To this point, I have read the first four James Bond novels by Ian Fleming. Based on my readings, it appears to me that there are things you accept when you read a James Bond novel:
- There will be male chauvinistic behavior.
- There will be ethnic slurs and slights, to varying degrees so far
- There will be lots of violence.
Regardless of this, I find the Ian Fleming James Bond series to be consistently entertaining and each book is a page turner. If they were hard to get through or less than entertaining, I would give up on them. And the books do not follow an exact formula; each book is different.
In Moonraker, Sir Hugo Drax is a very rich man who is building a rocket to be used in Britain's defense system. It is very close to being ready for testing. Meanwhile, M and Drax belong to a very elite club and Drax is suspected of cheating at cards. M wants Bond to determine if this is true, because it would cause a scandal if exposed. A very exciting card game ensues.
Very soon after this, one of two security people supplied by the RAF is killed in a double murder at Drax's development site. Bond is sent to take the murdered man's place as head of Security because of the upcoming test launch of the rocket. The other security person on site, Gala Brand, is working undercover as Drax's private secretary. All other personnel at the site are German guided missile experts.
There are several elements that set this book apart. Gala is an agent and she is intelligent and capable. Although Bond does behave chauvinistically toward her initially, he grows to care for her and acknowledges her abilities as an agent along the way. In the books, Bond does not treat women as objects quite so much as in the movies, especially the earlier movies.
Bond is shown to have a normal life, or at least a life apart from endless spy missions. This never comes across in the movies, and shows up rarely in the books.
It was the beginning of a typical routine day for Bond. It was only two or three times a year that an assignment came along requiring his particular abilities. For the rest of the year he had the duties of an easy-going civil servant – elastic office hours from ten to six; lunch, generally in the canteen; evenings spent playing cards in the company of a few close friends, or at Crockford’s; or making love, with rather cold passion, to one of three similarly disposed married women; weekends playing golf for high stakes at one of the clubs near London.Bond is depicted as a very capable agent but not a superman. He suffers when he is beaten up; he is susceptible to tiring out or being overcome by superior strength. As in most adventure stories he does get out of scrapes by his wits and luck, but that part of the story is fairly realistic. Yes, the plot and action is still over the top, but in a good way. And it was fun.
The Adaptation Starring Roger Moore
You could call the movie "Bond in Space"; the plot is certainly very science-fictiony. The movie adaptation jettisons most of the plot of the book. There is some justification for this. By the time the book was adapted, a defense rocket would not be all that exciting. I have read that the decision to film Moonraker at the time it was made (1979) was due to the recent successful films set in space, such as Star Wars. Thus the rocket becomes a space shuttle that can transport astronauts and supplies to a space station.
However, I found the adaptation was a disappointment because the card game and the cheating issue are dropped and the trip to outer space is totally outlandish. Possibly the issue of cheating at cards was seen as not as such a hot topic in the late seventies as it was in the fifties? Although certainly there have been many gambling scenes in more recent Bond movies.
A big difference between book and movie is that the book stays in the UK, the movie has many exotic locations; the action starts in London, moves to the US (Los Angeles), then to Venice and Rio de Janeiro and finally, into space.
The Roger Moore movies tend to be less serious than those that preceded or followed them. Hugo Drax is played by Michael Lonsdale; in the movie he heads a facility that produces space shuttles for NASA. The Bond girls are Holly Goodhead, played by Lois Chiles, and Corinne Dufour, played by Corinne Cléry. Holly Goodhead is a CIA agent and astronaut while Corinne is Drax's secretary and private pilot. Jaws, Drax's henchman,played by Richard Kiel, is a giant of a man with steel teeth. He had appeared previously in The Spy Who Loved Me.
I would have loved to see an adaptation that came close to the Fleming story, but if you take the movie by itself it is fun. It is full of gadgets and written for laughs. The movie was bizarrely unrealistic, but I could enjoy it for what it was.
This movie gets very mixed reviews from bloggers. Some people consider it the worst Bond movie ever made and a total waste of time; others enjoyed it immensely.
See these posts on Moonraker (the novel):
at Vintage Pop Fictions; at Clothes in Books, plus a follow up here; and at Stainless Steel Droppings.
Publisher: MJF Books, 1993 (orig. pub. 1955)
Length: 223 pages
Series: James Bond, #3
Genre: Spy thriller
Source: I purchased this book.