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on 20 January 2007
A true masterpiece from the creator himself. I've always loved Moonraker, but this reading, like all other previous ones, just got more enjoyable. I find the main location of this novel, and the only location, England to perfectly suit the dark and nasty story that lurks in this book, the pure mind of the villain, Drax, is clearly shown in Chapter 22, Pandora's Box, and it is shown off to a good extent. This story works with just one location, because it allows everything else to take first place in the story with great emphasis, namely the characters and the plot, which are key in Moonraker.

Yes, it's interesting to note minimal references to Die Another Day --

He suddenly decided to be ruthless. "I'm told that Five and Five is your limit. Let's play for that. -Moonraker, Chapter 6.

Let's play for this. I picked it up in Cuba, I believe it's one of yours. -Die Another Day

The character of "good old" Sir Hugo Drax is one of Fleming's best villains ever, pure mania driving his obsession with fury and his loyalty to the Moonraker project, and any scene with Bond antagonizing him is done very, very well. The description he gets during the card scene, and how Bond uses his deformities to anger him during his telling of his true identity is very effective.

Gala Brand, the woman who is just as apt as James Bond, a true heroine who fights the whole way with Bond for the cause, and whose frosty exterior quickly melts away as soon as she gets to know Bond, without the watchful eye of Drax, Krebs, and Walter. I find their golden day encounter to be a very effective chapter, with the swimming, bleeding flowers, and the cliff accident, that is exciting.

The card scene is pure magnificence, and is quite gripping to the the reader, seeing the tension building up throughout the entire game, especially as Drax realizes that perhaps Bond does indeed have an interesting hand. True villainy as Drax spats orders and insults at his partner, and gets his comment cut short as he loses. A very fine scene.

Overall, I think I enjoy the first two-thirds of Moonraker slightly more than the final third because I think it reads a bit more exciting for me, but the final third is still quite fantastic, such as the waiting for the pressure hose to finally reach Bond and Gala, and the countdown to the launch, all well written.

A true 5 star novel.
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on 16 February 2015
Like another recent reviewer, I read this following Stephen Fry's recommendation of it in his latest autobiography. And he's right. Moonraker is a gem of a book that I'd somehow missed (along with the film). Fleming brilliantly captures post-war/Cold-War London in this early Bond novel that is distinctive for being wholly set in London and Kent, and one that couldn't be simpler and sparer in its set-up and climax. When they made the film, they ditched this contained Englishness and went (I now understand) for something ludicrous involving space, volcanoes and Roger Moore, completely missing the essence of the book. Hugo Drax is a vividly drawn Bond villain and again the film-makers lost the plot completely when casting him (as well as Bond). In the book, we get the definitive James Bond - excelling at the card table, flaunting his connoisseurship of exotic alcoholic drinks and canapes, chasing the girl, and of course, saving London (if not the World). I'd love to see Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig have a go at this one.
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on 17 January 2015
Those expecting to blast of with Roger Moore, check in your space suit here. Fleming's novel taps into class, Cold War paranoia about the bomb, and the seeming willingness of the British government to attach itself to quick fix Tsars (some things never change). Bond stays firmly on the ground and in the UK while trying to stop a not so old enemy with grand designs. A cracking yarn which combines the excess of the big bases and grand villains with some hard edged realism from what seems a fairly innocuous start. Well worth the trip.
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on 12 April 2015
My project to read all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels in order continues! The third Bond novel, Moonraker, was completely different from the movie bearing the same name; the character of Drax does feature and there is a tenuous link to space travel but sadly there were no excursions on Space Shuttles or henchmen with metal teeth or throw-away Sir Rodge quips or massed lazer battles when orbiting the Earth. The story is based in 1950s Britain (no exotic locations) and revolves around a fiendish Nazi plot to drop an atomic bomb on London.

The book itself is split into three distinct parts:

Part 1: Bond playing a high stakes cards, like Casino Royale. Some nice tension but the description of the card game was dull
Part 2: Murder mystery section
Part 3: Where most of the action happens along with the launch countdown
In part 1 I liked that it included elements not found in either the movies or earlier books. For example, Bond gets to hang out with M (who is fleshed out as a character) and the day-to-day routine of a 00 agent is covered; reading files, going to the canteen, thinking about his salary, etc.

The Britain portrayed in the book seems rather bankrupt and despondent; post-war decline is apparent and the Empire is slowly coming to an end so much so that the country can only afford the Moonraker weapon because Drax will buy it for them. It also seems obvious right from the start that Drax is a villain and to a certain extent this dampens down the suspense but it’s still fascinating to read about Bond uncovering the exact details of why a death occurred (part 2).

As for the characters, I’ve already mentioned M and I did enjoy Drax; he definitely makes for a more memorable scoundrel. Gala Brand held a certain amount of charm and potential but she sort of fizzled out for me especially as poor James doesn’t even get to jump into bed with her.

While the writing is typical of Fleming, building up the action and excitement and using evocative and descriptive language, the plot is a little shaky in places, for example, I’m not quite sure why Drax would want to try to kill Bond and Brand by bringing down a cliff on their heads, surely it would be easier to just shoot them? But crazy death scenes are par for the course in a Bond tale and you have to suspend belief from time to time.

So, in summary a really down to earth (literally) Bond novel but probably the weakest of the three books I’ve read so far, although still entertaining enough. I’ve now decided to read these books as period novels and thankfully the story contains less of the out and out racism prevalent in Live and Let Die. Overall, a terrific read but perhaps not as exciting as earlier stories.
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on 16 May 2016
I am a huge fan of Bond films and, having recently started reading the Ian Fleming books in order, I have to say that so far these win hands down. This book is no exception and even contains several vignettes which can be seen appearing in other 007 films.

Tight, pacey writing with a tough and gritty hero – this is cracking stuff and, financial numbers aside, not dated.

A great read.
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on 21 January 2014
This picks up about six months after the end of Live and Let Die. Now rested Bond meets with his superior M who requests that he comes with him to his club and try and spot if Sir Hugo Drax is cheating at cards. M is concerned that Drax is very popular with the public and wants to avoid a scandal.

Drax has made Britain safer with the development of the Moonraker. A missile that would stop the Soviet Union should they decide to attack the UK. The Moonraker is due for its first test flight in a few days.

Bond beats Drax and Drax is aware that his card scam has been exposed. The next morning the newspapers are reporting a story that the security office at Drax's site has been shot dead in a nearby public house. The assassin who is one of the all German workers at Drax's establishment then shoots himself.

The security officer was an undercover police officer. Although MI5 deals with issues in mainland Britain. Bond is sent down to take on his duties as the Moonraker is important to national security and nothing must stop the test flight.

Another undercover Scotland Yard police officer will be helping Bond. The beautiful Gala Brand who has been working as Drax's secretary for the last twelve months at the site which is on the white cliff's of Dover.

After surviving a rockfall attack as Bond and Gala walked on the beach. The next day Drax and his trusted henchman a German called Krebs need to go to London and require Gala to go with them. On route Gala takes a notebook from Drax's pocket which has co-ordinates that show the Moonraker will be set to destroy London on its maiden flight instead of the planned course.

Gala is caught with this on her possession. Bond has to come to the rescue of a damsel in distress again. Does he save her? Does he save London by switching the co-ordinates of the Moonraker? Does he catch Drax? Who was a Nazi officer. His mother was English and was educated in the UK until he was twelve before returning to Germany with a hatred of Britain.

Give Moonraker a read. It is dated but even reading this again in 2014 you get the feel of the Cold War.
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VINE VOICEon 28 November 2013
'Moonraker' is one of the weakest novels in the original Bond canon. 007 gets no further afield than 1950's Dover in this particularly lacklustre tale, where he pits his wits against card-cheat and nuclear missile sponsor Hugo Drax. With a gang of suspicious, mustachioed ex-Nazis messing around with the gyros of test rocket about to be test fired, you can see how it's all going end long before Bond does.

The writing too feels curiously lame and a bit tired, almost as if Fleming had already grown bored with his creation. This boredom certainly becomes apparent in the later novels, but usually after a cracking first half where plot and characters have been developed a little better than they have here. With little but a car chase to raise the pulse, and the inevitable foiling of a fiendish plot, Fleming is certainly running a bit on empty here, and there is plenty of filler but not much substance - perhaps apt for post-war Britain just coming out of rationing.

With its uneasy mix of Boys' Own thriller and unlikely science fiction, Moonraker must have appeared a particularly juvenile and unconvincing entry into the series when it first appeared in 1955. It certainly doesn't hold up that well reading it now. Thankfully, better titles were to come.
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on 15 August 2016
Of all the James Bond books this one is to me the most far-fetched and puzzling. It is well written and Fleming is on top of his craft but the plot and its credibility have more holes than a Swiss cheese. For example - the famous sting at bridge in Blades when Drax gets a hand stuffed full of honours only to hear Bond bid a Grand Slam must've made him suspicious if he's any good as a player. As he is a cheat himself he must know he's being cheated but goes on and re-doubles the bid. Then the whole security around an intercontinental ballistic missile built by unrepentant Nazis plotting to destroy London. Was there no security? Only poor old Major Tallon who is easily dispensed with. And it would have been clear that the nuclear bomb came from the USSR; everybody would know that there were only three nuclear powers at the time, so the conspiracy would be tantamount to the Russians firing it themselves. Then why does Drax want to kill Bond and Gala by blowing up the white cliffs of Dover? Surely there are easier ways (and it failed anyway). The list goes on - right up to the government of the time covering up the fact that a nuclear bomb landed in the North Sea sinking a Royal Navy submarine that just happened to be flying the flag of the Soviet navy having zoomed up the North Sea in no time at all. A good yarn but too far-fetched
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on 22 January 2015
I had read these books, in no particular order, when I was younger (about 12, I think). I had half-forgotten the plots of the books as I'm so familiar (as are we all) with the different slants and emphasis of the films.

This is a great book, with a surprising and heart breaking ending. I thoroughly recommend re-reading these I order if you haven't for a while and love Bond.

Yeah, they might be pulp fiction but what amazing, literate, accessible, witty, breath taking pulp fiction they are.

The best of British.
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on 2 March 2016
This was the first Bond novel I read after been a fan of "most" of the movies and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Different in many many ways to the film, thank the Lord! a lot more down to earth like the earlier movies of that era. The card game played out in this novel is even more gripping than the game played in the Casino Royal, movie or book. Great read, and a good start to Mr Fleming's atmospheric and fluid writing style that has me craving more of the novels!
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