Next up on my James Bond audio-book while you drive to work kick: Moonraker
This is Ian Fleming’s 3rd bond book – and considered by many to be one of his best. It really introduces a number of the re-current character traits and story lines of a Bond novel – and it is a good little story to boot. In the movie version, we saw Hugo Drax bent on destroying the world via taking a chosen population to space and then gassing the entire world’s population as a bid to ‘restart’ the world. The book version, as usual with Flemming novels, differs from the movie. But as Bond adaptations go – it’s pretty darn close.
In our story, Hugo Drax is a rich and results-oriented industrialist in charge of an important government contract: the Moonraker project. Moonraker is a new missile designed to protect Britain by making it capable of dropping warheads on enemy targets around it’s sector of the globe. The post-WW2/pre-cold war themes are thick in this story line and a great insight into the fears of Fleming’s times. However, Drax and his scientists on the project are a very mysterious lot with very shadowy backgrounds; but are in charge as they are the only people capable of developing such a technological marvel.
The story starts with us introduced to Bond’s gambling prowess at the high-society, high-stakes gambling club Blades at which M is a member. Drax has been trouncing people at cards and has raised M’s suspicions of cheating. Bond is sent in to uncover the methods behind Drax’s winning streak and then brutally turns the tables on him. Fleming’s description of Drax’s character flaws with its near phrenological, and psychological and character ‘analysis’ is down-right entertaining. You can hear how a person’s fiber was judged in post-war England – which is thick with derogatory national, racial, and appearance-based evaluations.
After the trouncing by Bond, there is the mysterious death of the Moonraker project’s government overseer just days before the very public test launch meant to show the world Britain’s new might. Bond is brought in to investigate and make sure nothing interferes with a successful, test-firing of the Moonraker rocket. He then uncovers the sinister background of the scientists and Drax, as well as their diabolical plan. As the seconds before the Moonraker is test shot, Bond must find a way to stop their plot and save England.
The plot is solid and simple, the villain overblown, the evil plot gigantic, and the story keeps right on going through the minor plot holes and improbabilities. Drax makes the first of the now-boilerplate great evil-genius monologs. In short, it’s everything James Bond story is meant to be and I was loving it.
I give this a solid A- since it’s a great, fast and entertaining read. It introduces us to many of Bond’s character traits and the action he’s well known for. Highly recommend.