Literary 007 Reviewed: Ian Fleming's 'The Man With The Golden Gun'
The Man with the Golden Gun
With 2008 marking the centenary of Ian Fleming, the newest CommanderBond.net review series, Literary 007 Reviewed, now continues with the author’s thirteenth James Bond adventure, 1965’s The Man with the Golden Gun.
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 Man with the Golden Gun back in February 2006.
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 Man with the Golden Gun, simply click here.
Literary 007 Reviewed:
The Man with the Golden Gun
The Man with the Golden Gun
The Man with the Golden Gun reviewed by… Bon-san
Difficult for me to rate this one. After much reflection I gave it three stars, but I would really put it at 3 and 1/2. To give it four seems unfair to some of the four star novels, but then again… Oh, I don’t know. Let’s just say it’s unrated from my point of view.
I have read The Man with the Golden Gun more times than any other Fleming story. Mostly, this has been an accident of circumstance. One time, I was home sick for days at my mother-in-law’s house and it was the only suitable thing I could find to read.
Another time, I picked it up because I wanted to re-read a few bits of that killer opening stanza, and I ended up reading it all the way through. I have also read it each time that I have gone through the full circuit of novels (Casino Royale to Octopussy).
And what’s interesting to me is that I find it imminently readable. There’s something about it I must like, despite my having had the usual feelings that it is unpolished, incomplete, underwritten, shallow, small-time, etc.
Now that I’ve just re-read Jim’s excellent articles (see here and here), I am quite happy to see that my enjoyment certainly arose out of the “new Bond” and sexual/political undertones. (Thanks Jim!)
In any event, it is a story that feels markedly different than the previous Fleming novels. But at the same time, there’s a good amount of that old Fleming magic in there. The opening passages represent one of my favorite bits of Fleming extant. And the rest of it, I don’t know, it’s captivating despite it’s feeling a bit different. New Bond, indeed–such an excellent way to describe it.
All in all, I am a fan of The Man with the Golden Gun. I think I may prefer it to Goldfinger.
The Man with the Golden Gun reviewed by… Alvin Stardust
There’s a good story hiding in here, and some good set peices – that opening for one, and the gunfight on the train and in the swamp. But it’s a first draft and its obvious – the unfleshed out plot, even Mary Goodnight’s inexplicable hair colour change. I still can’t decide if Scaramanga is a good or weak villian.
The Man with the Golden Gun reviewed by… manfromjapan
Just finished reading all the Bond books in order. I was hoping I would see The Man with the Golden Gun as an under-rated classic or something, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. The opening and closing chapters are great, especially the former. But the rest of the book was bland and boring. No real Bond girl. Scaramanga is just a thug. We get to go to Jamaica for the third time. It is a quick read, but nothing really happens and Fleming seems to be repeating himself. If I had read this one first, I don’t think I would have wanted to read the rest! I know Ian was seriously ill whilst writing this, but I don’t really know if he had enough of a base to write a Bond adventure on. I mean, this wouldn’t have even made an interesting short story!
Stil, l think Spy is worse though.
My order of preference – From Russia with Love / On Her Majesty’s Secret Service / Casino Royale / Doctor No / You Only Live Twice / Live and Let Die / Goldfinger / Thunderball / Diamonds are Forever / Moonraker / The Man with the Golden Gun / The Spy Who Loved Me
The Man with the Golden Gun reviewed by… marmaduke
Rereading all of the Fleming originals twenty years later gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate The Man with the Golden Gun. I have to say that I was really impressed with The Man with the Golden Gun. This was a ‘stripped bare’ Fleming Bond novel (for reasons we are all well aware of). I took it this time at face value, i.e. not in comparison with Fleming’s earlier ‘large scale’ Bond adventures. Fleming’s class was still in evidence in creating what subsequent Bond writers struggled to achieve in my humble opinion. In a word ‘atmosphere’. The Man with the Golden Gun – a great novel!
The Man with the Golden Gun reviewed by… Harmsway
As a Bond novel, The Man with the Golden Gun is just “okay”. It’s certainly an enjoyable read and moves along fairly quickly, but it just doesn’t all come together that well. The riveting opening is a lot of fun, but even that isn’t handled as well as it should have been (it just feels rushed to me).
My biggest gripe with the novel is that it just puts Bond back to business as usual, and it really cheapens the incredibly powerful events of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice. If I had my way, You Only Live Twice would have ended Fleming’s Bond, as he walked off into the sunset and possibly to his death at Russian hands.
The Man with the Golden Gun reviewed by… Genrewriter
The last Ian Fleming novel is something of an oddity. It presents an excellent story with maybe the best beginning of any of the novels and provides an interesting opponent for Bond in the form of Scaramanga. The story stays fairly consistently interesting and exciting with a very good climax and closing scene. One can only wonder how good it could have been had it been put through some rewrites from Fleming. Sadly it was unfinished at the time of Fleming’s death so we’ll never know. Still, a very good read.
The Man with the Golden Gun reviewed by… MkB
In The Man with the Golden Gun, we can see developing something strange in Bond’s world: nostalgia.
The first hints took place at the beginning of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, when Bond, on holidays, is daydreaming about his childhood on the beach in Royale-les-Eaux. Then, in You Only Live Twice, we can see him, depressed an drinking too much, more self-conscious of his failure and weakness, both physically and mentally:
‘The state of your health, the state of the weather, the wonders of nature – these are things that rarely occupy the average man’s mind until he reaches the middle thirties. It is only on the threshold of middle-age that you don’t take them all for granted, just part of an unremarkable background to more urgent, more interesting things.’
‘Until this year, James Bond had been more or less oblivious to all of them. Apart from occasional hangovers, and the mending of physical damage that was merely, for him, the extension of a child falling down and cutting its knee, he had taken good health for granted. The weather? Just a question of whether or not he had to carry a raincoat or put the hood up on his Bentley Convertible. As for birds, bees and flowers, the wonders of nature, it only mattered whether or not they bit or stung, whether they smelled good or bad.’
Starting from You Only Live Twice, Bond is ageing. He has to deal with past, with memories, with deliquescence. This is odd, because according to the filmography, Bond is a mythical hero, always in the present, always a “young man in his mid-thirties” (or rather mid-forties, in the movies).
Of course as pointed in the excellent article by Jacques Stewart, in The Man with the Golden Gun we see a New Bond in a New World, but nostalgia hasn’t been washed away. There’s an incredibly sad line (to me) in this novel, when Bond is at Kingston’s airport:
‘What were a couple of hours of heat and boredom in this island compared with memories of Beau Desert and Honeychile Wilder and his survival against the mad Dr. No? James Bond smiled to himself as the dusty pictures clicked across his brain. How long ago it all was! What had happened to her? She never wrote. The last he had heard, she had had two children by the Philadelphia doctor she had married.’
Thinking about this bright Honeychile Rider as a “dusty picture” is sad enough, but my heart sank when I thought about her as an American doctor’s wife. Can you imagine it? From a golden and shiny embodiement of Mother Nature, wilderness and freedom under the Sun and Ocean, to a middle-upper-class housewife in the north of Noth America?
And this “She never wrote”: as if Bond regretted it, as if he missed an old friend.
Oddly enough, Bond had a story before the beginning of the novels. He had had his lot of war experience, and a career in intelligence before Casino Royale. But as far as I can remember, there are no allusions to his war memories, lost friends etc. in the novels. Nostalgia seems to appear with the last three ones, just like if, before ageing, Bond had just been like a boy playing a game called war.
Keep your eyes on the CommanderBond.net main page—and our brand new Twitter feed—for further reviews of Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 adventures in the upcoming months.