Thursday, July 30, 2009

James Bond Daily: Moonraker

The third James Bond novel, Moonraker, was the Fleming novel that took the longest to be turned into a movie, and so the movie of the same title (from 1979) bears only the very slightest resemblance to the novel (from 1955).

The main points of congruence are in the villain, Hugo Drax, who is a British aerospace magnate planning a mass murder unbeknownst to the world. In the novel, he's testing the Moonraker rocket, which will be Britain's homegrown nuclear deterrent. (And this places Moonraker firmly in period; it's set before ICBMs and a whole lot of the NATO nuclear-weaponry infrastructure.)

Bond meets Drax because Drax belongs to the same club as M, Blades, and the head of that club has confided in M that he believes Drax cheats at cards. (Some things about England -- particularly male, moneyed England -- never change.) So Bond goes along with M to Blades on a Monday evening, detects Drax's cheating, and cheats back at him to teach him a lesson.

On the Friday of that same week, the Moonraker is to be tested -- supposedly to be shot into the North Sea from the coast near Dover. Of course, Drax has a more nefarious plan than that, and Bond eventually discovers and foils it, with the aid of Miss Gala Brand, an agent of Scotland Yard's Special Branch inserted as Drax's secretary a year before to keep an eye on him.

As usual, the Bond novels are strongest in their focus on real spycraft: how agents operate, who they talk to, how different government agencies dance around each other, each protecting their own turf and trying not to impinge on others. Moonraker has no exotic locations, no unlikely gadgets -- just the detective work of two well-trained professionals who will never get full public recognition for what they've done.

And Miss Brand -- who doesn't even come close to sleeping with Bond, and only kisses him once -- goes off at the end to marry her fiance. Fleming's Bond is much less happy with himself than any of the movie Bonds (even Daniel Craig at his scowlingest only comes close), and inhabits a much more dangerous world. But we knew that already, didn't we?

No comments:

Post a Comment