Ian Fleming – Thunderball

The movie adaptation of the James Bond-novel Thunderball (1961), by Ian Fleming, is considered to be one of the most popular and best of the franchise. To me it has been a good but not the best, so I was quite interested in how the original novel would turn out.

Thunderball is the first novel in which SPECTRE gets introduced, whereas in the movies it was introduced in the first movie already and played a role in many more. This is also what makes it different in setup. The movie leaves a lot of events in the beginning more mysterious while Fleming, in his usual way, starts with an extensive prelude. It also shows a more peculiar reference of the times which in the movie play no part. It is these extras which make the start of the novel quite interesting because it provides details and viewpoints previously unknown.

Once the prelude is over the novel starts following the movie again but with some small changes that were probably done for the visual effects to appeal to the viewers better. In the novels events are more business-like and less adventurous. Several striking side-characters from the movie are absent and it are these elements which make the movie much better than the novel. The movie added many more action scenes and a larger and more entertaining cast. The novel does manage to entertain but the first half of it is cut down severely in the movie while the second half is extended greatly. The movie does it better, although the novel is still a solid James Bond tale. Fleming knows his format and sticks to it. The Bond in the novel is characterized much better. The reader has a much better feel for him than one could get from the movie. It is this what makes the novels very worthwhile to read. One will discover more details and a greater picture with more realism.

How does Thunderball stand compared to the previous novels? As said, Fleming knows his format. For several novels in a row he sticks to a steady cadence and stays within the canvas which makes the stories work. Nevertheless Thunderball lacks good twists and surprises. Bond has his aim quite clear, which is probably partially because half of the novel is spent on several events that lead up to the point that Bond comes into action at last. So I think I would rank it on part with Dr No, but below Moonraker, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, which until now remain my favorite novels. Still, none of the James Bond novels have really disappointed me until now. Each of them remains a good thriller with elements and the typical Fleming style that makes an enjoyable read.

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