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Sunday, 13 February 2011

THE COMPLETE LITERARY 007 - ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE - 1963

The second book in what has become known as, The Blofeld Trilogy is one of Fleming's most descriptive and epic in terms of storyline. It is also one of the longest books and uses a split narrative technique to tell two supposedly unrelated stories. However the author skilfully brings both strand together at the end which leads us into one of the most downbeat endings in the entire canon.

It seems that after the poor critical response to the experiment that was, The Spy Who Loved me, that Fleming decided to get back to roots and give the reader more of what made Bond so compelling a series in the first place. It does all that and it does it well, but the book contains an added dimension with Bond falling in love and the result is the most rounded James Bond since Casino Royale.

Fleming's powers of momentum and description are at an all time high here and the ski chase is thrillingly written - in prose Fleming somehow manages to create more excitement and tension in this thrilling scene than anything the movies ever managed. It is difficult to think of another writer who could do this and the reader flies through almost two chapters with their mouth hanging open.  For most writers one such set piece would be enough but Fleming also gives us the excellent bob-sleigh sequence towards the end of the book.

And what an ending - Bond cradles his dead wife's head, telling her, 'We have all the time in the world.'

On Her Majesty's Secret Service may even be the best of the Bond books - sometimes I certainly think of it as such, but then so many of Fleming's original Bond novels are without peer, for whilst Fleming may not have invented the espionage genre he certainly gave us a unique take on the subject.

An excellent, timeless thriller.

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