A true masterpiece from the creator himself. I've always loved Moonraker, but this reading, like all other previous ones, just got more enjoyable. I find the main location of this novel, and the only location, England to perfectly suit the dark and nasty story that lurks in this book, the pure mind of the villain, Drax, is clearly shown in Chapter 22, Pandora's Box, and it is shown off to a good extent. This story works with just one location, because it allows everything else to take first place in the story with great emphasis, namely the characters and the plot, which are key in Moonraker.
Yes, it's interesting to note minimal references to Die Another Day --
He suddenly decided to be ruthless. "I'm told that Five and Five is your limit. Let's play for that. -Moonraker, Chapter 6.
Let's play for this. I picked it up in Cuba, I believe it's one of yours. -Die Another Day
The character of "good old" Sir Hugo Drax is one of Fleming's best villains ever, pure mania driving his obsession with fury and his loyalty to the Moonraker project, and any scene with Bond antagonizing him is done very, very well. The description he gets during the card scene, and how Bond uses his deformities to anger him during his telling of his true identity is very effective.
Gala Brand, the woman who is just as apt as James Bond, a true heroine who fights the whole way with Bond for the cause, and whose frosty exterior quickly melts away as soon as she gets to know Bond, without the watchful eye of Drax, Krebs, and Walter. I find their golden day encounter to be a very effective chapter, with the swimming, bleeding flowers, and the cliff accident, that is exciting.
The card scene is pure magnificence, and is quite gripping to the the reader, seeing the tension building up throughout the entire game, especially as Drax realizes that perhaps Bond does indeed have an interesting hand. True villainy as Drax spats orders and insults at his partner, and gets his comment cut short as he loses. A very fine scene.
Overall, I think I enjoy the first two-thirds of Moonraker slightly more than the final third because I think it reads a bit more exciting for me, but the final third is still quite fantastic, such as the waiting for the pressure hose to finally reach Bond and Gala, and the countdown to the launch, all well written.
A true 5 star novel.