Thunderball (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 3 Jun 2004
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"Good living, sex and violent action…a highly polished performance, an ingenious plotand plenty of excitement" (Times Literary Supplement)
"If you wish to steal atom bombs, this is how you should do it! Fleming’s mastery of detail enables the reader to suspend disbelief" (Sunday Telegraph)
"A mystery story, a thriller, a chiller, and a pleasure to read" (New York Times) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
There is only one Bond. Enjoy these intoxicating spy novels in stylish Vintage Classics editions. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product description
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SMERSH has been dismantled by Nikita Khruschev and now a new organisation has arrived in the shape of SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence Terroism Revenge and Extortion). This outfit consists ex members of SMERSH, Gestapo officers and the Mafia. Their leader is Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
The principal villain in this story is Blofeld's number two and chosen successor Emilio Largo. SPECTRE have stolen two atomic bombs from a British aircraft and have sent ransom demands to the British Prime Minister and President of the United States.
Operation Thunderball is put into motion. Through intelligence Bond is sent to the Bahamas where he is reunited with Felix Leither (Ex CIA) and the pair of them share more action together.
Bond is also helped by Domino Vitali. Domino is Largo's mistress before falling for Bond.
There are some good action scenes like the attempt on Bond's life in the health farm and under water where most of the action in this adventure takes place.
However, the book is splendid. Possible one of the best Bond books, and interesting for it's occasional social comments (for example, the young taxi driver who "wants to be Tommy Steele"). Fleming didn't do that too much.
It has it all:
- M – check,
- Moneypenny – check,
- May – check,
- Felix – check,
- Exotic location – check,
- Beautiful girl with catchy name – check,
- Car – check,
- Walther PPK – check,
- Blofeld and SPECTRE – check,
- Atomic bombs – check.
I could go on but you get the picture …
I liked the way that the book opens with Bond in need of a serious detox. Fleming describes a hangover, I’m guessing from his own experience, in a wonderful way. After reading this I realised just how descriptive Fleming was with his prose. This is especially the case when we get to the underwater battles later in the book. Fleming must have loved the sea and diving. His portrayal of frogman Bond is rich and atmospheric, for example: Bond sneaking around the Disco, the battle with SPECTRE scuba divers and the various sea life.
The novel is a tough straightforward thriller with an exciting plot. The 1967 movie of the same name follows the book. If you’ve seen this then it’ll help you to conceptualise the story and scenes described.
It all rattles along at a nice pace with a sprinkle of humour and panache. Thunderball also has less violence as compared to other books in the series too.
The focus of Thunderball is on Bond himself. Again, Bond comes off as a rather vulnerable person, riddled with self-doubt. He’s definitely not the superhero that we see in some of the movies. Of course, we get the usual misogyny and abuse. But by this point in series it doesn’t come as much of a shock any more.
We also get to see Bond in scenes with some favourite characters. Not only M but Moneypenny, who was missing from the last couple of novels. Felix Leiter and Bond’s Scottish housekeeper, May who gives Bond a telling off also appear too. The only character that is missing is Q meaning he gadgets and gimmicks so prevalent in the movies are missing. For me this enhances the story and definitely doesn’t make the book less entertaining.
The last part of the novel was a slight let down. In a Bond movie this part of the story is the big climax but not here. What Fleming gives us is rather lukewarm. There’s no big punch or crescendo as we nonchalantly learn that Blofield has escaped.
So in summary, this is a fun novel and worth reading even if you’re not the biggest Bond fan. The exotic mixture makes for an exhilarating page turning thriller. A polished performance from Fleming, with an action packed ingenious plot full of excitement.
Thunderball seems to be different from the earlier books. Bond feels slightly less rough around the edges - he's mellowed perhaps? His over-opinionated ways are much lessened, and he comes across even as slightly vulnerable. The other characters are the opposite. Whereas before there was in depth background about Goldfinger, Rosa Klebb, Dr No and so on, in this book Largo seems to be nothing more than a puppet. Blofeld gets the rich detailed treatment in an early chapter, but is promptly ignored from then on, making Bond's battle with Largo feel rather perfunctory and impersonal.
The detail of the settings is also sparser than before. In earlier books the reader is treated to long descriptions about the different winds, visits to Harlem, casinos, cars and so on, all of which are missing from this book. Instead, the focus seems to be on action and actual investigation - it would be fair to say this is almost the first novel in which Bond has actually had to do some proper spying. It is written as if for the screen and not the page.
I would go as far as to say that the opening is probably my favourite section of the book. This is the part in which Bond is himself and has his usual foibles. It's the part that gives Blofeld such a brilliant background - setting up an ambitious idea on Fleming's part to have an enemy that could feature in several novels.
Overall though I'm afraid I didn't find it to be at the better end of the series, lacking the unique elements that characterise Bond's earlier outings. It's certainly not bad though, just perhaps more in line with a run-of-the-mill thriller.
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