Inspiring Series: James Bond 007

The Series That Popularised Contemporary Spy Fiction

Few characters have gone on to become as iconic to a genre quite as James Bond has. James Bond (007) is often one of the first characters to come to mind when it comes to fictional spies, especially in the post-WW2 realm of pop culture. He is also one of cinema’s most enduring characters, played by amazing actors which include Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Daniel Craig. Much like other pop culture characters, James Bond originates from a book series, one that still has a lot of popularity to this day.

The Fleming Books Please, Shaken Not Stirred

The James Bond series was conceived by British author and former spy Ian Fleming. It began with 1953’s Casino Royale, which Fleming wrote at his Goldeneye Estate in Jamaica. From that one book, Fleming wrote over eleven more novels and two short story collections of 007 before his death in 1964. Since his death, numerous other authors, including John Gardener and Anthony Horowitz have continued to write entries to the Bond series. For this review of the series though, I will be strictly staying to the Fleming books, as the other entries are different beasts on their own.

The Goldeneye Estate, where Fleming wrote the 007 books. Image taken from Wikipedia

007 is one of the few book series I encountered before I fell in love with Matthew Reilly’s Scarecrow series. My high school’s Learning Centre had a few entries in the series, abridged for easier reading of course. Before encountering these books, I was already a fan of the films and the 1997 video game Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64. This previous exposure and the ease of the reading for the abridged versions quickly got me into reading the series. I would later read these books in their original form, falling in love with the stories all over again.

Cold War Fiction With Cold War Attitudes and Thought

The Fleming books in 007 are incredibly diverse, both in a good and a bad way. They continue to hold up to this day in storytelling, especially with the plots and the thrilling adventures Bond goes on. It’s an interesting peer into the world of high-tech spy equipment too, enhanced by Q’s ingenuity. The books also give a glimpse into Bond himself, showing he’s still a human with emotion, a trait the films haven’t gone into too much detail on. These bouts of emotion are shown in Casino Royale, From Russia With Love, and Doctor No, in which he deals with some serious emotional and physical trauma.

Along with these benefits though, the series does have many problems. The first major issue is they’ve aged like loose leaf tea. They were good in the beginning and remained good for a while, but have now aged and lost a lot of their original flavour. The Fleming books were written in the 1950s and 60s, the early phases of the Cold War. This was a time when the USSR was a thing and the Atomic Age being in full swing. A lot of the later books in the series as well were very dull and felt uninspired. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, for example, had a great storyline with Bond getting married, but was a slog to read, compared to earlier entries like Doctor No. I don’t even want to talk about The Spy Who Loved Me. To even call that a Bond book is a stretch. Bond himself isn’t the main character and doesn’t come in until the last third. It is also the entry in the series which has aged like raw chicken left outside on a summer’s day. The story itself is sexist and barely even scratches the surface of the character.

My previous copy of The Spy Who Loved Me (Centre). Avoid this book in the Fleming series if you can.

Summary

Even though it’s a series that has aged, Fleming’s 007 books remain a good series to read. They are packed full of action and thrilling scenes of spy genius. There’s also a uniquely British charm to them, particularly of the period they were originally released. Bond pairs well alongside other icons of post-WW2 Britain, like The Beatles and Doctor Who. If you’re a sucker for spy fiction or enjoy the Bond films, then definitely give this series a read. It’s a whole lot of spy fun.

Title Image: A Collection of 007 Books I found on the shelf of a local book store in Adelaide

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