The Thrill of Bond

October 21, 2013 at 10:47 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

After the seeing the James Bond exhibit at TIFF earlier this year, I decided to work my way through the cinematic version of Bond (it’s not a super high priority though.  So I’ve so far only watch the first two).

Recently however, I also decided to have a stab at the original Bond novels. Casino Royale was out at my local public library, so I began with Quantum of Solace a collection of Bond short stories.

The title story “Quantum of Solace” has very little to do with the Bond movie of the same name, and it’s quite a departure from Flemming’s other Bond stories. Essentially, Bond is at a dinner party as government official tells a story. It’s the story of a middle level bureaucrat who marries a flight attendant (Bond had earlier suggested if he ever married, it would be to a flight attendant). After the honeymoon phase, the attendant grows restless eventually launching a scandalous affair which humiliates her husband. Yet, the husband resorts to a quite unimaginable cruelty himself. It’s a clever little story with a bit of a twist at the end, but it’s nothing like a spy story. Maybe that’s why it works.

“Quantum” follows “For Your Eyes Only” (although again, not much like the movie of the same name) which is a more typical Bond story, and which reveals the essence of the character. ” FYEO” is the story of a former Gestapo officer living in Cuba buying up property by any means necessary, including of course murder. A pair of his victims are friends of M, who essentially sends Bond to murder the German and his Cuban gangster friends. Quite unglamorous, but a genuinely exciting story. Bond catches up with them in Vermont, but first he spends some time in Canada. This part is memorable for its description of Canadian government buildings:

Like most Canadian public buildings, the Department of Justice is a massive block of grey masonry built to look stodgily important and to withstand the long and hard winters.

The best Bond stories, like the movies are not the ones with gadgets (remember Bond’s invisible car embarrassment?), but the ones that focus on espionage. On the fact that all governments are dirty and in many ways there’s very little to distinguish them. And of course we all like to root for the “hero.” It’s the thrill of Bond.

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