourous. Not!) But there is ‘glamour’ provided by the mysterious (well, mysterious to a working class woman living in 2018) world of the old-fashioned gentleman’s club where careers are made and broken, fortunes made and lost at the bridge table and copious amounts of very expensive French Brandy consumed. It is a world so well constructed by Fleming that I could almost smell the cigar smoke even while reading the novel on an Italian beach!
It is also a great novel for action. Bond is completely black and blue by the end of the adventure as he gets into so many scrapes! A cliff explodes on top of him, he’s beaten to a pulp while tied to a chair, run off the road in his Bentley and gets sprayed by a high pressure hose while hiding in a metal pipe! The long car chases are particularly exciting.
As a contrast to this there are wonderful quiet moments. Seeing Bond bored at his desk thinking about what he’s going to have for lunch makes you feel like you are being shown life behind the scenes of our hero. The card game at the beginning is also fantastically detailed and tense. You almost feel the same tension as when his life is at stake even though all he is risking at the card table is pride and an awful lot of money.
The other characters are top class. Drax is a wonderfully villainous villain, who does the ‘classic’ of telling Bond his entire backstory and plan before leaving him to an elaborate death! And Gala, the Bond girl, is the epitome of what a Bond girl should be: beautiful, clever, sexy, brave and attracted to but not intimidated by our hero. She’s an undercover police officer and a full player in the action, certainly no damsel in distress.
5/5 – perfect if you are looking for action and adventure.