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A disappointing experimental novel
on 13 May 2015
Published in 1962 The Spy Who Loved Me is the ninth book in the original James Bond series. It is a short and explicit experimental novel by Ian Fleming. Its somewhat of a disappointment when compared to other books in the series. If you picked up The Spy Who Loved Me expecting Bond to be the central focus of the story you’d be disappointed. You would probably never read another Bond book again.
The story is a first person tale narrated by a young Canadian woman, Viv Michel. It charts her life story and upbringing and eventual arrival at a motel. Gangsters then arrive, threaten her, then Bond shows up and saves the day.
Apart from Bond being missing for much of the book the other problem is the cartoonish gangsters, Horror and Sluggsy. These characters are more like henchmen as opposed to true villains. There is also no espionage as the only crimes they want to commit are insurance fraud and arson. So, in most respects The Spy Who Loved Me is more like a noir crime novel in which Bond makes an appearance.
It’s good that Fleming tried something new with a familiar character despite holding misogynistic attitudes. He doesn't do too bad a job avoiding making Viv a completely useless damsel in distress. Her character is less patronising then I would have expected. But her purpose is to wait for the hero (Bond) to show up, rescue her and then fall in love with.
So in summary, if you’re a Bond fan its worth reading The Spy Who Loved Me for completeness. Cast aside any notions of evil scoundrels with plans for world domination first. Read the book without any preconceptions. If you do this then you’ll find the book moderately entertaining, written with a degree of pace and style.