Literary 007 Reviewed: Ian Fleming's 'For Your Eyes Only'
With 2008 marking the centenary of Ian Fleming, the newest CommanderBond.net review series, Literary 007 Reviewed, now continues with the author’s eighth James Bond adventure, 1960’s For Your Eyes Only.
The first of Fleming’s two 007 short story collections, For Your Eyes Only collects together the title story in addition to “From a View to a Kill”, “Quantum of Solace”, “Risico” and “The Hildebrand Rarity”.
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 For Your Eyes Only back in April 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 For Your Eyes Only, simply click here.
Literary 007 Reviewed:
For Your Eyes Only
For Your Eyes Only
For Your Eyes Only reviewed by… Bon-San
Just finished re-reading “From A View To A Kill”. I remembered this as being one of my least favorite Fleming shorts, but I found it quite enjoyable this time around. Notable: Bond says he hates Paris. Pretty much Fleming’s feelings bleeding into the story, I’d gather. I did like the whole bit concerning Bond’s rather elaborate plans for a successful night out with a pretty lady in the City of Lights. Especially his willingness to ply her with 50,000 francs up front, to put the whole money issue behind them, so they can proceed directly to enjoying themselves. Quite amusing. I really like these glimpses of the not-on-the-job Bond.
Once Bond gets involved in the espionage plot, I continued to find it an interesting read. It was a fairly routine affair, but anything with gypsies in it, always strikes my fancy. This story could make a decent sequence in a film someday.
“For Your Eyes Only” seemed a tad less engaging than I had remembered it. The bit in M’s office was excellent. Love to see the old man squirm! And I enjoyed Bond’s entree to North America via the Canadian office. One thing to note: 3/4 whiskey and 1/4 coffee is a mean mixture! I found the assault on the house curiously unsatisfying. And the denoument even moreso. Perhaps I’ve read this one too many times. Perhaps it’s the fact that Ms. Havelock seems underdrawn. Perhaps I was wanting some s-e-x before the fadeout.
In any event it’s a good yarn, but I now rate it lower than “From A View To A Kill”.
“Quantum of Solace” is a story I very much enjoyed the first time I read it, and continue to enjoy with each subsequent reading. It’s not a Bond story at all, obviously. And in fact, to me, it strongly evokes Agatha Christie doing Ms. Marple. It had that very English air full of class, cruelty, angst and irony. Top stuff in my opinion. I did find myself wishing the good fortune hadn’t befallen the traitorious femme fatale. Don’t know what that says about me.
For “Risico”, I had less than glorious memories of this story. And as the events in the restaurant in Italy unfolded, I was feeling only marginally engaged. For some reason, this bit of Fleming (i.e. the first section of this story) just doesn’t grab me. As things move out to the beach, however, my interest picked up. I conjured up decadent visions of Lisl Baum sunbathing, and the chase along the peninsula is gripping. From the moment Bond awakens on Colombo’s boat, I was caught up. I love the Colombo character. He’s just as charismatic in the book as Topol made him on film (or was I just imagining him as Topol?). The assault on Kristatos’ wharehouse is a nice action set-piece. Bond getting Lisl’s services as a reward is quite a nice touch.
Overall, I enjoyed it more than I had remembered from the last reading. It’s a bit unengaging, esp. in the early going. But the pace keeps the pages turning. I currently rate it the lowest of any story in this collection.
“The Hildebrand Rarity”: The reputation of this story seems to grow with each passing year, and everyone apparently likes it. Personally, the fact that it’s set in The Seychelles is a big plus right out of the gate. I’ve long dreamed of visiting this exotic and remote island group. Interestingly though, Fleming (via his characters) speaks unflatteringly of these islands.
That fact notwithstanding, one of the overriding strengths of this story is the excellent sense of atmosphere created by Fleming. While reading, I felt immersed in remote tropical ambience. I could palpably sense the warm, humid, breezy air; the soothing waters of the Indian Ocean; and the overpowering blast of air-conditioning when entering the boat’s chambers. Too, the kaleidescope of colour afforded by the underwater ventures fairly drips off the page. Every time I read this story, I recommit to taking the family there someday.
Fleming does a nice job with the characters as well. Milton Krest is indeed a nasty man, and like CBn Forum member Genrewriter, I can’t help picturing Anthony Zerbe as Krest (I can’t remember how I pictured Krest prior to the release of Licence To Kill). His comeuppance was anxiously expected, and the bizarre nature of his death/murder was classic. My only tick is for the resurfacing of Fleming’s approach to American vernacular. He’s seen too many Film Noir, in my opinion.
The story is engaging enough to propel the reader onward. But the true glory of this 5-star effort is in the characters, and the atmosphere.
Overall, I give the collection 4 stars (It rates higher than some of the novels in my opinion).
For Your Eyes Only reviewed by… Genrewriter
“The Hildebrand Rarity” is one of my favorite short stories in general and my favorite story from this collection. It’s a great bit of storytelling that gives us a nice insight into what Bond is willing to let slide and what he won’t stand for. Krest is a truly loathesome creation and oddly enough I could see Anthony Zerbe playing this version of Krest even better than the Licence To Kill version.
For Your Eyes Only reviewed by… DLibrasnow
My favorite short story from the collection is the title story, but I also really like “Quantum of Solace”. Really its a great collection and I like all of them–I always thought “Risico” would make a good movie title but apparently [producer Michael G.] Wilson says nobody knows what it means.
For Your Eyes Only reviewed by… Bond111
A review of the opening three stories in this collection:
“From a View to a Kill”:
For starters, the beginning wasn’t as engrossing as I wanted it to be for a Bond book, but it was well written (as always). Once Bond came on the scene, though, and started investigating, it became much more interesting. The Bond girl for this story (Mary Ann Russell) was a bit bland, but hell it’s a short story.
The investigation tends to drag on a bit, but soon gets the ‘breath of life’ once Bond, in camouflage, spots the villain coming out of his ingeniously disguised lair. It’s all uphill from there, including a great motorcycle chase and Bond’s very-near-demise.
In all, it’s certainly not the best Bond tale, but definitely not the worst. I think it does well for itself considering it’s a short story. And of course Fleming’s descriptive writing is superb, to say the least.
I hereby give “From a View to a Kill” a rating of: 3 out of 5.
“For Your Eyes Only”:
Once again the first few pages were a bit irrelevant and slightly boring, in my opinion. But the dramatic murders soon to follow more than make up for it.
Then we get a great “M” scene. Very personal. But soon after that, when Bond travels to Virginia, the story tends to slow a bit, but not too much. Bond meeting Judy Havelock was great. I liked her rebelious attitude toward him. The end shootout was very suspenseful and gripping.
The locales in this book, Virginia/Canada/Jamaica, are pretty good and well described (especially Virginia). The henchman (Gonzales) was particularily menacing, but the villain (von Hammerstein) is terribly underdeveloped; he is really only mentioned by M. But I suppose it would have to be a full-size novel to have all of that. The basic plot, and even many of the scenes, in this story are surprisingly close to the movie.
On the recap, it was a very good story, but I think Mr. Fleming can do better. I give “For Your Eyes Only”: 3 out of 5.
“Quantum of Solace”:
Well, I have heard much praise for this story, and I heartily agree with it all. Funny thing is, Bond isn’t an integral part of the story. I was interested from beginning to end. The story told by the Governor was very good, and never got boring. Even Bond’s thoughts were great, as always. It was so great I found myself wanting more, as it is probably the shortest of these stories.
This story was great. It even has a moral to it. Very compelling. I will give “Quantum of Solace”: 5 out of 5.
For Your Eyes Only reviewed by… B007GLE
I’ve been behind in my reading so I just finished “From A View to a Kill”. The story is much better than I remembered. I love the way Bond ferrets out the spies. The motorcucle scenes are really exciting and should be used in a film. In fact it would make a great pre-titles sequence or the start to a novel.
“For Your Eyes Only” is better than I remembered. Fleming goes into such detail yet never bores. They were smart to take as much as they did from the story for the movie. I had forgotten that “When seeting out on revenge, first dig two graves.”–I love that line.
“Quantum of Solace”: great title and a very good story. I first read it more than 20 years ago and did not appreciate it then. Now I do. However one wonders why Fleming made this a Bond story? Coud it be he wrote it when he was tired of Bond and wanted to make Bond work for him instead of vice-versa?
“Risico”: I love this story. I was kind of stunned wehn I realized that it is not really any longer than the story “For Your Eyes Only” (actually, it’s shorter) or some of the others. However it has the Fleming sweep so it feels much more like a novella than the others. It is truly a terrific story. I wonder if Columbo later inspired Fleming to create Draco as there are many similarities.
“The Hildebrand Rarity”: Again a great title from Fleming and his descriptive powers are remarkable. He really knows how to make you feel like you’re snorkling in the Seychelles, even if you have never been near them or the ocean even. This is truly what sets him apart from his successors.
The story however, while good is not geat. The whole “mystery” aspect of it leaves me flat. Fleming gives us two suspects and leaves it up in the air for Bond and the reader as to “who dunnit?” As for me, I thnk that only Liz Krest could have killed Milton, so I don’t come away with the feeling Fleming wants us to have.
In any event the book is a very fun collection of stories any all of which are worth reading.
Keep your eyes on the CommanderBond.net main page for further reviews of Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 adventures in the upcoming months.