The third James Bond novel written by Ian Fleming is Moonraker (1955). In my reviews of the first two novels, Casino Royale and Live And Let Die, I put the notion that Fleming was still finding his path as author, both in style, plot and the formula that would define a James Bond adventure. Thus I was interested to know when he would find the right course for his spy thrillers.
The answer came with Moonraker. Basically the novel contains everything we know of the James Bond movies. Exhilarating car chases, twisted villains with diabolical plans and thrills at every corner. There is not a dull moment to be found and the story keeps a steady but fast pace that keeps you hooked.
Notwithstanding all the James Bond trademarks in this book, the story itself is as un-Bond-like as can be. I guess this is a strange remark to make when I wrote that it is a typical James Bond story. It is somewhat hard to explain without spoiling the story. Lets just say that it contains certain surprises you will never have seen in any Bond-movie and probably will not as people will not consider it fitting for a James Bond movie. These differences did however excite me and made me enjoy the book more because it is showing a side I haven’t seen before. However, these differences do not disturb the formula. It at least makes the read much more worthwhile.
Little of the characters and plot was used for the movie of the same name, which was mainly used to follow in the Star Wars hype of that time. Some basic concepts remain, but overall the story is partially limited by the time it is set in.
The character of Bond himself has now lost most of his sharp edges and behaves more like the one we are familiar with (although I would compare him more with Sean Connery than other actors, but as Connery is my all-time favorite this opinion is a bit subjective).
The plot itself still retains more sharp edges in its actions and events but it is also less than before. This is not a bad thing as it brings the Bond novel closer to as we know it from the movies. Of course it is not as exotic and more realistic in its events and behavior, this is of course not that strange as several of the movies also have aimed for a more realistic approach to step down from movies that had become too fantastic. That keeps the audience fresh. The books itself of course did not require something like that, although I am interested in the following novels. At least I can say that the James Bond novels live up to their name. Expect a more realistic bond and the reader will easily feel at home.
Especially because of its surprise compared to the typical Bond-formula Moonraker certainly is a must-read for any James Bond fan. It is well written, with a smoother style than the first two novels, and keeps you wanting for more.