My James Bond Challenge continues with For Your Eyes Only, the eighth Bond novel written by Ian Fleming, published in 1960. Fleming is basically keeping up his rate of writing a novel each year. Although this one is different. It isn’t a full novel. It’s a collection of short stories.
At first I thought that was a shame that I wasn’t going to get to read another full novel, and that maybe it was a bit of a cop out by Fleming. But actually I really enjoyed these. We get a lot of cold opens in the Bond movies, and this kind of felt like a collection of fleshed out cold opens. They are all short insights into various parts of Bond’s life, but we get to read them without the full novel experience of introducing multiple characters and multiple story arcs etc.
I have still ranked the novel as a whole against all the other novels, but within this novel I have also ranked my favourite of the short stories. But first let’s review them in order. As ever, my book review style is just a brain dump of my thoughts and comments whilst going through the book.
From a View To a Kill
- p10 – I love the French cafe drink list. Fleming goes into detail about how each drink should be drunk.
- p10 – Bond offers an Americano. I had no idea the term Americano had been around as long as that.
- p11 – Interesting factoid here is that we learn that Bond lost his virginity, and his notecase, in Paris when he was 16 years old.
- p20 – No complaint from Bond at all when Russell (female) is chosen to be his duty officer and he can get them any time in the twenty-four hours. Surely there’s not going to be time for any ‘hanky panky’ in a short story? Well, this is Bond after all. He’ll find a way.
- p35 – A midge! Midges are normally only a very Scottish thing. Great to hear midges being referenced somewhere else!
- p35 – “The Colt spoke its single word.” Fleming is great at these sorts of lines.
- p37 – “I want to show you a bird’s nest.” Is that a euphesim?! Must be.
I enjoyed this. Cool bits about Paris, and then Bond and Russell taking a boring job by the scruff of the neck. 4/5
For Your Eyes Only
- p44 – £180,000 is described as a small fortune. It kind of still is now but I guess back in those days it really was.
- p46 – ‘brown monkey-hands’? I’m assuming that’s a racist description by Fleming. Just no need for it.
- p50 – Fleming references “…this chap Castro”. This is obviously Fidel Castro who came into power in Cuba in the year this book was written.
- p60 – Three quarters bourbon and one quarter coffee! Love that recipe.
- p62 – The whole first paragraph is amusing as we hear Bond’s thoughts. Chipmunks and oyster-stew!
- p73 – “Don’t be a silly bitch… This is man’s work.” Now, now Bond. Deep breaths.
- p75 – Bond threatening a girl with spanking again! So patronising.
- Another example of a strong girl who ends up becoming smitten with Bond. They fight a lot but then at the end she just totally willingly went with him?
I don’t have too much to say about this one. Not the best short story. 2/5
Quantum of Solace
- p84 – Great first opening line where Bond says, “I’ve always thought that if I ever married I would marry an air hostess”.
- p84 – I love how Bond felt foolish sitting with an elderly bachelor on his bed of rose chintz. Slightly insecure? Not sure.
- p87- ‘Bond… boring himself with his own banality.” Hilarious.
- p108 – I rarely see mistakes in books like this but there are two on this page. Firstly a double spacing half way down the page, and then at the end it says “They said goodnight Bond walked off down the quiet street…”. Obviously missing a full stop (period) after ‘goodnight’.
Nothing really happens at all but it’s still surprisingly entertaining and interesting to see Bond’s reactions. to a very different situation. 2.5/5
- The story itself is basically taking the mickey out of someone’s accent, about how they say ‘risk’
- p109 – I just like noting all the drinks that Bond has. This time it’s a Negroni with Gordon’s gin.
- p112 – I like the bee in his bonnet that M has. Particularly his exaggerated faith in Scotsmen.
- p112-115 – Another great example of Bond and M’s relationship.
- p116 – “He wondered why rolls and butter are delicious only in France and Italy.”
- p122 – “Since he, Bond, could not have the girl, it was at least something that she was in good hands”. How very caring of Bond!
- p124 – I assume Bond fell right into the woman trap? Achilles heel. Thinking with his crotch again.
- p125 – Is Fleming paraphrasing George Orwell’s Animal Farm here? “All men are pigs, but some are lesser pigs than others.”
- p127 – “That evening, scattering thousand-lira notes like leaves in Vallombrosa…”
- I really like Colombo! I’ve not seen the film “For Your Eyes Only” for decades, but I know the character appears, so I can’t wait to see him.
- p143 – “The bullets zipped… clanged… and whirred.” Good writing.
- Colombo’s present is a hotel room key for Bond to get laid?
There were interesting bits in this one but it didn’t really grab me overall. 2.5/5
The Hildebrand Rarity
- p159 – Bond’s temper isn’t often mentioned. Normally he shrugs off idiots. Interesting to see it mentioned here.
- p160 – “So that was it! The old Hun again.” Is that a bit of casual post-war racism?
- p161 – Bond again is very good at guessing what speed their boat is going at. I love observational estimation skills like that.
- p162 – Her best feature was her hair. Comes across a bit harsh!
- p162 – ‘coquetry’. I love learning new words. Never heard this word before.
- p162 – Bond has met these people for 10mins and is already accusing him of being impotent!
- p170 – “Had it been hate? It had probably been indigestion.”
- p171-172 – Interesting viewpoint about tropical islands not being worth a damn, and a flat in Paris or London being much better.
- p174-175 – I love how Bond is feeling bad about killing fish.
- p182 – Brilliant description of Krest looking like a baboon and bringing a chill in the air. I really enjoyed that.
- This whole story is very different. It’s partly Fleming being able to create interesting and annoying characters and it’s partly a whodunnit. And also partly a marine life exercise!
This one feels like it has the most meat of all the short stories in this collection. Interesting premise and good characterisation. 4.5/5
Overall I found it really interesting reading short stories of Bond, without all the build up and heavy characterisation that the main novels have. Very interesting to read, and I’m glad Fleming wrote it. 7.5/10
Ranking and scoring of these short stories
The Hildebrand Rarity – 4.5/5
From a View To a Kill – 4/5
Quantum of Solace – 2.5/5
Risico – 2.5/5
For Your Eyes Only – 2/5
Current ranking and scoring out of 10
Moonraker – 9
Dr. No – 9
From Russia, with Love – 9
Casino Royale – 8.5
Goldfinger – 7.5
For Your Eyes Only – 7.5
Live and Let Die – 7
Diamonds are Forever – 6.5