Continuing my trend of re-reading books that I read so long ago that I don’t remember many details (or, sometimes, even the plot!), I just finished Moonraker. The first piece of advice I can give a reader is ‘ignore the movie of the same name.’ The second bit of advice is ‘put yourself in the time period in which it was written and remember the context.’ The third is, ‘hang on, you are in for a great read!’
Written less than a decade after the end of WWII, when nuclear weapons and long-range missiles were new, the developed countries of the world were desperately researching both because they felt that if they did not, then they would be easily taken over or destroyed should another world war break out. Such is the setting for the development of the Moonraker rocket occurring in the UK under the direction of multimillionaire patriot Hugo Drax. (A rich, self-made man endears himself to a country by using his fortune to build a new type of rocket that revolutionizes everything. Hmmm. This is too farfetched to ever be possible…)
The only action in the first part of the novel is a card game - a game of bridge, not poker, not a casino game like Baccarat Chemin de Fer, no, just bridge. Fleming finds ways to build up to the game that make the reader think the fate of the world, or at least the lives of key characters, will depend upon the outcome. The game itself is suspenseful with the outcome uncertain until the very end.
Fleming loves describing food, rooms, and women and weaves key story elements into complex sentences that at first seem like they will only be providing the setting. But you need to carefully read every word lest you miss an important detail. The story moves along nicely and culminates into a very James Bond-like ending that is extremely satisfying.
SPOILER ALERT: At the end of the novel, to my great surprise, Bond does NOT get the girl.
As a writer (though clearly not in the same league as Fleming), I noticed he did one irritating thing that is a major ‘no-no’ today – head jumping. In many scenes, the story is described from the point of view of multiple characters. At more than one point, I was confused as to who was perceiving what and had to re-read the previous paragraphs to get it right.
I highly recommend this book, the 3rd in the James Bond series of novels. I am glad I re-read it.