Tag Archives: Simon Vance

Audiobook Review: Dr. No by Ian Fleming

15th November 2011

Bond is in the doghouse because of a botched assignment in From Russia With Love. Of course, being in a British doghouse involves M staring daggers at Bond and speaking in harsh metaphors, along with sending him on an easy case in Jamaica to lie in the sun and hold down the fort after two agents disappear.

Strangways and the other agent are thought to have run off together, but having met Strangways on a case in Live and Let Die, Bond isn’t so sure. When he discovers Strangways was investigating several odd deaths in connection with Crab Key Island, Bond’s suspicions are increased.

The island is home to Dr. No and a natural moneymaker – guano – along with a small reserve home to roseate spoonbills, owned by the Audubon Society. Dr. No is not someone you want to mess with. Quarrel, another recurring figure from Live and Let Die, and Bond encounter trouble right away: auto accidents, poisoned fruit, and what is one of the most tense scenes I’ve read in a while – a killer centipede.

Dr. No is one of the best-paced Bond novels I’ve read so far, with Bond and Quarrel prepping and investigating before checking out Crab Key in person. Once on the island, they meet Honeychile Rider, who is innocently trolling for shells. Quickly, they are discovered and have to fend for themselves in Dr. No’s deadly island traps.

I enjoy this challenge more and more as time passes, and honestly Simon Vance is the voice of Bond for me. I don’t even want to pick up the print copies because I miss his voice reading to me. I know Jennifer of Literate Housewife agrees. 🙂


If you want to join in the Shaken Not Stirred Audiobook Challenge, we are most likely taking December off – join us!

See my other Bond reviews here:

Casino Royale

Live and Let Die


Diamonds Are Forever

Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming

6th October 2011

With its two fighting claws held forward like a wrestler’s arms the big pandinus scorpion emerged with a dry rustle from the finger-sized hole under the rock.

There was a small patch of hard, flat earth outside the hole and the scorpion stood in the centre of this on the tips of its four pairs of legs, its nerves and muscles braced for a quick retreat and its senses questing for the minute vibrations which would decide its next move.

The moonlight, glittering down through the great thorn bush, threw sapphire highlights off the hard, black polish of the six-inch body and glinted palely on the moist white sting which protruded from the last segment of the tail, now curved over parallel with the scorpion’s flat back.

The scorpion had decided. Greed had won over fear.

Thus begins Diamonds Are Forever. Quite a vivid image and quite a lot of symbolism as well. With Simon Vance once again narrating in perfect pitch, I was immediately ready for this fourth installment of Bond’s adventures. Diamond mining, mob activity, scorpions, and more Felix Leiter…what could possibly go wrong?

The premise: M sends Bond on a mission to help smuggle diamonds into the States, to try to infiltrate the pipeline and gather information in order to shut the operation down. Taking on another’s identity, Bond meets with Tiffany Case to get his instructions. Case, with a backstory of her own, is wary of Bond but fills him in on how he should proceed to get the diamonds out of the country. Once he’s there, he’s to hook up with one half of the Spang brothers, a mob outfit running diamonds. There he meets up with Felix Leiter.

If you’ve followed any of my other posts on Fleming’s Bond series for the Shaken, Not Stirred Challenge, you know Felix Leiter is a favorite character of mine. We last saw him in Live and Let Die, and after the number done on him, I wasn’t sure we’d see him again. Thankfully, he’s back, but his injuries have relegated him to Pinkerton’s, working in the private sector.

Bond and Leiter have a great relationship, and other than Bond’s relationship with M, it is really the only fleshed-out friendship we see. It is certainly nice to have some continuity. Leiter is trying to take down the Spang brothers because of some rigged gambling. The two decide to tackle their own assignment, helping each other if possible.

The problem with Diamonds Are Forever is that once again, Fleming takes us on what feels like a Disneyland tour of the States. He did it with Live and Let Die, too, so I wonder if it’s because he’s less familiar with the locale. On his home turf, Bond is relentless, intelligent, and meticulous. In the States, he’s a bit lax, taking risks that British Bond would not. From New York to Las Vegas, Bond trips along, and honestly by the end of this book, I knew he would get out of whatever fix he was in, saving Tiffany Case along the way, leaving me with the question: Why is he there? He’s 007, for Pete’s sake. Shouldn’t there be some international intrigue? Shouldn’t the Spang brothers be connected to the Soviets, producing massive warheads? I don’t know. It just felt off, and after such a promising beginning, I was disappointed.

As for the film, do we even need to go there? Just know that after Casino Royale and the edgy Bond we were treated to…well, even Connery can’t stand up to it.

Next up: From Russia with Love , which I hear is quite excellent. Can’t wait…

Audiobook Review: Moonraker by Ian Fleming

1st September 2011

*I bought this version of Moonraker from Audible.

 I blame my aching limbs and general fatigue on Moonraker. For our Shaken, Not Stirred challenge, I knew I needed to complete the audio before the end of August. So this weekend, I downloaded it and listened at the gym Saturday morning. Then I got home and wasn’t quite ready to stop listening, so I tucked my iPhone into my pocket and started doing housework. About five hours later (which includes 6 loads of laundry, two stripped beds, mopped floors, disassembly of two cabinets and paint scraping), I was finished with James Bond’s latest adventure. So what’s it about?

M has a rather awkward problem on his hands. The esteemed gambling club of which he is a member suspects the prestigious Sir Hugo Drax, a national hero, of cheating at cards. The man is at the height of his career, preparing a test launch of the rocket, Moonraker, and Bond wonders what makes a rich man cheat.

Then, a murder-suicide and a possible breach in security at the Moonraker’s launch site brings Bond up close and personal with the rocket, its oddly-bearded German caretakers, and Drax’s secretary Gala Brand, an undercover agent with Special Branch. The two work together through several near-fatal scrapes to discover who is out to sabotage the Moonraker and why.

Moonraker was absolutely hypnotic, as the state of my house can attest. Drax’s larger-than-life personality and the mysterious events at the Moonraker’s site were suspicious right off the bat. However, in post-World War II Britain, it is difficult to know who, exactly, is on the side of right, and though Bond’s job is to focus only on the Moonraker’s security, he cannot help but intuit the rotten egg in his midst. This is the Bond I love, full of gambling, secrecy, weapons, and great cars. Plus, the tension between James and Gala was enticing but not at all over the top.

I must again entreat you guys, if you like but don’t love the Bond films, give the books (and particularly the audio) a try. I cannot imagine a voice other than Simon Vance’s issuing Fleming’s timeless stories of war, deceit, terrorism, sexual tension, and danger.


Other Shaken, Not Stirred Audiobook Reviews:

Casino Royale

Live and Let Die

Audiobook review: Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming

18th August 2011

Wait. YOU don't hold playing cards over your voluminous cleavage? Really? Oh, me neither.

Bond is back, and this time he’s in America, rooting out SMERSH through their Harlem contact, “Mr. Big.” Someone is selling gold coins, part of Sir Henry Morgan’s treasure, to fund socialist interests in America. Bond is sent to throw a wrench in the plans. Mr. Big is larger than life and has absolute power, partially because he is believed to be the zombie of a voodoo leader – and also because he incredibly brutal. Solitaire, a psychic, is brought in to help Mr. Big determine Bond’s plans, but she foils Mr. Big and lies as to Bond’s intentions. Cruel and unyielding, Mr. Big isn’t satisfied to let Bond – or anyone working with him – have a pass.

I wasn’t in love with this book. After thoroughly enjoying Casino Royale, which I thought was so smart and well paced, Live and Let Die felt onerous and heavy. Felix Leiter is back, and his and Bond’s friendship was one of my favorite parts of the book. However, though Simon Vance’s narration was stellar as usual, the latter half of the book seemed to drag. We knew where the gold was coming from, Mr. Big had killed or maimed what seemed like a dozen people, and here we were, following them to Jamaica for a showdown.

Plus, Bond was out of his element. America is very different from the UK, and Harlem in the 50s is unlike anything Bond has experienced. The overt racism was really difficult to get through, though it certainly shed light as to how African Americans and Jamaican Americans were treated even during that time period.

All in all, I will definitely continue with the series; this was just a bit of a miss for me.


Shaken or stirred?

6th June 2011

“Do I look like I give a damn?”

There are a few things you should know about me. I don’t eat seafood. I love champagne. And I have two great loves: Cary Grant and Daniel Craig. Yes, ladies, I am a lover of James Bond. Before Daniel Craig stepped into the recently-revised James Bond role, I still loved the films. (Sean Connery was my favorite until now.) Yes, they could be cheesy and appallingly sexist, but I loved the chase scenes, M, and the gadgets. When the rugged, psychological James Bond in Casino Royale came out, I thought “yes, please” and watched it way too many times.

So a couple weeks ago when Jennifer from Literate Housewife posted this teaser, I knew I was in – no matter what it was. I mean, I was pretty sure it had to do with reading, but hell, if it made me do some sort of crazy scavenger hunt to prove my love, I was ok with it.

Today she posted the Shaken, Not Stirred audiobook challenge, where each month participants will listen to an Ian Fleming James Bond novel narrated by Simon Vance, and then have a viewing party of the film via Twitter. June is Audiobook Month, and while I don’t often listen to audiobooks, I will definitely be diving in for this.

Why don’t I often listen to audiobooks, you may ask. Good question. I used to listen to them a lot when I had a commute. Now I have a 10-minute commute, so it seems pointless. However, I am going to attempt to download Casino Royale on my iPhone from audible today and listen while I’m at work. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Keep in mind, you do not have to have a blog in order to participate. Even if you just want to comment, there is a way for you to sign up and do that too. So come on, you only live twice…

jenn aka the picky girl 009