I quite like Moonraker the film. Oh, I know- it is gloriously terrible. Lasers in space, Jaws isn’t a shark, Roger Moore… It perhaps sums up the worst of James Bond.
Which is quite convenient, because the novel sums up Iam Fleming at his best.
I can’t remember much about the movie except the lasers. I’m pretty sure Bond nearly gets crushed in a gravitron, but that could be another Bond film (you never know, really.)
But Moonraker the novel? Outstandingly dull. I mean that as a compliment.
The first time I tried to read Bond I was 15 and I picked up Goldfinger. Where was the action? I wondered. Curiously, watching some of the earlier movies today I can’t help but think the same thing.
But in the novels, the action is never king. It is all about Bond: the way he reads people; his cruelty; his skill; the way he lives for the mission- not for his country, or the queen, or even M. Just the danger, and sometimes not even that.
In many ways, Bond the novel character is an unpleasant man, but you never misunderstand his purpose. He flies off the page vividly. He is all about the job, and reading his novels today you can’t help but blush at the racism and the sexism. Oddly, though- all that unpleasantness comes across as part of the character, not of Fleming himself (well… mostly.)
But, Moonraker… Who ever thought a game of bridge could be so fascinating? And it needs a diagram to explain itself! But it is fascinating, and you can’t help but want Bond to succeed, even though you know that winning would cause disaster down the road.
In a way, Moonraker feels like two stories tacked together. They have very little in common- the first being a card game and the second about a nuclear warhead. It is to Fleming’s credit that the card game is the more memorable of the two.
But if you have only seen the film, track down the novel (beware the novelisation, which I also hope to find one day!) It will surprise you.
Maybe even thrill you.