From Russia with Love
© 1957 Ian Fleming
I’ve tried three times to read any of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels, because he was an actual intelligence officer writing spy novels. Bond in the abstract is an interesting character, a posh international superspy with cool tech and a drinking habit. However, in practice I’ve fallen asleep during the one Bond movie I’ve watched (Skyfall, apologies) and don’t fare much better with the novels. This particular novel opens in Russia, however, with no Bond in sight, and the plot is introduced quickly. The Russians believe that killing Bond will gravely weaken British intelligence, and recruit a femme fatale to lure him into position so that 007 can be deep-sixed in a scandalous way. Said fatale’s cover story is that she’s a Russian intelligence officer who fell in love with Bond by looking at his photograph, and now she wants to defect so she can be with him in person.
I really should have stopped reading there, but I persisted. (Seriously, who disguises an intel officer by pretending she’s AN INTEL OFFICER?) I should note that I have an active dislike for novels with sex scenes in them — I’ll read science books about sexuality, no problems, but inflict fictional bedroom scenes on me and I’m sloooowly putting the book down — and so I probably shouldn’t have even TRIED a novel with this premise. There’s just endless description of people’s buttocks and breasts and yadayadayada. When Bond meets the fatale she’s literally naked in his bed, and it’s just….preposterous. I’d say “silly”, a la Monty Python, but silly can be charming, whereas this is more like the 2016 US election. This is a rare DNF for me, as I stopped 75% through. There is a train at the end, though, and it’s even the Orient Express.
Anyway, I don’t think Fleming is for me. Fortunately there’s plenty of spy novels with more explosives and less anatomical exposition.