If your only experience of James Bond has come via the big screen, then Ian Fleming's original creation may come as something of a revelation. Gone are all traces of the debonair, suave and entirely self-assured silver screen version of 007; Fleming's version of the character is altogether more fallible, often haunted by self-doubt and is generally much more of a misfit in the world. Fleming's version is more nuanced than you'll find portrayed in the films: whilst never comfortable when it comes to killing anyone, Fleming's Bond is nevertheless far more brutal and violent than his screen incarnation should the need arise. There is also no snobbery about him, either; rather the exact opposite, as he often finds himself with greater of admiration for and with more in common with the men he is sent after than for those whom he serves. And while driven by a deep sense of honour and of chivalry, he is, if anything, even more sexist, misogynistic and homophobic than his silver screen alter ego.
Although "Dr. No" was the first Bond story to appear in the cinema (1962), it is in fact the sixth of the Bond novels, dating from 1958. Its action follows hard on the heels of "From Russia, with Love", in which Bond only narrowly escaped death by poisoning. At the beginning of this story he is still recuperating somewhat from that earlier ordeal and he is assigned the job which eventually leads him to tangle with the eponymous villain of this piece -- another encounter from which he emerges badly scathed -- almost as a holiday assignment in the sun. Fleming's original storylines are far more involved and much better structured than the bastardised versions adopted by the film franchise and that is certainly true here, with the true nature of Dr No's guano (not bauxite) mining operations on Crab Key not being fully revealed either to Bond or the reader until almost the final chapter.
For those who would rather have books read to them than read them for themselves, AudioGo's series of complete and unexpurgated "007 Reloaded" CD audio books offer an excellent alternative to printed copy. This volume is exceptionally well read by Hugh Quarshie across 8 CDs, with a total running time of approx 7hr 45mins. His characterisations of all of the various people in the story feel absolutely spot-on, with accents, patois and vocal timbres all done to perfection -- even doing an incredible portrayal of Honeychile Rider -- making the listening time feel only half of what it really is.
on 1 June 2016
Full of tension and action, this is again more poignant than the film but with many more of the same story points within it.
Great tension and a sadistic rival for Bond to champion.
A colourful, cracking read with more description than might have been expected, but which also reintroduces us to some old friends, but doesn’t stint on the pace or the action.
on 8 April 2014
James Bond has now recovered from the effects of the poison that he was injected by Rosa Klebb at the end of his last outing In From Russia With Love.
To get him back to work with what is deemed a return with light duties. M assigns him to investigate what has happened to John Strangways and his Secretary.
Strangways is the British Secret Service man in Jamaica. The popular view is that the pair have ran away together. Bond knows Strangways and helped him the last time he was in the West Indies when he was involved in the hunt for Mister Big in Live and Let Die. He knows that something is not right.
On arrival in Jamaica Bond is reunited with Quarrel the Cayman islander who was a great assistance in tracking Mister Big. After some searching around Bond finds that Strangways was investigating a Doctor Julius No the owner of Crab Key a private island that does not welcome visitors and is within Jamaican territorial waters.
Bond and Quarrel decide to sail over one night. The next morning they meet Honeychile Rider who is collecting shells on the beach. Soon they are hunted by Doctor No's henchman and Bond and Honey are captured and taken to secret location that is within a mountain and goes down to a depth below the sea.
When they meet Doctor No he advises them that he is originally from Peking, the son of a local Chinese girl and German missionary. In his younger years he got involved with criminal gangs and stole some Gold from them which he has used to finance this location and is giving help to the Soviet Union in their attempts to sabotage American Rocket tests that are taking place nearby. He confirms that Strangways got in his way and paid the price and intends to do the same to Bond.
on 20 August 2013
Dr No was the first Bond film in the early 60s and I have had an interest in James Bond material ever since seeing the film. I have many of the original paperbacks in my book collection but these are becoming quite 'tatty' so it is a pleasure to be able to download the books onto my Kindle and enjoy reading them all over again. Dr No is a classic Bond villain - the book differs from the film quite a lot towards the end but Dr No still gets to meet his maker! Recommended.
on 13 December 2013
The immediate appeal of the Bond books is t5he possibility to contrast them with the films and to see just how much they differ. If I am honest, the films seem to add somet5hing to the books which enhances t5he story. By contrast, Fleming's originals are frequently more low key.
With the exception of "Moonraker" which is pretty poor as a film and not one of Fleming's finest either, the films seem to be quite faithful to the book but on the page Bond seems more like someone who has stepped out from a black and white film. The sexiness and the exotic of largely missing from the page and the writing is fast and slick yet by no means the great literature that some will have you believe. Fleming's writing is lean but he can also be quite clunky and give the impression of losing interest in the plot. "Dr No" is very similar to the story in the film up until the final denouement which ends in a twisted version of Orwell's "Room 101" as Bond is encouraged to escape through a tunnel and encounter a variety of challenges. The ultimate "challenge" is, admittedly, a bit silly. However, it is good to see some of the traits from the films manifest themselves at last in this adventure.
For all it's faults, "Dr No" is a good read if not as good as "OHMSS" or the more sophisticated "FRLW." I was glad that the character of Quarrel had far more dignity than in the film where he became an "Uncle Tom" stereotype that makes uncomfortable viewing these days. That said, Honeychile Rider, by contrast, seemed a bit ridiculous and appeared to have been added to the story at titilation. I felt the book was enjoyable and seemed to set the scene quite well. Unfortunately, the film's conclusion certainly has the edge on the novel and Dr No's motives are more easily resolved. In the book, Fleming doesn't seem to be that interested and seems satisfied to leave Dr No as a criminal mastermind as opposed to being committed to grander schemes.
In conclusion, this is one of the better Bond books and if it is easy to be sniffy about Fleming's ability as a novelist or to feel disappointed that the Bond on the page can't compete with Broccoli's cinematic creation, they are still fun to read as a bit of light entertainment.
on 10 March 2009
Ian Fleming's dynamic spy story may not have been his first James Bond novel (that honour goes to Casino Royale) but it was the first to be filmed, and as such it has remained in the public consciousness as 007's first real adventure. The daddy of all super-villains, Dr Julius No, is holed-up in his lair on Crab Key, a small island in the Caribbean. Bond is despatched by his boss `M' to the Caribbean, to investigate the disappearance of the its Secret Service representative, a friend of 007's, whose mysterious death may well be linked to Dr No's secret operations on Crab Key. The deadly game that No forces Bond to play, is vividly brought to life and styled so as to be extremely thrilling for the reader, whilst the soon-to-be template for all Bond girls - the exotically delicious `Honey Ryder' - adds spice to an adventure that is already excitingly different.
Fleming's genius lay in his ability to write simply, but with an almost fetishistic attention to detail; the reader experiences a delicious thrill when Bond lights another cigarette or describes the minutiae of his daily routine. It is this ability to prompt such a vicarious response in the reader that lifts Fleming's novels from their pulpy origins, and which has given them their longevity and their status' as classic slices of disposable fiction.
Everything about Dr.No shows Bond in top form & Fleming writing at his best.
The introduction, set in a damp & miserable London, with a curmudgeonly M showing his dislike for just about the whole human race & hoping to punish Bond for a costly mistake by sending him off on a 'soft' mission in Jamaica.
Once there the disappearance of a government agent & his secretary prove to be the beginning of a classic Bond tale.
Jamaica is described in sweltering detail & Bond meets up with a great ally in Quarrell, a man of much wit & intelligence who knows his way around a fight. They eventually meet perhaps Bonds best known female character in Miss Honeychile Ryder. A million miles from Ursula Andress' looming Scandinavian beauty the original is far more a local, more fragile & has a deep & moving backstory. A rare depth in female characterisation for Fleming that avoids the usual cliche & throwaway sensibility. Even Bond is rendered a more civilised beast by her. The combination of Ryder & Quarrell goes a long way to the extra depth & enjoyment to be had in Dr.No.
Another great addition in this release is the reading. For a minute or two I had my doubts about Quarshie's reading but he soon grabs hold of things and gives a masterful reading.
His depth of emotion & descriptive reading are amongst the best I have heard in this series so far. His M is wonderfully clipped & grumpy with a real sense that he is out of touch & fading. Bond appears thoughtful & unlike his usual cocky self.
But if the narrative is good then the characterisation is easily the best of all the readings so far. The West Indian accents are so good and before long everyone is easily distinguishable due to the wide variety in voices.
The diction is clear & a little louder than usual, (with the exception of Ryder who almost whispers). The recording is of course spot on.
A great story coupled with one of the best audio book readings I've ever heard, Bond or otherwise.
Dr No is the sixth appearance in print for Ian Fleming's James Bond. Originally published in 1958 it is very much of it's time in certain attitudes and the dangers facing the world, but it is a ripping yarn that holds up well still today.
Following the near fatal events of `From Russia With Love', and Bond's extended convalescence, he is sent by M to Jamaica on what should be an easy case to ease Bond back into the groove. A relaxing holiday in the sun as M puts it. Two operatives, the local station chief and his secretary, have mysteriously disappeared. Bond is sent to find out what happened to them, and to look into the sudden reduction in numbers of a rare bird, the roseate spoonbill, on nearby Crab Key. What looks like a simple matter, well below his abilities, quickly turns into something more sinister, and eventually leads Bond into a struggle that pushes him right to the limits of his physical and mental endurance. Every step of the way is a trial for Bond, and from the moment he sets foot in Jamaica he has to be on the top of his game to avoid ending up dead, and to protect those around him.
It's a thrilling book, and once again Fleming writes with bags of atmosphere. You can picture the syrupy glow of the sun in Jamaica, hear the birds in the trees, feel every ounce of terror and pain inflicted on the characters. There are several bravura sequences, which are totally and utterly gripping; Bond's encounter with a deadly centipede, and his fight for survival in Dr No's lair are nailbiting and exhausting examples. Added to which is Fleming's ability to relate mundane matters in an interesting way - the guano industry is central to the book, and Fleming makes his essential description of this most uninteresting sounding subject both informative and enthralling. And the final detail, Dr No is a fascinating villain, somewhat outré, but nothing totally impossible in his physical description. He is certainly one of the more memorable Bond villains.
Some of the views expressed in the book seem a little, er, backwards today. Especially in terms of race. But in Fleming's defence, these were views that were commonly held, and the characters he creates would, if they were real people, have held those views. It cannot be held up as an example of Fleming's or Bond's own views. It is, as I said, a book of it's time, and reflects the era.
In general it is another tense and exciting story from Fleming. And to be honest, any book where the villain earns his money from guano and meets his end buried under 20 tons of the stuff in an imaginative climax, is worth a look!
All in all a 5 star book.
For all their initial popularity, the original James Bond novels are a very inconsistent lot, with a handful of excellent books nestled among some rather clumsy ones where it feels that Fleming is padding out decent but somewhat flimsy plots with acres of research. As a result some feel like you're alternating reading a chapter of a pulp thriller with a chapter of a non-fiction book. It's a style that Michael Crichton was able to get away with much better in his techno-thrillers, but with Fleming it's very hit and miss. Thankfully Dr No, James Bond's sixth print outing, is one of Fleming's better novels. There's still plenty of exposition but, unlike many of the other Bond novels, he disguises it well enough that it doesn't feel like the author is regurgitating guide books or technical articles. Nor does he accept his sources as wholeheartedly as in other Bond novels, allowing his characters to debate them as in the early conversation between M and the service's chief doctor over how much torture a man can stand.
The story isn't bad either, with Bond being eased back into service with a supposedly easy assignment after needing months of recuperation after screwing up his last assignment: go to Jamaica to track down the missing station head who has almost certainly run off with his secretary. Naturally there's more to it than that, and while it turns out that there's the kind of big scheme behind it that's just made-for-the-movies, which is hardly surprising since it's based on a rejected TV screenplay Fleming wrote in 1956, it's played out much more credibly than expected. The supposed source of Dr Julius No's income is much more down to earth - guano - and the reason for the murders that kicks off the plot is driven not by, of all things, endangered bird preservation. Of course you still get the iconic Honeychile Rider emerging Venus-like from the sea, the island's fearsome `dragon' and the sex, sadism and snobbery the series would become famous for, though fans of the film may be surprised to find a poisonous centipede rather than a deadly tarantula in Bond's hotel room and the Fu Manchu-inspired Dr No getting a rather more, er, fertile exit. Despite the terrible reviews that met it on publication in 1958, it holds up much better than some of the other Bond novels, and Hugh Quarshie's unfussy reading on AudioGo's unabridged audiobook is pleasingly effective.
I still remember being thrilled when Dr No first appeared in the cinema, with the incomparable Sean Connery in his first appearance as James Bond. The film was so impressive that I wasn't sure how Hugh Quarsie would compare. I need not have worried; this is an excellent introduction to the 007 audiobook cololection. Even a very English James Bond didn't detract, and his Jamaican accents - especially for Quarrel - were brilliant. The story unrolls at a proper pace, with excellent characterisations. The image of M as someone who actually found everyone else irritating, especially if they increased his workload by trying to protect birds (the Audobon society was seen as a set of old women with too much time on their hands) or if they inconvenienly nearly get themselves killed because their Beretta jammed, as in the case of 007, was also brilliantly communicated. Of it's time, Fleming had no problem with including Chinese negroes as bad guys, so perhaps could be uncomfortable for some listeners in a way that an English villain wouldn't.