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"The James Bond Bedside Companion" was, for a generation of James Bond fans, the "Bond Bible". It covered most of the aspects of the James Bond phenomenon with a kind of detail that few books had shown before. Particularly in the area of the novels, author Raymond Benson delves into the minutia of the works.
In the years since its publication, there have been many books that have covered the same ground and, since Benson ceased updating after the 1988 refresh, can go into detail on the works since '88. But the "Bedside Companion" is still a picture postcard from Bond fandom of the time and well worth a listen, as long as you are aware of the drawbacks.
The main drawback to the work is that it is less of an encyclopedia and more of an extended series of reviews. Benson does not hide the fact that he has very clear ideas of what makes "proper Bond" and what doesn't and his opinions drive the work. So, don't look for cold, objective information. Everything is presented with a judgment on how it fits Benson's view of Bond.
And those opinions can get *very* repetitive. As he delves into the Roger Moore Bond films (which he clearly dislikes for the most part), his complaints become tiresome as he says the same thing over and over again. He makes his argument that these films are "comedies" early on and just keeps hammering away at it. I imagine even if you agreed with that opinion, you'd tire of hearing it, wishing he could find something new to say (or at least a new way to say it).
Something that Benson can't be faulted for is many of the inaccuracies; things that only came to light long after the book was written. He makes a lot of assumptions (based on then-available knowledge) that has since proven to be incorrect. This hurts the work today, but if taken in context of the time when it was written, can be understood.
Overall, though, this is still one of the great works of James Bond scholarship, since it covers so many areas of Fleming and his creation. And all-in-one overview that is worth experiencing. It is clear he knows the material, which is why it is not surprising that he is the most successful (stylistically) of all the post-Fleming Bond novelists.
As for the production of the audiobook, I have to be less complimentary. While reader Dan Bernard does an acceptable job, the production values are poor. The main problems are:
1) It appears to be missing an entire section. I can't believe that Benson skipped covering the novel "Diamonds Are Forever" in the book, but it is nowhere to be found in the audiobook.
2) Poor editing results in sentences cut off before finishing, as well as sentences (or parts of sentences) being repeated. It's as if Bernard was trying a different take on the sentence, but no one bothered to edit out the duplicate material.
So, while I still recommend this audiobook for the material, be ready for a bumpy ride.
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What would have made The James Bond Bedside Companion better?
It would have been better if the author liked Bond. I am not being hypercritical. Considering the highly negative tone in the book, I have no idea why the author would write a Bond book if he has such a negative opinion of so much of the Bond content.
The author does a great job of summarizing the entire Bond world up to 1984. However, he offers far to much personal opinion on everything, and he offers his opinion as fact, which is exceptionally annoying if you do not happen to agree with him. I have read the books and seen the movies multiple times. I love all things Bond. I thought this book might fill in some blanks. While it does fill in a few blanks, the majority of the book is made up of the author criticizing the books and then criticizing the movies as not being up to the standard of the books.
What could Raymond Benson have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?
The author should have offered far far less personal opinion. He liked to declare that a film, a scene, a character, an actor, etc... "was the worst of the series." He offered no points of view contrary to his own. He does not even consider others may see things differently.
The author could also have been more positive. I want to hear about the good and the bad rather than just the bad, which I did not usually agree was bad. He could have highlighted all that is great about Bond. This book is completely void of this type of praise. If someone were to go into this book without having read the books or having seen the movies, that person would probably wonder why anyone would do either considering how terrible the author makes everything sound.
How did the narrator detract from the book?
He mispronounced names.
Any additional comments?
If you love Bond, steer clear of this book, it will just frustrate you. If you love to complain about Bond, this is the book for you!