With the much anticipated film release of SPECTRE just around the corner, tonight in fact, this lifelong James Bond fan is in her element. However, I have to admit that I have actually read very few of the original books - Sebastian Faulks and William Boyd have both written credible additions to the Bond canon, Devil May Care and Solo respectively, and those I have read - but The Spy Who Loved Me was, until recently, the only one of Fleming's books that I remember reading! Around this time last year I was lucky enough to grab the boxed set of Fleming Bonds for £10 (yes, a tenner for the whole set, thanks The Book People!), but for some inexplicable reason they remained untouched, until now.
Again, it was around this time last year that I found out one of my all time favourite writers, Anthony Horowitz, had been commissioned to write the next James Bond book. For those unfamiliar with him -although regular readers of my blog will have seen many a post talking about his greatness - he is the man behind the frankly brilliant Alex Rider series of books, the books which actually got me into spy fiction in the first place! He's also written for TV shows including Midsomer Murders, Foyle's War and Agatha Christie's Poirot, all of which I love, and has written not just one but two Sherlock Holmes novels to boot. The man is a genius. Fangirling over, I reserved my library copy of Trigger Mortis the day it appeared on the catalogue. Then I discovered that it is written as a kind of sequel to Goldfinger. What better time to read an original James Bond book than right before it's sequel? As I read them back to back, it seemed only right that I wrote the reviews that way too - so here we go with my thoughts on Goldfinger and Trigger Mortis:
Yes it's sexist, misogynistic and every other feminist buzzword going, but original Bond is a product of it's time, and as with the films you have to read/watch them with that in mind. Personally I loved Goldfinger! In fact I would even go so far as to say I prefer the book to the film. As is always the case the James Bond books are far more detailed, and we got a much deeper understanding of Bond's psyche. Another huge surprise for me was that I actually found myself picturing Daniel Craig as Bond. I've always been a Pierce Brosnan girl myself but I have to admit that, minus the black hair, Craig suited Book Bond very well. Film Bond and Book Bond are almost two completely different characters, and while Craig doesn't quite fit in with his predecessors of the former, he encompasses the latter completely. Fleming's writing style is addictive, action packed and to the point - there's no fluffing around with too much description, or indeed character development which is perhaps the only downside. I couldn't put it down, and to be honest I didn't even notice the lack of character development until I thought about it just now, that's how absorbed in the story I was!
Setting Trigger Mortis straight after the events of Goldfinger was a great idea - not least because it gave me an excuse to read Fleming's work first! However this also inevitably leads to a close comparison between Horowitz and Fleming. The 'tick-list' mentioned in the blurb for Trigger Mortis immediately sets the book up as a bit try-hard, desperate to appeal to the fans of the original books. Keeping Pussy Galore in admittedly adds to the continuity of the two stories, but having her and Bond together in London, living together no less, did seem a little far fetched and out of character for both of them. Horowitz should have had confidence in his own characters, and indeed the story only really got going for me once Bond arrived at Nuburgring race track. Jai Seong Sin, or Jason Sin as he is known by the Western World is a worthy adversary, and as dangerous and deadly as any other Bond villain I've come across. Without giving too much away, I LOVED his playing card 'choose your fate' method of dealing with any potential threats, and as macabre as it may sound I can't help but feel that it was underused! That said the card Bond drew, and his subsequent experience, is literally the stuff of my worst nightmares, and I'm very glad I didn't read that particular chapter late at night that's for sure! The novel definitely had a feel of classic Bond about it - fast cars, heart stopping suspense, memorable villains, and beautiful women. Jeopardy Lane is a refreshingly different Bond Girl - without her Bond would almost certainly have failed in his mission. She is feisty and independent - Bond is actually in awe of her at one point- yet she is still a woman, and the way things ended between herself and Bond was perfectly bittersweet. I know the tendency these days is to get a new writer for each James Bond book, but if Horowitz wanted to write another that would be fine by me! Or even better, how about some grown up Alex Rider books for the original fans of the series?! A girl can dream.