Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Thunderball: Ian Fleming

I started reading the James Bond books in 2016, in order, skipping Casino Royale because I knew that I had read that one. In 2016 I read 4 of them, in 2017 only one of them. This year I read Goldfinger and Thunderball. I skipped the eighth James Bond book, For Your Eyes Only, because it is four short stories and I was eager to move onto the three books involving SPECTRE. I have a lovely reprint edition titled The Blofeld Trilogy which includes Thunderball, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and You Only Live Twice.

Thunderball is the ninth James Bond book.  Ernst Stavro Blofeld, head of the criminal organization SPECTRE, makes his first appearance. Two other interesting characters are Emilio Largo, Blofeld's main henchman, and Domino, Largo's mistress. Felix Leiter of the CIA works closely with Bond on this one, and I always like his presence in the Bond novels (and films).

The story starts at an expensive health clinic near Brighton where M has sent 007 to detoxify. He stumbles onto a sinister plot engineered by SPECTRE, although he doesn't realize its importance immediately. When a bomber carrying two nuclear bombs disappears over the Atlantic, a demand is sent to the British and US governments, demanding a large amount of money, Bond and M make the connection. This is where Felix Leiter comes in, and he and Bond are sent to the Bahamas to investigate.

As in most of the other Bond novels I have read, this one includes a good bit of sexism; if you can get past that, it is an enjoyable book. On the plus side, this was more of an adventurous spy novel, with less of the fantastical elements that are in some of the earlier novels in the series. More believable, but with lots of underwater scenes, which I did not care for.

We recently watched the film adaptation. Thunderball was the fourth of the James Bond films, starring Sean Connery as James Bond, Adolfo Celi as Emilio Largo, and Claudine Auger as Dominique "Domino" Derval. Blofeld stays in the background in the book, and also in the fim. He is a presence, but we don't see his face.

This not one of my favorite Bond films starring Sean Connery. A lot of the same thoughts on the book hold for the movie. Too many long underwater scenes. The lengthy section in the book about the health club is pared down, which is good, but then some of the action doesn't make as much sense in that section. Overall the story in the book and the movie is about the same, unlike some of the adaptations which pretty much ditched the plot in the novel.

I enjoyed having Felix Leiter in the movie, even though it is a different actor playing him each time. Domino's role in the film was not as good as in the book, where she is stronger and purposeful.

See these excellent reviews of the novel. Some of them comment on the conflicts related to the publication of this novel. They also feature some lovely covers.


Publisher:  Penguin Books, 2010 (orig. publ. 1961).
Length:      226 pages 
Format:      Trade Paperback
Series:       James Bond, #9
Setting:      UK, Bahamas
Genre:       Espionage fiction
Source:      I purchased my copy.


NancyElin said...

I've never read Ian Flemming's James Bond books.
I should.
Summer was not summer in the 1960's without the next James Bond blockbuster in the movies. I can smell the buttered pop-corn already!
Love your review....and yes, you do inspire me to read CF books!

Kay said...

I used to love seeing the Bond movies. And I hung in there through all the many actors, though I definitely have my favorites. I've not ever read one of the books and, honestly, am not tempted to read them. I think I prefer my James to be cinematic. LOL

joan.kyler said...

I grew up with the movies but have read some of the books over the years, mostly many years ago. But based on your recent reviews, I've started picking up some of the books at book sales, etc. Haven't started reading or rereading them yet, but I'm looking forward to them.

Anonymous said...

There is definitely something about the Bond books, isn't there, Tracy? Like you, I really dislike the sexism. I really don't like it at all. But, as you say, there are other things going on in the books, and some of them are very well done.

Rick Robinson said...

I like this one better than you, Tracy, but then I enjoyed the underwater scenes, both in book and film. The only thing about the movie that bothers me is that speeded-up footage of the boat chase near the end. They certainly could have done better. As for the sexism, it's far less likely we'd even mention it if this conversation was in 1961 when the book was published. Applying current standards to past writing almost always gives something to criticize. Smoking is a good example.

I'm enjoying your reviews of the books, especially in order. I look forward to the next one.

TracyK said...

I think you would enjoy trying one of the Bond books, Nancy. There is a lot of variation in them though, some are mostly serious, some are more adventurous and fantastic. But usually easy to read and fun.

TracyK said...

I never saw many of the Roger Moore Bond movies, Kay so I enjoy watching them occasionally now. We did start watching all of the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig Bond movies when they came out.

TracyK said...

I hope you like them when you read them, Joan. I was surprised at some of them with pretty outrageous plots, but I always find them entertaining reading.

TracyK said...

My favorites so far are Casino Royale and From Russia With Love, Margot.

TracyK said...

I agree with that the sexism would not have been noticed when the book was written and that there is no need to apply current standards to past writing, Rick. But some people would rather avoid that (and ethnic slurs, etc.), so I like to mention them, just in case. I am enjoying reading the books in order. I was very surprised (years ago) when I realized that the films did not come out in the same order as the books.

Clothes In Books said...

That top cover is a great one for you Tracy! Thanks for the shoutout - I liked this one but found it rather bitty, jumping around a lot. But thinking back to my readthrough, I do remember a lot about it, which is always a good sign.

TracyK said...

Overall, I liked this one pretty well, Moira. Not at the top of my list of Bond books, but not on the bottom of the list either. I am expecting to like On Her Majesty's Secret Service a lot and I may skip The Spy Who Loved Me so I can get to that one sooner.

col2910 said...

I've been intending to read Fleming and Deighton for a few years now. Maybe 2019, when I get the book tubs relocated at home!

TracyK said...

That must be frustrating, Col, but then I have boxes on top of boxes and some books I cannot easily get to.