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Book 11: Thunderball by Ian Fleming


2006 Retro Cover
Book 11: Thunderball (James Bond #9).
Author: Ian Fleming, 1961. Introduction by David Wolstencroft, 2006.
Genre: Spy Thriller.
Other Details: Paperback 346 pages and Unabridged Audiobook (7 hrs, 51mns). Read by Jason Isaacs.

Upon M’s insistence, James Bond takes a two-week respite in a secluded natural health spa. But amid the bland teas, tasteless yogurts, and the spine stretcher the guests lovingly call “The Rack,” Bond stumbles onto the trail of a lethal man with ties to a new secret organization called SPECTRE. When SPECTRE hijacks two A-bombs, a frantic global search for the weapons ensues, and M’s hunch that the plane containing the bombs will make a clean drop into the ocean sends Bond to the Bahamas to investigate. On the island paradise, 007 finds a wealthy pleasure seeker’s treasure hunt and meets Domino Vitali, the gorgeous mistress of Emilio Largo, otherwise known as SPECTRE’s Number 1. But as powerful as Number 1 is, he works for someone else: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, a peculiar man with a deadly creative mind. - synopsis from Ian Fleming's official website.

One of my favourite Bond novels both in print and on screen, probably because when I first read it as a teenager I was living in Miami and enjoying swimming daily in the coastal waters. Reading again after all these years the humour of the novel became more apparent especially the scene when 'M' is all enthusiastic about sending Bond on a health cure and then when Bond gets bitten by the wholefood bug for a short time. As with all the Bond novels Fleming has a very economical style and writes his action scenes in a highly cinematic fashion. They remain remarkably readable even after 50 years.


Audio Cover
David Wolstencroft's introduction gave some useful background information and also pointed out how notable the climax was. Of course, I won't say anything about that here (spoilers!) but anyone who has read the novel or seen the film will appreciate how it challenges some of the tropes of its day. There are as in many of the Bond novels some rather cringe-worthy passages. The worse for me was Bond's first encounter with Domino when he compares her to "a beautiful Arab mare who would only allow herself to be ridden by a horseman with steel thighs and velvet hands". He quite fancies breaking her to "bridle and saddle" though this would have to wait as currently "another man was in the saddle." I have no words.

Last year I was tempted by a sale on the AudioGo UK site for the 007 Reloaded series and bought a few for those in the series I had yet to read. I decided to have this as a dual listen/read during last weeks Bout of Books Read-a-thon. Jason Isaacs did a superb job of reading the novel. His interview at the end shed light on how he approached the reading given some of the dated aspects of the narrative.
Tags: audio book, thriller
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