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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bond as "B" movie film noire
Whilst Douglas Kennedy in his introduction has perhaps over-egged the suggestion that Ian Fleming had created a proto-feminist lead character in this book, it is far to say that Vivienne Michel is one of the author's more credible characters. I found this book really difficult to put down and , it must be said, this is one of Ian Fleming's better written efforts. It is...
Published 17 months ago by Ian Thumwood

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2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing experimental novel
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...
Published 1 month ago by SirChutney


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bond as "B" movie film noire, 19 Jan. 2014
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Whilst Douglas Kennedy in his introduction has perhaps over-egged the suggestion that Ian Fleming had created a proto-feminist lead character in this book, it is far to say that Vivienne Michel is one of the author's more credible characters. I found this book really difficult to put down and , it must be said, this is one of Ian Fleming's better written efforts. It is also by far the more believable of all the efforts of his I have read. The book demonstrates Fleming's resourcefulness with this novel effectively being about a young Canadian woman who flees to America after some bitter experiences in London. The book is very much of it's time and ultimately , despite Vivienne's admirable independence that is outlined in the first half of the novel, she ends up succumbing to James Bond's charm. This first section of the novel reminded me a bit of Iain McEwan's "Sweet tooth."

Having set the scene, the main excitement in this book comes from Vivienne's encounter with two hoodlums who arrive at the motel she is minding. This section of the book is full of menace and her fate seems sealed until 007 arrives. I find Bond a curious character in Fleming's novels and he is effectively nothing like his portrayal in any of the films. "TSWLM" has the feel of a black and white "B" movie from the 1950's and the low-key nature of the story seems wholly credible until Bond's arrival. If there is a fault, Bond does seem the least credible of all the principle characters in this novel. For me, he is the weak link in this story. The account of his secret operation in Toronto seems ridiculous after the realistic violence that has occurred in the previous pages and there is absolutely no logic for his recounting this escapade to Viv. I did like the fact that you anticipate a thrilling encounter between the two gangsters and Bond and Fleming sets out the stalls so that you are anxious for Bond to come to the rescue. For once, the baddies are realistic and borrow more from film noire than the usual comic book pen portraits. The book is all the better for this.

"TSWLM" is a riveting read and although obviously not a book without faults, I feel that this effort is under-rated as it offers some of Fleming's best writing together with a story that is very believable. Much of the interest with the Bond books stem from the contrasts with the films. Generally, the "Connery" films seem to be more in keeping with the novels although I feel the alterations on the screen are generally to the benefit of the stories. Despite being one of Roger Moore's better outings as the secret agent, this novel has absolutely nothing to do with the film. It is a taut, pithy thriller and benefits from being told from the point of view of someone other than Bond. In fact, Bond only appears in the last third of the novel. Although slated by the critics at the time, Fleming was quite audacious in publishing this effort and his decision to override his initial reluctance to release this novel is justified. The Bond novels are a mixed bunch and even some of the better ones like "Dr No" can get a bit clunky. I feel this book offers quite an original spin on the world's most famous secret agent and providess a good contrast to "From Russia with love" and "On her majesty's secret service" which, for my money, are the best amongst the five I have read so far. This effort isn't far behind.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Different Bond Novel, 7 Jun. 2010
By 
C. Green "happily low brow" (Quenington, Glos, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Spy Who Loved Me (Paperback)
If 'The Spy Who Loved Me' (TSWLM) was the first on Ian Fleming's James Bond novels that someone read they might be forgiven for wondering a.) how a book of this sort could have inspired the movies adaptations that followed and b.) where all the espionage and adventure they were expecting had gone. There's also a good chance that they'd never pick up another Bond novel out of sheer disappointment, so if you've never read any of Fleming's books before (or have only picked up one or two) I would not recommend starting with TSWLM. Go back to the beginning as I did and start with Casino Royale. Its a worthwhile exercise.

For those familiar with Fleming's books TSWLM will still come as a surprise, as it is most definitely not a normal Bond novel. In fact its not really a novel, more a literary experiment on the part of the author masquerading as a glorified short story. Sticking to a three act structure the book is narrated by a young Canadian woman, Viv Michel, who in Act One recounts how she went from a comfortable upbringing in Montreal, via finishing school and a career in journalism in London, to being holed up in a deserted motel in Adrionacks in the US during a severe thunderstorm. Act Two then centres on the arrival of two gangsters with nefarious motives at the motel and how they go from initially unsettling to threatening and eventually attacking the vulnerable Viv. Only in Act Three does James Bond finally arrive on the scene and effect a rescue of Viv.

In almost every respect TSWLM is unlike any other Bond novel. Along with the narration from Viv throughout and the lack of James Bond for two thirds of the book's length there's also no espionage for Bond to undertake even once he does appear (his arrival on the scene being entirely coincidental). His role is relegated to that of the mysterious stranger riding in to protect and rescue the damsel in distress and the likes of SMERSH & SPECTRE are restricted to name checks in tale Bond recounts to Viv during a lull in proceedings. The two gangsters, Horror & Sluggsy, are evil and physically ugly specimens like many Bond villains and are reminiscent of the hoodlums from Diamonds are Forever (Penguin Viking Lit Fiction) & Goldfinger (Penguin Viking Lit Fiction), but they are also less exotic and their motivations (arson and insurance fraud) are far more pedestrian. In many ways TSWLM feels more like a traditional noir crime novel which just happens to feature James Bond.

This almost complete divergence from the normal 'Bond' template is bound to leave some fans wholly disatisfied. Despite some reservations going in however, I found that I really enjoyed this complete change of pace from the other adventures. There are the usual observations to be made about Fleming's anachronistic attitudes to certain things (written in 1962 TSWLM is now very much a period piece) but its also good to see a writer trying something new and different with a familiar character and for the most part pulling it off. The book's brevity helps as the changes in pace and subject matter don't overstay their welcome, and in some ways it feels closest in style to the short stories from For Your Eyes Only (Penguin Viking Lit Fiction), but Fleming nails the character of Viv quite well, avoiding making her a completely helpless damsel, and there is palpable sense of menace to events during the second act. The final act is more tradition Bond action, but stripped of any world changing significance or scale events on the page feel raw and have greater punch.

All in all TSWLM is worth dipping into. As long you don't expect the usual mix of evil masterminds, world changing plots and high adventure you will not be disappointed and if you're a fan of Fleming's spare prose, characters, sense of place and feel for action there is much in the book that will entertain.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very diferent novel from Fleming, demonstrating the breadth of his ability, 2 Mar. 2012
By 
Jim J-R (West Sussex, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Spy Who Loved Me (Paperback)
The first thing to know about The Spy Who Loved Me is that it is not a typical James Bond adventure by any stretch. This is the story of Viv Michel, a Canadian working in an American motel when gangsters descend. It's a very personal, almost coming-of-age, tale, told in the first-person.

It feels much more akin to the short stories of For Your Eyes Only than the other full novels in Fleming's Bond series, and is short enough that I read it through in a single day. The style though is very Fleming and Michel is just as opinionated as the Bond character in other stories. It's certainly one of the most believable stories in the set and most of the emotion is put across with a gripping realism.

It's quite a graphic novel, probably due to the nature of the narrative, and includes some of the most graphic sexual scenes of the Bond novels as Michel recounts her short personal history in the first third of the text. I wonder how shocking some of this might have been in the sixties when the book was first published.

Yes, it is very different from the usual Bond story, but it just shows the breadth of Fleming's writing ability was not limited just to thrillers. It's not an adventure, but knowing that before reading it (after all, I have read it before) I think I appreciated it more than the previous few stories in the series.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very different either to the movie or other Bond novels, 5 Jun. 2011
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This is quite unlike any other Bond book I have read. or a start it is written in the first person, from the perspective of Vivienne, a Canadian girl livening initially in London, but who embarks on a tour of North America. Bond plays only a fairly small part in the book, surprisingly so. Like most of Flemings writing it is quite decorative and lacks nothing in pace. It is quite surprising that Fleming, famed as a misogynist took on this book and it stands up really quote well and is far less patronising than one might have feared of expected. Well worth a read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Bond, 17 Jan. 2002
By A Customer
This is the best Bond. Fleming was wrong to be embarassed with it. It is a masterpiece, very different, very refreshing. utterly compelling.
THis is my favourite of all the Bond novels. most of them i found okay reads, but didnt really understand what the fuss was all about. the films are far superior, usually.
But this one just blew me away. Fleming deviates from his formula, and writes the best novel of his career. UNfortunately, it is also the shortest.
The characters here are great, the two killers chiiling. Bond takes on a mythical quality (as a previous reviewer said) in the way he seems to come and go, rather in the manner of a fairy godmother. (although he himself would probably hate ever being assosciated with that phrase!)
The plot of this one is nicely simple, easy to get to grips with, and the writing is very good. I enjoyed this book most out of all the Bond i've read (i.e. all of them). This is a very, very, good, novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Girl Interrupted, 6 Oct. 2001
Imagine being alone, totally alone, in a remote location during a storm, when all of a sudden, cold, merciless, danger, comes-a-knocking at your door.
This is the situation facing Vivienne Michel, a lovely French-Canadian motel receptionist at the Dreamy Pines Motor Court in upstate New York when she is paid a visit by danger in the shape of two loathesome gangsters. In 'Horror' Horowitz and 'Sluggsy' Morant, Fleming conjures up two of his more hideously thuggish creations in this gem of a tale.
The plot of this novel is basically one of a 'damsel in distress' as Vivienne, who narrates the story throughout, has to confront her worst
nightmares in the shape of the motel owners bully boys who, for some reason, seem determined to hurt her and then kill her. The 'knight in shining armour' is of course, 'you know who,' who doesn't actually show up until two-thirds of the way through the book. However when Vivienne rather fearfully opens the door to be confronted by a man who was, 'good-looking, in a dark, rather cruel way...' We know that our hero has arrived.
This is a Bond novel totally unlike any other I have ever read. It is not concerned with espionage (although Bond does tend to let his mouth run away with itself when explaining how he turned up at the motel), it does not pit Bond against some fiendish mastermind, it is not set in a glamorous location (an upstate New York forest ?) and it does not involve a female noted for looking after herself. But despite all this, it is a glorious examination of fear, and of how love can grow because of that fear. It is also compelling !

Indeed we learn a lot about Vivienne Michel. The first half of the book is mostly concerned with her life-story of broken hearts and shattered dreams. Her vulnerability, honesty and determination to stand up for herself make her
one of the most endearing of female characters seen in a Bond novel. No streefighters instinct like Pussy Galore, no self-assured confidence like
Domino Vitali, this lady is bruised, frightened and in need of a friend.
Bond is his usual, composed and confident self. His quick appraisal of Vivienne's situation is all he needs to start formulating a plan to rescue this lady from the dragons lair. However, we also see an uncharacterstic sloppiness from Bond too. He doesn't slip up once, but twice, the second mistake is so glaring that any Bond fan, familiar with Bond's usual thoroughness, would be puzzled as to why he didn't take basic precautions to prevent disaster. 'M' would have been appalled at some of his amateurish mistakes.
This book incidentally has no similarity whatever to the film of the same name. The two are completely different animals. In fairness it would be hard to make this book into a film, but it would make a truly compelling one hour TV special.
If I had to change one thing it would be the ending of the book. A little too long is spent listening to Captain Stonors homespun philosophy on 'friends' and 'enemies' for my liking, although Fleming is merely trying to show the depth of Vivienne's feelings for Bond. In fact, Fleming in this book demonstrates (especially in his detailing in the first person Vivienne's life
prior to 'Them') his ability to think and feel like a woman. The early part of the novel is essentially a work of romantic fiction, with Vivienne's loves and heartbreaks detailed in a very sensitive and basically 'feminine' way. We already knew that Fleming was an accomplished author of the ultimate mans novel, but here
he demonstrates his grasp of the world viewed through a woman's eyes as well. Remarkable !
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique Bond book, 23 Jun. 2013
By 
Iceman_Perth (Worcestershire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Spy Who Loved Me: James Bond 007 (Kindle Edition)
This book tends to divide opinion - you don't see too many 3 star reviews of this book! But so what if it's provocative? It does at least get people talking and debating its merits - or not - depending on your viewpoint. But I believe this is one of the very best Bond books. Very differently written in the 1st person and with a unique view of Bond that the other novels simply don't have. The story is simple with a woman, Vivienne Michel, ending up in a motel in upper New York state which is to be burnt to the ground by two thugs for the insurance money. The thugs are brilliantly drawn and when Bond does finally appear, Vivienne Michel thinks he's another one. To me, this is the most profound part of the book - the fact that the thugs and Bond are seen by Vivienne as one and the same. All three are killers; the only difference is which side of the law they occupy. It makes Bond seem a less likeable character but more real nonetheless. Don't be put off by negative reviews of this book. It's brilliant and is in my top 3 Bond novels. Keep an open mind, read it and make your own mind up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Spy Who Loved Me, 27 April 2010
By 
G. Hill "grahamthill" (Sydney, Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Spy Who Loved Me (Paperback)
As this is one of the later books in the series, I found this to be an interesting take on Bond. It is the only book written in the first person from the perspective of another character; the heroine. Bond doesn't even appear until we are well in to the story. The heroine's character had enough to keep me interested and I was waiting to see how Bond would fit in to the dynamic of the story as it unfolded. The end of the story is also a novel one as a character previously unseen and unheard gives an assessment about the type of man that Bond probably is.

I have read that Fleming wasn't happy with this story. Whether that is because of the reaction to it (which was negative), or because he was genuinely unhappy with what he produced is hard to say. Either way it is not the best in the series. There are some holes and times it does have a rushed feel to it. But approach it as something a bit different to the other Bond books and you'll be satisfied with the result.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Good Read, 12 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: The Spy Who Loved Me: James Bond 007 (Kindle Edition)
A little different from the run of the mill James Bond books. Exciting as always though. Bought for my Kindle as the original paperback, some 30 years old now, is getting rather fragile! If you are a James Bond fan, this is a 'must read'. James Evans
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2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing experimental novel, 13 May 2015
By 
SirChutney "@sirchutney" (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Spy Who Loved Me: James Bond 007 (Kindle Edition)
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.
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