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After the horror-show that was Goldfinger, I was a little leery about starting another Bond novel. The overall ridiculousness, misogyny, and racism was pretty hard to stomach. But I figured I’d give it another go with Bond’s 8th book. This one is a collection of 5 short stories and I was curious to see how they fared compared to the novels. I’m happy to say that it blew them away.
The stories are extremely varied, ranging from vendetta killings to chasing down Italian drug lords.
A View To a Kill – The murder of a government courier sends Bond on an investigation to discover the killer’s identity. This story follows the classic “Bond Opening” prevalent in the films, by starting with the problem, then bringing Bond in to deal with it. The story uses the infamous Bond Gadgets like in the films, though he’s not the one using them. It served as a solid opening story and rekindled my faith in the character.
For Your Eyes Only – Bond goes on an “Off the Books” assignation job for M. Great story. A moment or two of misogyny, but tame compared to most of the previous books.
Quantum of Solace – Bond goes to a party and talks. Yup. That’s it. No Bond Adventure, just a story of Bond hearing a story about a man who fell in love with a flight attendant and was trapped as a cuckold in a loveless marriage. Bond learns a valuable lesson on judging people. While good, it really sticks out because Bond, like the audience, is merely listening to a story about people we’ve never met and without all the things that one picks up a Bond story to read about. I spent more time than I should have waiting for it to get good, rather than just enjoying it. Much better tale in hindsight than during the actual telling of it.
Risico – Bond travels to Italy to track down the source of a heroin ring. Great deal of action, and even some old-fashioned betrayal. Good contrast to the previous story.
The Hildebrand Rarity – This one is strange. Bond is for some random reason on a boat with a god-awful man in search of a rare fish for the Smithsonian. The boat owner is deplorable and Bond wrestles with the knowledge that his host is abusing his wife. Bond also exhibits a huge amount of sympathy for a fish. It’s more of a moral crisis for Bond than in any other story so-far. I’m 50/50 on this on how much I enjoyed it. It’s not a bad story, but it isn’t a good Bond story.
Overall, I enjoyed this book more than most of the Bond series so-far. Fleming was able to get to the adventure and employ his wonderful prose, but didn’t have much time to stop and straight-up insult people like he does in the novels. I really think the shorts are his strength.
Samuel West did a very fine performance, especially with accents in this international adventure.
I like the longer stories better, but the shorts are quite interesting, a little variation in style from the novels