Tuesday, April 18, 2006

DOCTOR NO by Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming's James Bond books were among the first I read for pleasure, and in many ways I found them superior to the movie adaptations. Penguin's recent reprinting of the books as trade paperbacks let me fill out my collection.

Still waiting for May's DetecToday featured novel, I've finished reading Doctor No. Bond is sent to investigate the disappearance of two SIS agents from a listening post in Jamaica and to find out why the reclusive Doctor No seems to be hoarding bird guano—supposedly a valuable resource.

Bond learns Doctor No is obsessed with having power over life and death, and his private island, Crab Key, is equipped with the technology to retarget the world's missiles to his liking.

Aiding Bond this time out are his Jamaican friend Quarrel and the beautiful, naive Honeychile Rider. I found Fleming's attempt at Jamaican speech patterns grating and a chore to read. I'm sure he was going for authenticity, but I would've preferred to recognize more readily what Quarrel was saying. I also stumbled on the censorship of the time (e.g. Bond spat a four-letter word. "____ you, ____ing limey.")

Doctor No's obsession with the human body's pain threshold leads him to put Bond through an obstacle course including electric shock, tarantulas, and a giant squid. Through it all, Bond realistically doubts himself, but you know he has to survive. And finally, this spoiler is too good to resist: Bond kills Doctor No by burying him in loads of bird dung.

Doctor No is a subpar entry between the more memorable From Russia with Love and Goldfinger.


Graham said...

In my opinion, the best Bond (i.e. Connery's first three) are better than Fleming's books, though I especially liked CASINO ROYAL and MOONRAKER.

Funny that you're reading spy fiction. Lately I've been on a Matt Helm binge. Those movies are NOT better than the books.

Graham said...

That should have read "best Bond movies".