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Octopussy and The Living Daylights

by Ian Fleming

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: James Bond novels (14), James Bond novels - Original Series (14)

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6531234,168 (3.3)33
Fiction. Suspense. HTML:

The last book written by Ian Fleming, but by no means the least. In "Octopussy," a talented but wayward British major pays a high price when his wartime past catches up with him, while in "The Property of a Lady," a Fabergé egg leads Bond to a KGB spy. In "The Living Daylights," Bond has a perilous rendezvous in sniper's alley between East and West Berlin, and "007 in New York" (read by Lucy Fleming) sees him sent to America to warn an ex-MI6 operative about a dangerous liaison. All part of the job for 007.

This audiobook includes an exclusive bonus interview with Tom Hiddleston.… (more)


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» See also 33 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
I liked Octopussy, the least Bond-centric of the stories. It is a character study of a retired British soldier whose past catches up to haunt him. The other two stories, "Living Daylights" and "Property of a Lady" are fairly quotidian Bond stories without much drama or character. In Living Daylights Bond has to kill a sniper to save an informant crossing from East to West Berlin, and he makes much of the fact that the sniper was a beautiful lady he saw in an orchestra. In Property of a Lady Bond has to subvert an auction of a Faberge egg, the proceeds of which will go to pay a double agent with the ridiculous name of "Freudenstein" in MI6 (which everyone knew about, so she was just fed bad intel which she passed on to the KGB). These latter two stories are not memorable and kind of just end. ( )
  jklugman | Oct 12, 2023 |
James Bond started out as a literary character and soon turned into a movie franchise, becoming a “pop culture” icon in the process. I have watched a few Bond movies, discreetly enjoying them, without really becoming a fan. Perhaps that is why I was never really tempted to explore Fleming’s originals. I now realise that this slim volume of four posthumously published short stories are quite atypical of the Bond oeuvre and possibly not the best introduction to Fleming’s work. In “Octopussy”, Bond is almost a marginal presence, with the real protagonist being the “villian”, one Major Dexter Smythe. There is a good attempt at characterisation of Smythe, but I found the alternations between 1960s Jamaica and post-war Alps clunky, the ending contrived and the whole narrative style somewhat approximate. I liked the writing in “Property of a Lady” better, but this tale of an unusual auction (the only element from this whole collection reprised in the 1983 “Octopussy” movie) lacks the thrill and titillation one would associate with Bond. “007 in New York” is little more than a divertissement verging on self-parody, even includng a recipe for “Scrambled Eggs James Bond”. It was in The Living Daylights that I caught a glimpse of the author who has been described as “the best thriller writer since Buchan”. Nominally a description of a sniping assignment Bond undertakes on the East-West Berlin border, it involves days of waiting for the prey. It could easily have become a boring story but, instead, Fleming manages to ratchet up the tension, giving us a taste of what his character must have felt in his vigils in a blacked-out apartment. It also shows us a Bond who battles with his conscience and who, behind a cool exterior, can also be romantic and chivalric. In other words, The Living Daylight is a little gem, on the strength of which I’ll be happy to give Bond another chance. Any suggestions welcome.

This Vintage edition includes an introduction by Sam Leith, who not only explains what he owes to Bond (his life, no less) but also delves into what these short stories tell about who Bond is (and who or what he’s not).
( )
  JosephCamilleri | Feb 21, 2023 |
This slim volume collects four James Bond short stories, and first came out in 1966.* In his introduction to the 2006 Penguin edition, Robert Ryan suggests Fleming was a short fiction man at heart, and based on reading the Bond books, I agree; many of the novels feel padded even when they're slim. Thus Octopussy & The Living Daylights contains some of Fleming's strongest Bond work in my opinion. Bond isn't much of a factor in "Octopussy," but I enjoyed it anyway, a very thorough story of a man who plans a horrible crime and very nearly gets away with it. I was surprised to realize that the idea that Bond's ski instructor cared for him paternally after Bond's parents died wasn't an invention of the film Spectre but actually originated here. I'll be curious to see if any other elements of "Octopussy" make it into the film, or if it will be one of those Bond adaptations best characterized as "loose."

The other standout here was "The Living Daylights," where Bond has to work as a sniper in order to help an agent make it over the Berlin Wall. It's one of those stories that really gets you into Bond's psychology: he is good at killing but finds little joy in it. Or, to be honest, much else. The twist is pretty obvious, but I still enjoyed it because it's a fun one.

Of the other two, one is all right and one is for completists only. "The Property of a Lady" has some interesting ideas and backstories, but the actual story isn't really up to much. "007 in New York" isn't even a story; it's just Bond thinking about New York City while he visits it on a mission. "007 in New York" was published in the American edition of Fleming's travel book Thrilling Cities as an apology for how much Fleming hated New York City; Fleming said that Bond's take on New York was "more cheerful" than his own. But in this story's mere seven pages, Bond complains about Customs and Immigration, about how all the good hotels have closed, about how the eggs look wrong, about the shops having nothing you can't get in Europe, about how many used car lots there are, about how the restaurants have got too expensive, about the blandness of the food, about how Americans are too obsessed with hygiene, and about how there is no Reptile House at the Central Park Zoo. If that's a cheerful take on New York City, one wonders how awful Fleming must have been about it!

There's also a scrambled egg recipe in a footnote. I will try it someday.

* Kind of; the 1966 edition collected just two short stories, and over the years more were added until all four were together in 2002.
  Stevil2001 | Oct 2, 2020 |
The Property of a Lady
The Living Daylights
James Bond in New York.

I'm always intrigued at how much more subtle the books are than the films. There's something very understated about these stories, with only the vaguest show of flash - Bond's Bentley, for example. They are a mixture, with Octopussy being the remebrances of a Major who went off the rails on one occasion in the war and has been living off the proceeds ever since. He is given time to "consider his position" and so the book ends in not the manner one might expect. Bond acts merely as the catalyst for the tale to unfold. IN Portrait of a Lady, a valuable piece of Faberge art is sent to a double agent, and so begins a tense auction room scene where Bond has to uncover the russian bidder jacking up the price. The Living Daylights sees Bond on a shoot to kill mission which doesn't go entirely according to plan. He's torn in this one, between being good at his job and not wanting to be the one doing his job. You can see it tearing him in two, if this level of tension were to continue. Finally he spends a mere 24 hours in New York, in an attempt to warn a former colleague about a situation she finds herself in, only to discover that the rendezvous does not exist. The tone turns from self congratulatory to very very cross in a moment and manages to be quite farcical!.
They are very much set in the early 60s, when the world was a bit more drab and Bond provided an element of escapism. The world is no less dangerous, but Bond of the books has certainly been locked in a past time. It is an enjoyable way to while away a few hours, but I wouldn't want to be in his shoes. ( )
  Helenliz | Jul 18, 2019 |
It's funny to read this, as the title story has almost NOTHING to do with the movie of the same name, except that it is the background story of the title character and is recounted by her! But, it's a good short story, with very little of Bond in it. He pays a visit to a Major Dexter Smythe in Jamaica to go over a case from the war. And that visit changes things. Smythe is also on the search for a scorpionfish, and wanting it for an experiment with an octopus. The plot is almost all about Smythe, though it has a personal place in Bond's life, one that is hit upon in the movie "Spectre". I liked the way things turned out at the end.

The other story in this collection is "The Living Daylights", another title that was turned into a movie with the relation to the story only being that it is part of the beginning of the film. Bond acts as a counter-sniper to protect a Soviet defector along the West/East Berlin border. It is Bond vs. Trigger for the life of Agent 272, and again the ending has a nice twist, just like "Octopussy".

2 good, short stories about my favorite spy, 007! ( )
  Stahl-Ricco | Apr 17, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ian Flemingprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ryan, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"You know what? said Major Dexter Smythe to the octopus.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This anthology contains two shorter works only, "Octopussy" and "The Living Daylights." Please distinguish between it and any editions that also include "The Property of a Lady" or "007 in New York." Thank you.
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Fiction. Suspense. HTML:

The last book written by Ian Fleming, but by no means the least. In "Octopussy," a talented but wayward British major pays a high price when his wartime past catches up with him, while in "The Property of a Lady," a Fabergé egg leads Bond to a KGB spy. In "The Living Daylights," Bond has a perilous rendezvous in sniper's alley between East and West Berlin, and "007 in New York" (read by Lucy Fleming) sees him sent to America to warn an ex-MI6 operative about a dangerous liaison. All part of the job for 007.

This audiobook includes an exclusive bonus interview with Tom Hiddleston.

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