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4.6 out of 5 stars
Dr No (James Bond 007)
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on 7 September 2017
James Bond is sent to Jamaica for some R&R, instead of rest and relaxation he gets a riotous and rip-roaring reception. He faces a calculating and menacing villain in the form of Dr. Julius No, who has acquired Crab Key island off the coast of Jamaica, and his intentions and actions are shrouded in secrecy. Bond, accompanied capably by the beautiful Honey and the fiercely loyal Quarrel, visit the private island where they encounter an abundance of obstacles in their attempts to bring the undoubtedly evil Dr No down.

After his near death experience at the end of From Russia With Love, we find Bond still recovering from his exertions but eager to get back into the thick of it, but the Doctors explicitly tell M. that Bond needs an easy assignment to recover. James is dispatched to Jamaica to deal with what appears to be a minor problem of one of the Secret Service’s agents having skipped off with his attractive assistant with no word. Of course, things turn out to be more complicated and exciting once James arrives in Jamaica to investigate the truth of the matter.

Standard Outdated Notice: Dr. No contains the usual sexist, racist, chauvinistic, misogynist and narrow-minded worldviews of the time. But with this being the sixth Bond book I have read, it has become easier to take in the spirit of the time that it was written. The outdated beliefs and values do not compromises the story, the realities and dangers of spy-craft, or the vivid imagery of mid-twentieth-century Jamaica.

Fleming’s descriptions are once again ‘on point’. A trilogy of hallmarks from James Bond novels are illustrated exceptionally well in Dr. No, descriptions of food, weaponry and women. However, despite Fleming’s usual descriptive brilliance, his best literary device was dialogue…Dr. No’s dialogue in particularly. Below is a paragraph of dialogue which helped to build an identity of this villainous man.

“All the greatest men are maniacs. They are possessed by a mania which drives them forward towards their goal. The great scientists, the philosophers, the religious leaders – all maniacs. What else but a blind singleness of purpose could have given focus to their genius, would have kept them in the groove of purpose. Mania … is as priceless as genius.”
Dr. No continues on the same steady form that Fleming’s Bond has shown thus far. One theme that seems to hold it back from my perspective, is the convulated openings that draws out the story. Fleming is excellent at describing, however he goes overboard sometimes and with meaningless things that have no relevance to the story, without such descriptions the story could accelerate more quickly to the superbly written action sequences. I am however, looking forward to the next novel in the series…
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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.
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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.
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As the first Bond novel to be adapted for the silver screen (and with only fairly limited changes in terms of plot) Dr No will be forever known as the story that started a phenomenon. As such an iconic work it is both immortal and entirely critic proof.

Which is quite fortunate really, because as far as the adventures of the literary Bond go (his cinematic counterpart being a quite different individual) Dr No is a rather unremarkable effort. Its not a bad effort but nor does it reach the heights of the novel that preceded it, From Russia With Love; its just rather ordinary.

Reading it for the first time (I'm tackling the whole series in sequence with breaks between individual books) I couldn't shake the feeling that Fleming's heart wasn't really in the writing of Dr No. The plot feels rather perfunctory, with Fleming seemingly more interested in describing Jamaica of the late 50's, somewhere he spent a great deal of time and knew very well, than providing a truly compelling tale.

Bond sort of stumbles over Dr No's plans and only succeeds in discovering & thwarting them because his opponent shows a rather implausible desire to entertain Bond in fine style before finding a ridiculously complicated way to dispose of him. There are definite shades of Dr Evil from the Austin Powers movies about this version of Dr. No (right down to the bald head) which doesn't help the book maintain a sense of tension that in any case never really develops. Yes, Bond is put through the physical wringer by No, but it all seems rather silly and artificial and you never really fear for the hero's life. After the palpable threat posed by SMERSH, Red Grant and Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love, Dr No. lacks real teeth.

The book is really only saved by both the presence of Bond himself, a far more complex and appealingly human character than his cinematic alter-ego, and equally importantly that of the supporting cast of Quarrel (returning from Live & Let Die), the honourable and brave Cayman Islander, and the delectable Honey Rider. The latter's first appearance on the page knocks the socks off Ursula Andress emerging from the sea on screen, and as a character she is far more well rounded than the attractive but slightly bland movie version. Admitedly well rounded in this case does include being something of a male fantasy made flesh, but she's no slouch when it comes to being brave and resourceful, successfully rescuing herself on one ocassion without help from Mr Bond.

Dr No. is undoubtedly a classic becuase of its cultural status and significance and no review is going to change that. Without the presence of some wonderfully realised characters to support Bond however, and the superbly described exotic tropical setting, I wonder whether the book would have made such an appealing prospect for adaptation for the screen?

(Oh, and belated kudos must go to Penguin Viking for the superb cover artwork for this series of reprints. Delightfully retro, they capture the feel of the books perfectly)
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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.
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on 3 June 2017
I'm working my was through all of the Fleming Bond novels. I found this the least engaging. Towards the end of the story Bond has to pit his wits and physical prowess against a series of devious traps. I'm sure the intention was to generate tension, but it slowed the narrative pace, and was so protracted that I found it quite exasperating to wade through. I was intrigued though by the fact Honey escaped without Bond's help and I think, given the time, was a uncharacteristically strong female character. Worth a read but not one of Fleming's strongest offerings.
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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.
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on 18 June 2010
Having read the first five Bond's I had high hopes, but sadly this didn't live up to them. The novels are of their time (Cold War etc), but this one seems slightly dated. Don't get me wrong I had no trouble rattling through the pages in a couple of days, but felt that it didn't quite deliver in the way of, say, From Russia with Love. It does contain that thin ongoing story thread, that runs from novel to novel and is essential to the series for that reason, and is still a good beach or pool side read. Harsh I know, but Fleming set such high standards that any deviation was noticeable.
Could do (and have done) better Mr.Fleming.
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on 13 August 2014
Must have 1st read this about half a lifetime ago. Just reread it and it endures as an excellent book.

It is difficult to avoid seeing Sean and Ursula as you are swept along with the action and intrigue, but no shame in that.

There have been other reviewers who seem uncomfortable with some of the values and sentiments. I say there is nothing here that is malign, just from another time when things were simpler and perhaps more honest.

Anyhow, give it (another) go. I enjoyed it immensely again. I'm going to see what Tatiana did next, I think.
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on 28 January 2018
Good book
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