Review – ‘Thunderball’

Thunderball (James Bond, #9)Thunderball by Ian Fleming

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

A Poorly Paced, Thin Story With Little Payoff

As the other Bond entries often do, this book feels dated. Part of reading Ian Fleming’s novels includes turning off different filters in my mind. More than just writing to the vernacular of his time, he often speaks to matters of race and gender from a viewpoint where the British white male is the most superior being. Everyone else is subservient to his whims. James Bond both speaks and acts this way, the supporting characters reinforce it, and the narrative passages confirm it. Reading Fleming’s works in the twenty-first century, there’s a lot of warts to look past.

But with many of the previous books, the fast-paced, thrilling nature of the stories is enough to make them worth reading. That is, if one can look past the negatives.

However, not so with Thunderball. The story is slowly paced, with the first fifty or so pages being taken up by long-winded exposition, and a rather silly story of James Bond’s escapades at a health facility, which have amazingly little to do with the overall plot of the story. It would be fine if Bond were to ever grow as a character, as this is a time for possible reflection and character development, but he stays rather unchanging. And even the small change wrought in him from his stay at the health spa is undone once he gets his assignment about a third of the way into the novel.

While this book introduces the terrorism group, SPECTRE, for which the most recent Daniel Craig version of the film was named, as well as Blofeld, the iconic cat-petting villain without whom there would be no Dr. Evil for the Austin Powers films, Thunderball falls completely flat. What excitement there is from the terrorism plot is squandered by Bond simply going a couple of different places, making many phone calls, riding in a submarine, and fighting two separate battles while scuba diving. Usually what makes these books so exciting is how proactive Bond is. In this one, he’s almost bumbling through his assignment, and everything feels completely contrived.

Even if you can look over the dated parts of this book, there’s not much story there to enjoy. Some books ride on the coattails of previous books in a series, and this is definitely one of them. Unless you’re looking to read all of the Bond novels, I see no reason to read this one.

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