On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Audio Book Review
Lancia Spyder with its hood down tore past him, cut in cheekily across
his bonnet and pulled away, the sexy boom of its twin exhausts echoing
back at him. It was a girl driving, a girl with a shocking pink scarf
tied round her hair. And if there was one thing that set James Bond
really moving, it was being passed at speed by a pretty girl...'
unabridged Bond audio book from 2009 read by Simon Vance. On Her
Majesty's Secret Service was the eleventh James Bond adventure written
by Ian Fleming and published in 1963. The second part of Fleming's
'Blofeld Trilogy', which started with Thunderball and ended with You
Only Live Twice, the story begins with Bond weary and disillusioned. He
has been tracking down SPECTRE operatives left over from the
Thunderball affair but is tired and goes as far as to draft a letter of
resignation to M. At the Casino in Monte Carlo, Bond bails out a woman
named Contessa Teresa (Tracey) di Vicenzo who intrigued him earlier
when she sped past in a fast car.
father Marc-Ange Draco is the head of a powerful crime organisation
named The Union Corse and believes that James Bond is the one man who
can tame his wayward daughter and keep her out of trouble. He says that
if Bond marries her he will give him one million pounds on the day of
the wedding. Bond has a bachelor's taste for freedom and no desire for
a million pounds but he does agree to keep an eye on Tracey and
continue to see her. In return, Bond asks Draco if he will use his
underworld contacts to help him establish the current whereabouts of
Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
This is one
of the strongest Bond novels and makes a suitably entertaining and
absorbing audio book for Simon Vance to read. It's more human than the
other Bond novels and famously the one where 007 agrees to get married
and looks as if he might have put his spying days behind him. 'Bond
suddenly thought, Hell! I'll never find another girl like this one.
She's got everything I've looked for in a woman. She's beautiful, in
bed and out. She's adventurous, brave, resourceful. She's exciting
always. She seems to love me. She's a lone girl, not cluttered up with
friends, relations, belongings.'
strength of the story here is that you do genuinely come to care about
the characters and what happens to them and the Fleming mix here of
action, suspense and romance is blended more skillfully and balanced
more successfully than in the other Bond novels. The question Fleming
asks in the story is what sort of woman would it take to make James
Bond give up everything and marry her? This is a man who has had more
women than Sven Goran Eriksson and Hugh Hefner put together, a loner
who hates attachments. The answer is Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo and
Fleming makes her memorable enough for us to believe that she is the
one woman in the world capable of getting a wedding ring on 007.
Her Majesty's Secret Service has less flab than some other Fleming
books and seems more devoid of lines that jar the modern reader. The
unabridged format here is therefore not a problem. Some other Bond
books, where Fleming says things like 'all women love semi-rape' or
attempts to replicate the slang of black Americans (or something) would
be more problematic. These books are very much of their time, a
strength of course as the period trappings are a huge part of the
appeal now, but a weakness too as passages of the books have dated and
curled around the edges, like an old politically incorrect comedian who
couldn't get away with all of his act today.
is another Simon Vance Bond audio book and I'm becoming much more used
to him now. His voice is a bit affected but he's crisp enough and does
a perfectly decent job of reading the story. While audio books with
more of a cast can be great I've been a trifle disappointed with the
more elaborate Bond radio adaptions I've listened to in this vein and
am usually quite content with the simplicity of this series and the
other adaptions read by Rufus Sewell.
memorable thing Fleming did with On Her Majesty's Secret Service was
give Blofeld an Alpine mountain base known as Piz Gloria. It makes a
wonderful location for the second half of the story. Piz Gloria is pure
James Bond and this aura of ski chases, schnapps and snow-bound lairs
is utilised to the hilt by Fleming. 'Below, the ground was mostly in
darkness, but ahead giant peaks were still golden in the dying sun.
They were making straight for one of them, for a small plateau near its
summit. A cable car, spangled in the sun, was creeping down.'
has a psychedelic mountain sanatorium full of beautiful women he is
treating for allergies but, of course, this is merely cover for a very
nefarious and alarming scheme worthy of an urbane but bonkers criminal
mastermind. It's probably not a surprise that On Her Majesty's Secret
Service made arguably the best James Bond film. When they adapted the
story for the screen they decided, just for once, to be faithful to the
source material and change as little as possible. Although people at
the time couldn't get very far past the fact that Sean Connery had
morphed into George Lazenby it is regarded now to be a high point of
the series. Both the book and the film are regarded to be Fleming's
Bond at his most human. This is another decent addition to this audio
series and gains a big boost from being one of Fleming's best stories.