1. Literary 007 Reviewed: Ian Fleming's 'The Spy Who Loved Me'

    By Devin Zydel on 2009-02-12
    Ian Fleming

    Ian Fleming

    With 2008 marking the centenary of Ian Fleming, the newest review series, Literary 007 Reviewed, now continues with the author’s tenth James Bond adventure, 1962’s The Spy Who Loved Me.

    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 The Spy Who Loved Me back in August 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 The Spy Who Loved Me, simply click here.

    Literary 007 Reviewed:
    The Spy Who Loved Me

    Ian Fleming's 'The Spy Who Loved Me'

    Ian Fleming’s The Spy Who Loved Me

    The Spy Who Loved Me reviewed by… TortillaFactory

    The Spy Who Loved Me is a fast-paced romp, and I can’t shake the idea that Fleming wrote it mainly for himself. It’s always interesting to look at one’s characters from another point of view, even if it’s somewhat unnerving for the reader. But the question – is it good? Is it worth reading?

    One wants to scream “YES!” and “OF COURSE, IT’S FLEMING!”, but one represses the urge. TSWLM is a different kind of Bond novel, and the main character seems, as others have said…different, somehow. He is so tender with Viv – the only harsh thing he ever says to her is “don’t be silly!” This is not terribly characteristic of him, especially because damsels in distress usually bring out some aspect of his predatory nature. Did he somehow sense, as he did once with Tracy, that one more bit of roughness might crush her forever? One wonders…

    The plot is but a flimsy skeleton, not nearly as complex as most that Fleming created. The Spy Who Loved Me is, perhaps, the closest he ever got to a character-driven story (not counting the shorts like Quantum of Solace and The Hildebrand Rarity, of course). His really wonderful style comes through in certain moments, such as when Viv contemplates how “one ought to be a nudist”, but perhaps only under forty. The characters make me smile – and, after all, isn’t that the point?

    Four stars.

    The Spy Who Loved Me reviewed by… mcsearg

    Even with a late entrance from Bond, this is a very worthy effort. It would have definitely made a great movie if adapted exactly by the novel. Vivienne is a wonderfully faceted character…

    “The scars of my terror had been healed, wiped away, by this stranger who slept with a gun under his pillow, this secret agent only known by a number….”

    I give it 4 stars.

    The Spy Who Loved Me reviewed by… Bon-San

    Just finished my third reading of this little gem. My appreciation has grown with each reading.

    I thoroughly enjoy the background on Viv. I’ve heard criticism of these bits, with the chief complaint being that Fleming fails in his attempt to write from the POV of a lady. I’m not a lady, but I fully bought his attempt. Enjoyed it, too.

    The Sluggsy/Horror show was played, as usual for Fleming, to the caricatured hilt. Fleming seems bound to the notion that all Americans, at least in the 50’s and 60’s, talked just like the characters in a Film Noir. Nonetheless, he manages real suspense in these passages. So much so, that I was quite relieved at Bond’s arrival on the scene. (Man, if the films could only ever achieve this!)

    I was very intrigued by the third-person view of Bond. It is sometimes described as a great departure from the man portrayed to us in Fleming’s voice. I don’t really see it that way. But it did add nuance to this iconic character, and for that I am grateful.

    Overall, a very atmospheric tale, with a satisfying conflict and resolution, and a tough and tender Bond. I say Bravo to Fleming for trying something different and succeeding rather brilliantly.

    Four stars.

    The Spy Who Loved Me reviewed by… B007GLE

    Three stars.

    I imagine if it is the early 60s and you’ve last read Thunderball this departure or interruption of what would later be called “the Blofeld Trilogy” might be annoying.

    However as I can finish this and immediately pick up On Her Majesty’s Secret Service I do not have that criticism.

    I can picture people asking Fleming “Where do these girls Bond meets come from? Now there’s a book in that.” And then when Fleming does just that he gets raked over the coals.

    Frankly its a very enjoyable book. During the second part “Them” I kept wanting Bond to arrive. Not becasue I was bored but because I wanted, perhaps needed, Viv to be rescued.

    The last 2/3rd of the book would have made a great 1/2 of a movie:

    Pre-title sequence Bond takes out a SPECTRE bad guy, leads him to SPECTRE’s North American chief Mr. Sanguinetti who happens to own a hotel in upstate New York.

    From there we go to the hotel and watch Viv deal with Sluggsy (played by Michael Chiklis) and Horror. THen (for those of you following along with Sid Field’s Screenplay) Plot Point 1: Bond arrives.

    The next 20-30 minutes are Bond and Viv delaing with the thugs the 2nd half of the movie is Bond stopping Sanguinetti (Frank Langella) from some dispicable plan.)

    Alas it was not to be.

    The Spy Who Loved Me reviewed by… Quartermaster007

    Just finished reading The Spy Who Loved Me last night and I must say it exceeded my expectations.

    It was quite a good read from a Bond Girl’s perspective, even though Bond came in only the last 1/3 of the book.

    Some highlights would have to be Bond’s enterence, which, I myself felt to be very Bondish feeling, if Bondish is a word…

    Another one was the last couple of chapters, in which Bond was trying to find and kill bugsy. Fleming has a special way of building up suspence that just kept me wanting to read more.

    Too bad he wouldn’t give them the movie rights to the story, it would’ve made a great story line from Bond’s point of view, and Sluggsy and Horror would’ve been two of my favourite villains.

    All in all I give this book: 4 stars.

    The Spy Who Loved Me reviewed by… manfromjapan

    Just finished Spy for the third time, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Fleming’s descriptive ability is top notch, and his empathy for the wonderful Vivienne is astonishing. I don’t really understand why but what was previously my by far least favourite Bond novel has now become one of my favourites. A very easy read, and an opportunity to see Bond in a different light, and the people he encounters in more depth. A wonderful experiment that doesn’t seem so experimental upon further reading.

    The Spy Who Loved Me reviewed by… Qwerty

    Oh, this is underrated Fleming. The Spy Who Loved Me is without a doubt (and I believe I used to be in the general minority, although I’m pleased to see there are many others now who feel the same) a terrific Bond adventure from Ian Fleming. The experimental nature of it is different and, yes, it takes a little getting used to at first, but the book has a solid story that hooks the reader and doesn’t let go until the very end. As a result of this hook as well as the overall shorter length compared to other Bond novels, The Spy Who Loved Me can easily be read in a single sitting.

    Don’t hesitate to try this novel from Fleming. It’s a great read. 4.5 stars.

    The Spy Who Loved Me reviewed by… 00Twelve

    It’s been so long since I’d last picked this up, I could barely remember any of it. The Spy Who Loved Me is, by far, my least frequently read Fleming novel. But as I realized upon picking it up again, its bad reputation is not as deserved as I’d previously thought.

    While the first section (“Me”) makes me smile at its novelty, it actually is rather compelling. Though it gets erotic enough to be *just* this side of a romance novel, the story of her love affairs gives her the kind of depth rarely afforded to Bond’s heroines, and it’s a refreshing change just this once.

    Section two (“Them”) is wrought with tension. While the gangster lingo is just as dated here as in Diamonds are Forever, Horror and Sluggsy are convincingly intimidating, even downright scary. Viv really is in a truly nightmarish situation, one that could really happen. Not some Jamaican obstacle course or Fort Knox robbery–real gangsters trying to burn down real property for real insurance money. Not much of a fantastical thing about it.

    Section three (“Him”) is, unsurprisingly, where it really hits its stride. The unique observation of Bond is quite interesting, and he really does come off a little less cold and cruel than usual. Maybe that’s Fleming’s intent, to show him as being a little more ideal through Viv’s wishful eyes. Though the same old physical description remains, I see more Rog in this Bond’s speech than anywhere else in the Fleming canon. That alone tells us Bond was coming off a little differently.

    I had totally forgotten about the connecting anecdote about Bond’s post-Thunderball activities regarding SPECTRE. I really wish we could see the story about the mission to protect the Russian defector as a pre-titles sequence one day, but I know that’s sadly out of the question. When Bond finally begins to throw his weight around, it really gets good and tense. I love the subtle way he calls the thugs out on their rather obvious gang lingo. When the action begins in earnest, it’s a real thrill ride. Everything from the fire to the shootout to the sinking car to Sluggsy’s terrifying last try is riveting.

    Another observation I’d like to make is how silly the book’s detractors come off when going crazy about the “All women love semi-rape” line. It’s as if there were no fitting context to explain the sentiment. Fleming clearly states that those women only feel that way when they know they’re safe. And he does say “semi-rape”. The definition of “semi” is obviously not the same to all readers. Some think, “Sure–they just like a passionate experience,” while others balk and grow furiously indignant over the very inclusion of the “r-word”. It’s a 46 year old book that gets little attention now. I personally don’t see the big deal. It’s not as if Fleming encouraged men to become rapists. Anyway, it was a much more satisfying read this time, and I’m sure I’ll pick it up again in due time.

    Keep your eyes on the main page for further reviews of Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 adventures in the upcoming months.