“This is a silly plan. This is the sort of melodramatic nonsense people write about in thrillers.”
….and that criticism straight out of the mouth of the “bond girl” in this installment is probably one of my favourite lines in the series so far. Whoever said they were all shallow?!
In fact, Domino is another kick-ass leading lady, who first stumps Bond with her driving skills – yeah, between Domino, Ms. Galore, and Tilly Masterton, Bond may have a thing for women drivers -, calls him out on bullshit, engages with him on her own terms, and finally saves his hide.
Of course, Bond is still Bond, and the sexist, chauvinist comments are there (in abundance) throughout the book, but one wouldn’t set out to read a Bond novel without a bucket of salt at hand, and this one is nowhere near as horrible as other Bond novels. However, the story is still a bit tepid – bad guys steal nuclear war heads and threaten the world. I’m sure this was thrilling stuff in 1961 when the book was written, but it has worn off a bit since. And if it weren’t for the “nerdy” tid bits like M’s opinions about processed food, the technical details about the Polaris missiles, and the descriptions in the book of everything that surrounds the plot – i.e. the development of characters, the depiction of fight scenes, the dialogues, the sea life are just great – the book would be utterly forgettable.
I mean, I must have watched Thunderball about a gazillion times since I was a kid and I still couldn’t say what the film was about. It took reading the book twice – most recently as part of the Bond Buddy Read with Sir Troy – to take in that Fleming describes SPECTRE as a well-functioning corporation, to recognise that he set up Blofeld as this puppeteer that pulls the strings behind the scenes rather than engaging with Bond one on one (even tho this will come later in the series).
What was interesting on this latest read was how ridiculous the whole premise of the threat of nuclear missiles being stolen is in the context of the ongoing Cold War at the time the book is set. The unquestioned premise of Bond being on the side of right, stepping in to return the missiles to one of the sides rather than to allow a profit-oriented organisation to hold the world at ransom, shows why Bond novels are first and foremost adventure stories. Fleming does not question whether Bond’s missions have a moral justification. Or whether there are any doubts about the point of propagating that the nuclear arms race kept the world at peace.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to know in the Bond novels whether Fleming believed this. We only get the boys own adventure story.