Ernst Stavro Blofeld, leader of the terrorist organization SPECTRE, has hijacked an American plane loaded with atomic weapons. Unless his demands are met, he will destroy one of the world's major cities. With only one week to locate the missing bombs, James Bond goes to the Bahamas, where he encounters Blofeld's right-hand man, Emilio Largo, and his mistress, Domino. With time running out, Bond learns that sharks are not the only killers in the Caribbean Sea. This audiobook includes an exclusive bonus interview with Jason Isaacs. Blackstone Audio, Inc. James Bond and 007 are registered trademarks of Danjaq LLC, used under license by Ian Fleming Publications Ltd
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This is the book where the entertainment franchise of James Bond truly kicks into gear. No longer just a hobby for Fleming, at this point in the game Bond's creator is actively pushing for a big screen motion picture. The hype and scandal surrounding Kevin McClory's Thunderball screenplay is infamous in the history of 007, leading ultimately to a lawsuit that, in conjunction with Fleming's indulgent lifestyle, would claim the author's life and haunt the film franchise until only recently. This novel draws heavily from that screenplay, but honestly... if you didn't know that, you'd swear it was standard Fleming. All of the registered trademarks of Bond are here, as ever, up to and including Felix Leiter giving a bartender a scathing reprimand over how to properly make a martini.
Behind the scenes, a lifetime of drink, rich food, and smoking has caught up with Fleming, and it shows up in the form of M lecturing Bond about such things as the novel opens, likely Fleming parroting back what his own doctor was telling him in real life. Ironically, Bond and Moneypenny pass this off as one of M's passing phases, and Fleming's further commentaries on healthier options are priceless. In a Bond novel, even the concept of health is deadly. This opening leads to Bond's first encounter with an enemy agent, all of it designed to let Fleming vent about his doctor's orders, and to introduce Bond to what would become his greatest nemesis.
Boredom and health consciousness may be deadly in Bond's world, but these things don't make for a good adventure. Enter the new super secret terrorist organization known as SPECTRE. Fleming uses Bond's first encounter with the enemy to demonstrate just how infinitesimally small Bond and his methods are by comparison of what he's up against: SPECTRE's acquisition of two nuclear warheads. Arch-baddie Ernst Stavro Blofeld makes his first appearance here (sans fluffy white cat), sending his best operative, Emilio Largo, to a task against our hero. Curiously, even though Blofeld is in charge, he's listed as Number Two, and Largo is Number One. Seems backwards to me, and I'm glad they fixed it for the film.
Jason Isaacs is easily one of the best narrators in this series. He's as subtle as Bond for the most part, which makes the dynamic of his other character portrayals stand out. As a bonus, his voice for Largo sounds at times like the late, great Ricardo Montalban. In keeping with my running gag of how 007 is pronounced, I'm pleased to report that Isaacs gives us a proper "double-oh" instead of the offending "oh-oh."
All in all, perhaps not the best of Fleming's stories, but the character moments are most definitely there, and the novel's weight behind the history of the franchise make this a most important addition to the original 007 canon.