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The Spy Who Loved Me
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 January 2014
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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on 25 February 2015
Another great Bond. This book broke the format for Bond which is a welcome change. Writing from the perspective of one of 007's conquests was a brave thing to do and resulted in some dopey criticism from reviewers who only wanted another 'more of the same' Bond book.
The only irritation for me is the constant overuse of 'and' and all the Bond books suffer from this and it gets tiring and I wonder what school he went to and University and for such a renowned author too and nobody seems to have pointed it out to him and well there you are and an expensive education. Apparently all women 'want to be semi raped' (was he decades ahead of 50 you know what shades of rubbish?)
Loved the book for being different though.
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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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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 May 2015
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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on 2 March 2018
Having read all the Fleming Bond books, I read this one last. I didn't expect to like it due to poor reviews and the different nature of the book: a female first person narrator and Bond not appearing until the second half. To my surprise, I found this to be one of the best in the series. The first half ('Me') tells an interesting tale of how Viv came to be in the motel. The character development is Fleming's best.

The progression to 'Them' introduces the two bad guys. Although the character development falls away here, the air of menace is cultivated skilfully. The plot gets going too.

Then Bond appears in 'Him'. From there, there is plenty of action working to an exciting finale. Interestingly, one of those chapters is used for Bond to tell Viv of the mission he has just finished. That plot would make an excellent book in itself.

Overall, highly recommended and please do not let the fact that this book breaks the classic Bond mould deter you.
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 21 November 2012
From hearing the first words read by Rosamund Pike, I knew I could be nothing but delighted with this CD set. Her voice is deliciously deep, resonant, and of course beautifully feminine.

I already owned Casino Royal read by Dan Stevens, and Diamonds Are Forever read by Daimian Lewis in the same 007 Reloaded series from AudioGo, so it was an obvious choice to buy this one read by the actress who had played Miranda Frost in the film Die Another Day.

The film The Spy Who Loved Me bears no relation to the book, other than the title. Rather than beginning with Bond, this original story starts with a fascinating depiction of a young Canadian woman's recent experiences in London and the road trip she takes across America. This leads her to the Dreamy Pines Motor Court and into the clutches of two extremely sinister gangsters. Fleming treats us to the girl's intimate thoughts and feelings, and provides a fascinating depiction of American motels in the fifties. A thrilling story: exciting, sensuous and full of danger.

I enjoyed Ms Pike's reading much more than the other stories in this series read by male actors. She plays all the characters with skill and variety. Ms Pike is very accomplished and reads with great feeling and panache. Her comments at the end of the recording on her personal response to the story are both insightful and reflective.

Worth every penny - the best of Bond on CD!
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on 5 February 2006
The Spy Who Loved Me is the 11th of thirteen James Bond novels Ian Fleming wrote before he died in 1965. It is only the second I have read. I am amazed at how little the book resembles the movie.
Fleming tells it from the point of view of the woman in the story. She is Vivienne Michel a 23 year old Québécois Canadian who, to get over two failed attempts at romance, has started out on an adventure to go to Florida on her Vespa. She only gets to Lake George, New York when she is offered a job at the motel she is staying at for the last 2 weeks it is open by the strange couple who manage it. They leave her to close up the last day and say the owner will come the next day to pay her and lock up for the winter. After they leave a fierce thunderstorm sets the mood for this young girl alone in a motel on a dirt road miles from the main road. She takes a couple of chapters to reminisce her sad lost loves in which we learn that she has trouble descriminating between love and physical desire, a trait the men she has met have taken advantage of.
Suddenly there is a knock on the door and two thugs who say they were sent by the owner to do inventory start threatening her. She is pretty scrappy but ineffectual in her attempts to hold them off. Things are just about to get really nasty when there is another knock at the door. Who should be looking for a room at such a time in such a storm and at such an out of the way location? Why, it's James Bond.
Her description of Bond is: "He was about six feet tall, slim and fit-looking. The eyes in the lean, slightly tanned face were a very clear gray-blue and as they observed the men they were cold and watchful. The narrowed watchful eyes gave his good looks the dangerous, almost cruel quality that had frightened me when I first set eyes on him, but now that I knew how he could smile, I thought his face only exciting, in a way that no man's face had ever excited me before."
This is probably the only time Ian Fleming tried to write from the female point of view. He appears to believe women are masochistic in their love for Bond. The author tries to soften the image by having her say Bond's "almost" cruel looks excited her. Later on she says: "All women love semi-rape. They love to be taken. It was his sweet brutality against my bruised body that had made his act of love so piercingly wonderful." Again Fleming attempts to soften her language by saying "semi"-rape and "sweet" brutality. Yet it is his cruelty, brutality and rape that turns her on.
To find out what the two thugs were sent to do and how Bond saves and beds the heroine read The Spy Who Loved Me. Only don't expect to find SPECTRE, SMURCH, "Q" or other Bondian characteristics that the movies have caricaturized him with because you will be disappointed. As a early 1960's thriller this will please, but a 007 blockbuster it is not.
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on 24 February 2000
I have read millions of bad reviews on this novel. I was encouraged by many 007 fans that I should not read it. I took a chance and read it anyway. I enjoyed the story. The fact that the story was told differantly (flashbacks and first person) made me enjoy this book even more. The flashbacks were enjoyable and tragic. The scenes where Viv tries to escape from her captors had me on the edge of my seat. Bond's rescue was a huge highlight of the story. I only wonder what happened to Viv after this adventure. This is the first time I have become curious over the fate of a Bond girl. She become almost as lovable as 007. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if the movie followed the novel.
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on 22 April 2001
Ian Fleming was derided in his social circle for this novel, and himself eventually disowned it in embarrassment, calling it a "Failed Experiment."
He -- and his friends -- could not have been more wrong.
"The Spy Who Loved Me" is a novel of some insight, enormous thrills, and great characterization.
Much is made of Fleming's "failure" to credibly write from a woman's point of view, but Vivienne Michel, his first-person heroine, is appealing: Courageous, resourceful, and convincing.
The vision of Bond in this novel is stark and clear. Our heroine first sees him after a harrowing ordeal being held by two thugs, and her first thought is telling: "God, it's another of them!"
This is James Bond in one of his most entertaining adventures.
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on 11 February 2000
This is a great book that really gives you a down to earth version of everyone's favorite spy. The book is told through the eyes of a young woman who has been burned by the cruel hand of love. Then enter the villans two gangsters who threaten to rape and kill her. But it's Bond to the rescue. And the next fifty pages fly by faster than you can imagine.
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