Having now seen SPECTRE, I’m on a kick of all things James Bond despite my continued dislike of the Craig era. Like Q’s balloon in Octopussy, the Craig era runs on hot air. The Broccolis don’t make James Bond movies anymore. There’s a guy on screen who says his name is Bond, but he’s not any Bond I recognize.
To take my mind off the agony, as one author once quipped, I got to thinking about my favorite Bond novels and came up with my Top 5 picks for the “Best of Bond”.
Feel free to add your picks in the comments.
5) Casino Royale. The first is last. I’ve never been shy of saying how much I love this book or how many times I’ve read the whole thing or delighted in certain sections, and while it’s excellent, it has flaws that don’t bring it close to the top slot.
4) For Your Eyes Only. Some great short stories here, and one that should be a classic--“Quantum of Solace”. It’s an amazing insight into Bond’s life and Fleming’s most complex piece of work.
3) From Russia, With Love. Here’s your spy story to end all spy stories, if only Fleming hadn’t chosen the ending that goes with it. If anything, the follow-up, Dr. No, ruins what was otherwise a great lead-in. “Dr. No and his Giant Squid” always leaves a poor taste in my mouth, and it’s hard to get excited about a book where the central plot hinges on literally a load of bird shit. Read Russia and the second chapter of Dr. No and call it a book.
2) The Spy Who Loved Me. I don’t care what anybody says, I like this book. It’s not only a change of pace, but an alternate view of Bond that really works. I’ve advocated elsewhere that this was the book where Fleming intended to kill off Bond, have him go over some version of the Reichenbach Falls, but that ultimately didn’t happen. The third section of the book is terrific and one I read often.
1) Moonraker. Fleming’s best is his third, one that is a better introduction to Bond than Casino Royale, ironically. Everything Fleming learned from the first two books comes to fruition here. Moonraker is Fleming’s most tightly-plotted, nail-biting novel. The climax is tremendous, with one of the best-written car chases ever. I wish the movie had been half as good. The BBC seem to be going through the Bond canon for radio plays. I hope they get to Moonraker soon as I can imagine how great it will sound.
Now this list doesn’t mean I don’t like the other books. I’ve read the series in and out of order so many times it’s not funny, it’s a sickness. Fleming is a wonderful storyteller, but I don’t need to go into that here. This list reflects the Bond books I’d want could I not have the whole set.
Maybe someday I’ll get around to picking my favorite Bond films.
Any movie with Daniel Craig won’t be on that list.