With 2008 marking the centenary of Ian Fleming, the newest CommanderBond.net review series, Literary 007 Reviewed, now continues with the author’s ninth James Bond adventure, 1961’s Thunderball.
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 Thunderball back in June 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 Thunderball, simply click here.
Literary 007 Reviewed:
Thunderball reviewed by… Bon-San
Prior to this latest re-reading, the notion was imbedded in my mind that Thunderball was a bit blander than most other Fleming Bond books. Standing out in my memory were the well-crafted character of Domino, some fun Felix/Bond shenanigans, and the name of the CIA sub, “Manta”. These were the only points of nostalgia from my perspective, and that did not bode well.
As I began this latest jaunt through the book, however, I found myself rather captivated by the goings-on at Shrublands and Spectre HQ in Paris. I remained quite intrigued as Our Man caught the TransAtlantic to Nassau, and I revelled in humid island air as Bond began poking around the Bahamas. I took great delight in Felix’s welcome appearance, as the boy banter was up to high standards. As memory had served, I found the character of Domino to be nicely fleshed out (moreso, of course, than in the film), and despite Fleming’s description, I could not help but see her as Claudine Auger.
All was well and good up to the point at which Bond tells Domino about Largo’s involvement in the nefarious plot, including the murder of her brother. But from there, things went tepid. I’m not quite sure why, but the Final Act did not deliver a satisfying crescendo to the proceedings. It seems to me that, based on the story componenents and Fleming’s execution thereof, it should have delivered. Alas, it just didn’t seem to have that punch.
I absolutely adore just about any Fleming I’ve ever read, so there won’t be any 1 star ratings coming from me. But despite the excellence for 2/3 of it’s length, Thunderball sinks to the lower depths of the Fleming canon.
Two and one-half out of four stars on the Bon-san scale.
Thunderball reviewed by… Byron
Great book–4 stars. In my top 5 Flemings so far having read up to this.
A large part of the allure for me was the exotic Bahamas setting and the scuba diving sequences (especially when Bond first checked out the Disco).
Largo was a very well written villain as was Blofeld to a lesser extent (I suppose as to not give away to much of his mystique).
I still prefer the film version of Domino. Felix was okay, but do all Southerners speak like that? Somehow could not see him fighting alongside Bond.
But overall a solid and entertaining book.
Thunderball reviewed by… Turn
Thunderball kind of disappoints me since I love the film version so much. There just seems to be something missing or not there. I had the book on tape from a local library two years ago and that kind of confirmed it for me whereas I enjoyed the follow-up novels in the SPECTRE trilogy much better.
As others have said, the whole chasing Largo’s men in the sub is anti-climactic. It’s kind of like the way Never Say Never Again wrapped up–you want something big and overwhelming, but you get something kind of kind of small-scale and unsatisfying.
The part I really like about Thunderball is Fleming’s descriptions of Bond’s diving exploits, discovering the plane with its corpses while surrounded by sharks is an unsettling passage but completely atmospheric. The same with Bond’s fight with the SPECTRE frogman below the Disco. The description of how he is torn apart is sickening. The description of the burns Lippe sustains after being locked in the heat cabinet at Shrublands is also pretty graphic to the point you kind of cringe.
Thunderball reviewed by… Tuxedo wearing Bond
An excellent read in my opinion. The beginning at Shrublands is really interesting as Bond is wondering if he’s losing his rather cruel character. Then he finds out this isn’t so with my favourite line of the book: “And if you catch fire you can sue”.
Blofeld’s profile I found a little hard to follow, but I couldn’t stop reading it, as I never can when Fleming describes a background of one of his characters.
The thing I like about this book is that it has it all; M, Moneypenny, May, Felix, strong characters, Bond’s car, the Walther PPK. The list goes on…
One of the best highlights of the book must be the chemin de fer game between Bond and Largo. That was the scene I read through to the end without glancing off the page.
The ending wasn’t a huge letdown, but I did want a little more out of it. As people have said, it did go rather tepid. But as I said, it wasn’t a huge letdown. So to pull the rating out of my tuxedo, I’d give this… 4 stars.
Thunderball reviewed by… Major Bloodnok
I’m in need of a reread to be sure, but I remember being disappointed with the ending as well, particularly the news that Blofeld escaped. It seemed to be handled in such a blase’ way. “Oh, and by the way… that guy wasn’t there when we arrived.” My quote, not Fleming’s.
I think after a series of less character strong books (maybe it was just Goldfinger) I liked the depth Fleming gave these characters. That was a notch above the others I’d read at that time.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. I’ve since updated my copy, but I have fond memories of the ancient Signet paperback a fiend gave me in 1980. I even remember the smell. When I think of Thunderball I think of the book before the movie.
Maybe I’ll go read it again now.
Thunderball reviewed by… B007GLE
I first read this book back in 1988 and was rather blase about it. However having jsut read it and having not seen the film in a while I really enjoyed it. It may not reach the heigts of Live and Let Die, Moonraker, From Russia with Love or Dr. No but it is a huge improvement over Goldfinger (which of course is a great film but not a great book).
I loved Blofeld, Largo, Domino (despite her cigarrette packet soliloquy) and of course Felix. All of the scuba action is brilliant: under the Disco and even the final battle. I did not find it anti-climatic and would love a Bond film that ends with Bond leading a team into battle like this. Will we ever see that again?
Keep your eyes on the CommanderBond.net main page for further reviews of Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 adventures in the upcoming months.