Arjun Mishra's Reviews > On Her Majesty's Secret Service

On Her Majesty's Secret Service by Ian Fleming
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Aug 06, 12

bookshelves: literature
Read in August, 2012

Now this one, this one, I really liked. Fleming delivers here as he nears the end of his life, and therefore, the original Bond's existence. He succeeds mostly because he has added another dimension to the story and plot, which then thickens the internal and mental processes that Bond and we as readers have to grapple with in order to move forward. Bond's character receives some of its best treatment, not to mention, one of the most left-field volte-faces I have ever seen. Yet, Fleming made it believable and by doing so in the fashion he did, he created the potential for an even better and badder Bond.

When I extol the new dimension that Fleming has added to Bond's mental makeup, I am referring to the fact that Bond has to collaborate with Draco, who is the leader of Europe's largest criminal syndicate. There are various angles to examine here. Draco is basically an esteemed member of society, so is Bond colluding with a business and community leader? Is organized crime an acceptable business at a certain point for very few people? Is Draco truly evil like Blofield is - Blofield making the return as villain - or is he involved in a very different way? Is it morally acceptable for Bond, the Secret Service, and the Ministry of Defense to collaborate with organized crime? What does it say for Bond to extract his leads and information from criminal organizations, rather than British intelligence? Is Fleming blessing some facets of the criminal underworld or is he drawing new light to its reality? These are the loaded and multifaceted questions that make reading even more enjoyable for me and also enrich an otherwise simple and straightforward action novel. Sometimes, it is the internal and psychological dynamics that makes Bond who he is, not the gun and foreplay. It is almost like Fleming treats our hero like a comic book hero (he practically is; just shorn of superpowers) and compels him to wrangle with the deep psychological and moral issues that superheroes have to face.

Blofield is not the best villain that Fleming has ever created; he is merely passable in psychological makeup. He is a bit of a bore, hardly intriguing, lacking in any of the quirks that many of Bond's adversaries possessed. Korean employees, gold obsessions, cheating at cards, golden guns; those character additions are egregiously absent with Blofield. He does, however, have a penchant for the official, formal, and titular aristocracy. This is evidenced by his desire to have his lineage traced and certified as aristocratic, a surprisingly popular pickup line that Bond is able to deploy with the girls that he meets at Blofield's ski resort that doubles up as Blofield's headquarters in his attempt to ruin England's agriculture. It is Blofield's subtlety and sneaking intelligence that makes him a decent villain. He is not a mad scientist nor a duplicitous genius. He is an incisive thinker who can understand the connections that maintain the world, such as English agriculture. Take that apart and England falls apart. This is a welcome change from the USSR's SMERSH, who were focused on nuclear weapons and arsenals. Perhaps it is a sign of the times that Fleming has chosen to alter his paradigm from a singular focus on the nuclear weapons to a more ingenious method of destruction.

The tease of a Bond resignation letter is a kicker of a way to begin the novel. His involvement with Teresa from the beginning is actually robust and fascinating. Rather than being compelled by a desire for flesh and sadism, Bond is actually wrapped up in this girl from the beginning because she can drive a car like no other. She captures his imagination, and he goes to lengths that he has not in the past, even though he has distinguished himself gallantly when it comes to women and bedding them. Teresa's character plays herself as a conduit into Bond's changing psychological complexion. Alas, it is not to be, but the ending sets up Fleming to do something special in the future.
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Quotes Arjun Liked

Ian Fleming
“The World Is Not Enough”
Ian Fleming, On Her Majesty's Secret Service


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