"I felt the prod of a gun in my back but swung the door wide open ... I had gambled that they wouldn't shoot. They hadn't. Now all depended on the solitary man who stood on the threshold." When James Bond makes his first appearance in The Spy Who Loved Me, the novel is two thirds complete. It is Fleming's most experimental Bond story but one of his most successful, developing characters with a new fullness and constructing an adventure which builds momentum through a series of genuinely thrilling crescendos. We may see comparatively little of Bond himself here but The Spy Who Loved Me reveals more of the man than ever before.
This is the story of Vivienne Michel, a Bond Girl with a difference, whose first-person narration moves through three sections: "Me", describing her childhood, unhappiness and disastrous love affairs; "Them", in which she escapes the past only to find herself caught up in a life-threatening insurance job at the Dreamy Pines Motel Court; and "Him", where Bond enters and the story moves rapidly towards its resolution. There's a mythical quality to James Bond's appearance and disappearance from the action, but Fleming explores his character with great realism, enjoying the freedom to observe his hero objectively.
In many ways this is barely a Bond story at all--the book is firmly in Fleming's gangster tradition and Bond is not even on a mission, just stepping by chance into someone else's nightmare--but The Spy Who Loved Me is nonetheless one of the most exciting and skilful additions to the 007 canon. --Iain Campbell
"Where's 007 now that we really, really need him? He's back with the old derring-do in Penguin's dazzling new reprints"