With 2008 marking the centenary of Ian Fleming, the newest CommanderBond.net review series, Literary 007 Reviewed, now continues with the author’s eleventh James Bond adventure, 1963’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
As several CBn Forum members are already aware, every two months a James Bond adventure is chosen for members of the Blades Library Book Club to read. Proceeding in chronological order, the club first read Fleming’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service back in October 2005.
What follows are selected reviews from the Book Club Forum members. For further details on the club or to post your own review of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, simply click here.
Literary 007 Reviewed:
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service reviewed by… 00Twelve
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is far and away the most suspenseful Fleming since Dr. No. No other Fleming novel, including From Russia, With Love, has such a blend of suspenseful action and characters that are so lovable and despicable.
Not only was Tracy written as such a real, tragic human being, Fleming actually managed to elicit sympathy from the reader for Draco, her father, the most dangerous crime lord in Europe. I always found his character to be on the same level as Darko Kerim in terms of how much I grew to like them by the end.
Bond himself is the most human in this story that he has ever been, before he goes off the deep end into full blown depression in the next story. I love that Fleming continued to show how much Bond wanted out, but still needed to stay in because that was the only way of life he was prepared for. And the strong choices Fleming made here, to show Bond coming closer than ever before to finally leaving the service, made me think that finally the character had evolved as a man to the point that he was finally ready to embrace life outside the existence as an assassin. Which makes the ending scene all the more tragic and difficult for even the toughest guy to handle.
This leads to just how well Fleming wrote his great villain, Blofeld. Through Tracy’s murder, Fleming catapulted Blofeld from his station as an extremely cunning criminal to a ruthless, heartless beast who would actually murder this man Bond and his wife on their very wedding day. As we get into the next story, of course, all of that will come to a head; in this story, however, these fantastical events will be the ones that shape the rest of Bond’s life.
Fleming truly hit his stride in writing suspense and humanity here, and I only wish that he’d been around longer! This book is definitely a must-see. You can surely get it at just about any used bookstore or national retail chain, as well as Amazon and Ebay. I promise, it’s worth it!
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service reviewed by… Flash1087
Just finished it this afternoon, and I really liked it.
The skiing scenes were well-done, Blofeld’s plot was completely ludicrous but nicely detailed, the assault on Piz Gloria during the finale was good, and the sharply sad ending was still a blow to me, regardless of how far away I saw it coming.
One thing I noticed is that it had some really good dialogue. One of my biggest complaints about most of Fleming’s novels is that the conversations just never seem right; like that’s not how people actually talk (the biggest offender I can think of is Diamonds Are Forever) but On Her Majesty’s Secret Service avoids this. And nuts to what Benson said, Draco is a nice guy.
All in all, one of my new favorite Fleming books. It’s not going to replace Casino Royale or Moonraker at the top of my lists, but it’s still a great book. Now, for another stab at You Only Live Twice…
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service reviewed by… ComplimentsOfSharkey
5 out of 5 stars.
Not only is this my favorite Fleming but quite possibly my favorite (nudging Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six out of the top spot).
This was the first of any Bond books I read and I can still remember the day I got it. My friend and I were at Barnes and Noble, said what the hell let’s buy some Fleming. It was early December so I picked up On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with Christmas in mind. I’ve since added it to the tradition of watching On Her Majesty’s Secret Service every Christmas day.
I remember being blown away by the descriptiveness masked in the simplicity of the first line. It was one of those Septembers when it seemed like the summer would never end. I know it seems a bit silly but I’ve always loved that line.
That of course leads right into a familiar Bond spinning round on the beach with PPK drawn only to be disarmed and reflect on the events of the day past as he shivers next to Tracy. The book begins with Bond, bored and at the end of his ropes, ready to pack it in and ends with him in just the same situation. Though the arc is incredible. Just as he finds something to fight for and sees life as worth it all again…it’s ripped from him and he’s left sobbing in the shell of a Lancia.
The sequences on Piz Gloria show Bond at his crafty finest, escaping detection for as long as need be, even at the expense of a fellow agent and finally fleeing with more information than he had dreamed to find.
Though the action is much more tame than in the movie, the ski chase is extremely well done and just like the rest of the book, positively drips suspense.
I advise anyone with the ability to read this book. You won’t be disappointed.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service reviewed by… Double-0-Seven
I finished reading this yesterday, and I must say it was a terrific novel. The first thing that surprised me was how close it was to the film, or rather, how close the film was to the book. Since it is one of my top favorite Bond films, it was very interesting to read a book that seemed so familiar yet in some ways different.
As usual, the descriptions Ian Fleming provides are extremely detailed and very interesting to read. The action scenes in this book are exciting and keep you turning the pages. The dialogue is great, probably the best written dialogue out of all the Bond novels that I have read so far. Having seen the movie first, I knew how the book was going to end, however, that didn’t stop the impact of the scene. A great ending to an extremely well-written novel. This is easily the best of the Bond novels that I have read so far.
Five out of five stars.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service reviewed by… Nicolas Suszczyk
Ian Fleming’s eleventh novel is incredibly well written. Is very close to the 1969 film starring George Lazenby, and very enjoyable to read. The story starts in the famed Royale Les-Eaux, with James Bond getting involved with the depressed Tracy Di Vicenzo as he tries to run Ernst Stavro Blofeld down. Agent 007 saves the girl from committing suicide as she tries to get drowned in the sea. This is told to us as we read flashbacks of the first meeting between the agent and the girl, in the casino, where she dares to bet in the baccarat table without having funds. Bond pays her debt and she felts obliged to fulfill the “debt” she has now with Bond, sleeping with him and asking him to treat her as a common prostitute. The morning after, she escapes from his room as we return to 007 in the beach succeeding in prevent Tracy’s suicide attempt. Here, the agent and the girl are abducted and taken to Marc-Ange Draco, leader of Union Corse and Tracy’s father, who thinks Bond can “recover” his daughter by marrying her. Bond keeps the idea in his mind, as Draco promises him to give important information about Blofeld’s whereabouts.
The suspenseful action moments in the novel come later, while Bond infiltrates Piz Gloria (Blofeld’s lair at the top of the Swiss Alps) posing as Sir Hilary Bray, a friend of Sable Basilisk of the College of Arms, whom Blofeld contacted to claim for the authentication of his title of Count de Bleuville. After one of his contacts is captured and his identity is blown, the agent escapes with his skis down the slope of the treacherous mountains surviving to avalanches and lots of dangerous situations. Soon, as he tries to hide from Blofeld’s men, he’s saved by Tracy, who leads him to the airport, where he says he wants to marry her. It’s a very nice touch to see how Bond feels dull of bedding lots of women as he discovers true love.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is undoubtedly the best James Bond novel after Casino Royale, the action sequences are breathtaking, a delight for the spy thrillers lovers, and it’s really difficult to put the book down. Still, the descriptions of the scenarios are boring, and chapter twenty-two is full of hard to understand biological subjects (is recommended to skip most of this chapter). But, besides that, in the last chapter, titled “All the time in the world”, we see a really heartbroken and human Bond. The conversation between James Bond and Griffon Or about the Bond family to Bond Street is clever.
To summarize, a quintessential Ian Fleming novel.
Keep your eyes on the CommanderBond.net main page for further reviews of Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 adventures in the upcoming months.