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Moonraker (1955)

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Moonraker by Ian Fleming (1955)

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I'm reading the James Bond novels in order of publication. I'm not sure why I'm doing it this way, as each novel appears to be self-contained. Moonraker is the third following Casino Royale and Live and Let Die; they weren't filmed in order either.

Those used to the movies need to adjust slightly to the much smaller canvas of the original Fleming novels, and be conscious that they were of their time; Moonraker hit the shelves in 1955. Here, unlike the Roger Moore film version, the Moonraker is an atomic missile rather than a space shuttle, and all the action takes place in London and southeast England.

Bond is invited by M to be a guest at his club, Blades. The wealthy industrialist Sir Hugo Drax is also a member, but M's suspicions are aroused following evidence that Drax cheats at cards. Drax is something of a national hero for investing a chunk of his personal fortune in building the Moonraker missile, which is at the final testing stage and is regarded as a huge step change in the defence of the realm. Why should such a man cheat at cards?

M and 007 play Drax and another man at bridge using cards carefully doctored by Bond, and Drax does indeed try to cheat. Then comes news that the Head of Security at the Moonraker base has been murdered in a pub by another member of staff, supposedly over a woman. M engineers it so that Bond is his replacement, and he must team up with Gala Brand, a Special Branch officer posing as Drax's PA to investigate.

The set up proves odd. Drax's employees are all German, shaven-headed and moustachioed, including the scientific genius Walther and the sadistic Krebbs. What are Drax's motives for funding the project in the first place?

Of the three I've read so far, Moonraker is the tensest and paciest of the Bond novels, although, like Casino Royale's baccarat scene, the opening bridge game goes on a little too long and suggests its author is rather more interested in gambling and cards than his readers might be. Of course, it is all wildly implausible. However, for those interested in sampling literary rather than cinematic James Bond, Moonraker might be a good place to start. ( )
  Grammath | Apr 9, 2014 |
Rating: 4* of five

Yes, again I'm rating the 1979 movie, not the 1954 book. Get over it.

The pre-credits sequence of this film is the absolute all-time best thrill ride in the Bondiverse. Seeing it again on the teensy netbook screen was just as thrilling and pulse-pounding as it was to see it in the theater 34 years ago. A parachuteless Bond flung from a plane, chasing a villain with a parachute, wresting the parachute from the villain, and death to baddie while Bond tiptoes lightly to earth.


The plot's standard Bond piffle. Villain with all the money in the world manages to hide a space base in the jungles of Brazil, creates a supermegaultra whiter-than-white Master Race, blah blah you know the drill. What makes this fun to watch are the chase scenes in Venice...so beautiful, Venice!...Rio de Janeiro's cable cars, which had me whimpering in terror...and lastly, most campily, in outer space. That bit, the last half-hour or so, hasn't aged well.

I really love this film for its sheer, balls-to-the-wall speed of pace. Unlike many Bond films, the yip-yap seems to take less time than usual. This perception is helped along by the forgettableness of the yip-yap, I think.

Possibly the stupidest thing that happens in the film is the 7ft2in tall assassin, Jaws, who repeats from The Spy Who Loved Me, turns good because of the love of a (tiny, blonde) woman. Jeez. Possibly the best thing that happens, after the amazing opening sequence, is the launch of six space shuttles...filmed before even one had actually launched! It's quite impressive.

Shirley Bassey's back, singing "Moonraker", the last one she'd ever sing. Thank goodness. Apparently the producers asked her to do this after Kate Bush (!!) said no. The tune's just about what you'd accept in a 1959 film, not a 1979 film.

All there is to say con, I still give this one a pro rating. ( )
  richardderus | Dec 11, 2013 |
A really mediocre entry in the series. The story never leaves England and spends 30% of the book having Bond reveal how Drax is cheating at cards. Plus there's the laughably outdated stuff about the rocket. Of course this is markedly different than the movie version as space travel was still largely an impossibility in the mid-50s.

That is all. ( )
  ptdilloway | Nov 21, 2013 |
After a somewhat slow start, this third entry in the James Bond series reaches an exciting climax. And I like the fact that Bond in the book is more human than his character in the movies. ( )
  leslie.98 | Aug 9, 2013 |
Though a long-time fan of the Bond film series, I had never read one of the novels. I have to say, I was impressed.

It's easy to spot that the book Bond is a very different man than film Bond. In fact, it's doing the book a disservice to even compare the two. In this novel, Bond is a three-dimensional character, a man who does paperwork, who has to train to stay in peak form, who contemplates what he can buy with the money he wins in gambling. He is a gentleman, exuding a type of masculinity that has more in common with the Edwardian era than postwar Britain. He expresses self-doubt, is willing to sacrifice himself to accomplish his goals, and even fails to get the girl.

In short, this was a book about a person who might be real, no superhero, but a man doing his job with equal parts of effort and style. ( )
  shabacus | Jun 10, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142002062, Paperback)

Moonraker, Britain's new ICBM-based national defense system, is ready for testing, but something's not quite right. At M's request, Bond begins his investigation with Sir Hugo Drax, the leading card shark at M's club, who is also the head of the Moonraker project. But once Bond delves deeper into the goings-on at the Moonraker base, he discovers that both the project and its leader are something other than they appear to be.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:17:39 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Moonraker, Britain's new ICBM-based national defense system, is ready for testing, but something's not quite right. At M's request, Bond begins his investigation with Sir Hugo Drax, the leading card shark at M's club, who is also the head of the Moonraker project. But once Bond delves deeper into the goings-on at the Moonraker base, he discovers that both the project and its leader are something other than they appear to be.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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