Why You Should Read The James Bond Books

Ever since I played Goldeneye back on the Nintendo 64 in 1997, I’ve been obsessed with the James Bond 007 franchise. I’ve seen all the movies, played most of the video games, collected merchandise like trading cards, but I never read any of the books by Ian Fleming that started it all. I’ve since addressed that and began my journey to tackle every book associated with Bond including the ones not written by Fleming. Care to join me on my epic quest? Here’re five reasons you should reconsider.

The books aren’t the same as the films

The main reason I put off reading the books is because I thought the films were just straight adaptions. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. While the 007 films often use the central characters and locations from the books that’s usually it. What’s so surprising and refreshing about reading Fleming’s novels is that they’re really quite different.

For instance, I didn’t expect the novel version of Goldfinger to have an intense scene where Bond goes to Auric Goldfinger’s house and discovers a hidden camera recording all his movements. Or that the fate of Vesper from Casino Royale turns out a bit differently from the film and that Bond actually dies at the end of one of Fleming’s book!

In addition to the 12 main books, the two short story collections are also quite good. Like Fleming’s other work some of them share the same title and have a similar plot like in For Your Eyes Only. Others are original stories not adapted to films such as Risco, The Hilderbrand Rarity, and 007 in New York. I also found the Quantum of Solace story superior to the film version because it featured a compelling tale of a past recollection between a romantic couple that ended in tragedy versus the heavy action oriented film version. So far I’m about halfway through Fleming’s books and can’t wait to read more.

You get a better understanding of Bond’s character

You probably already have a general idea of how Bond acts from seeing the films. He’s confident, has many female companions, ruthless with his enemies, and often gets depressed. Wait! What was that last one! Yes, even Bond isn’t super human and he goes through the same sadness/loneliness we all get from regret, rejection and more.

You’ll also learn Bond loves cold showers and breakfast is his favorite meal consisting of strong black coffee and eggs. Lastly, if you’re curious, the most faithful reproduction of Bond on-screen is actually Timothy Dalton’s portrayal in The Living Daylights and License to Kill. Most people hate on Dalton’s performance as 007, but I respect him for trying something different with the role and being true to the character Fleming created.

There are more books than movies, and it’s cool to see other author’s take on 007

Besides the novels from Fleming, there are many other authors who’ve taken up the mantle to write additional James Bond adventures. I’ve read only two with Solo, by William Boyd being the most recent one. I liked it, and it involves Bond on a mission alone out for revenge hence the name Solo.

The other book I read is High Time to Kill, by Raymond Benson, which has an exciting plot where Bond climbs one of the tallest and most treacherous mountains to grab some top secret equipment. What I haven’t read and am most intrigued by are the stories featuring a younger Bond by Charlie Higson that go into detail about his life before he became 007. Where ever you decide to start you’ll have no shortage of great reading material to keep you busy.

You can jump into any book and their short

Just like the movies almost all the Bond books are newbie friendly and can be read in any order. For some though, Bond recalls memories from past adventures such as past villains, and women he’s met, but it’s not overly critical to the plot and you shouldn’t worry about where to begin. Another plus is that you can finish a book without a huge time commitment since each one averages around 150 to 300 pages so you can easily finish them in a weekend.

It’s fun to watch Bond adjust to different time periods

 

Since most of Fleming’s books were published during the same era, it’s cool to see how the films adapted to a more modern era. Casino Royale is a good example because the original story took place in the 1950’s with an absence of modern technology depicted in the 2006 film version, and Vesper was a radiologist instead of an accountant. The Spy Who Loved me has an old-fashioned spy story that is written and narrated by a women’s perspective versus the cheesy 70’s Roger Moore era. It’s a testament to Bond’s character that can be a part of so many different time periods and be constantly reinvented to fit a new era.

I still have a long way to go with, but I plan to tackle every single book associated with Bond. I hope I gave you some inspiration to start the books yourself and see what you’ve been missing. Thanks for reading.

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