Book Reviews The Man with the Golden Gun

Published on October 2nd, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley

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The Man with Golden Gun – Ian Fleming

When you’ve decided to read an Ian Fleming novel, like this one for instance, you expect the smooth James Bond to be a capable and efficient spy, that charms all around him and effortlessly exudes cool everywhere he goes.
So why is Bond such a loser in this book?

The Man with the Golden Gun was the last Bond book written by Fleming, who died in 1964 before he could finish going over the novel fully, it’s noticeable in ways without any foreknowledge of the books due to the thin plot and sparse characterisation of the protagonist and his love interest.

James Bond was nearly killed off  in the previous novel, “You Only Live Twice”, and was left as an amnesiac that wanted to go to Russia to get his memory back, this book starts with Bond going through the motions of getting back into contact with M, who believes Bond to be dead after an encounter with Blofield. After finally being confirmed as legitimate and put in a room with M, he then is discovered to be brainwashed and is subdued before he succeeds in his attempt to assassinate M.

After the restoration procedure, M decides that the best thing would be to throw Bond into the deep end, to prove that he is loyal and also still useful to MI6. He is tasked with the mission of taking out Scaramanga, a dangerous assassin who has killed many agents and often disrupts espionage activities employed by the service. Scaramanga is in Jamaica and is about to enter talks for a lucrative business deal with other criminal high-flyers.

Ian Fleming golden gun

I think the first inkling of the book being a little bit off, was probably in the explanation as to what happened to Bond to make him what he is at the beginning of the novel. It’s said that he got hit on the head, experienced amnesia, then lived for several months as a Japanese fisherman complete with named identity, before realising something was wrong and jetting off to Russia. Living as a Japanese fisherman? What part of the not being Japanese or having skills as a fisherman gave the game away? I’m surprised he lived for even a week as one before figuring something wasn’t quite right.

Then we have the  whole going to Russia and then becoming brainwashed, surely some of his attributes are reflexive? How come he was caught so easily? And how is it that he was brainwashed? Don’t they have some kind of anti-brainwashing training at MI6? Speaking of MI6 why were’nt they able to find him when he was living as a Japanese Fisherman? He wasn’t trying to hide, yet he was able to evade detection by a major secret service?

After all this, he is given a hard assignment, with no sympathy from M, who claims that it is “Better for him to fall on the battlefield”. The brief of Scaramanga is then possibly the most singly hilarious and detracting set of descriptions put to paper. On the face of it, Francisco (Pistols) Scaramanga is a product of dissension in Cuba, mixed with antagonism of the Cold War, he is best known as “The man with the Golden gun” due to his gold-plated Colt. 45 which uses gold core, silver jacketed bullets. Then as before, it starts to descend into the odd as he is described as having a third nipple, a sign of sexual prowess and he often has a quickie before a hit to improve his eye, things get progressively weirder as the story of his becoming an assassin unfolds as he was once a circus performer when an elephant went berserk and ended up shot down by local law enforcement and ever since he has been exacting his revenge against man.

You think that strange? It gets worse. The gentleman writing this appraisal then goes on to talk quite frankly about the sexual nature of Scaramanga, initially noting that his gun fetishism is an expression of self doubt in regard to his own piece, then goes on to allege that as the man cannot whistle, this was a sign that he was sexually abnormal and reveals this to mean that Scaramanga may be gay. Because he can’t whistle. I am not sure if it’s because the book was written in the 60’s or if Ian Fleming had started to get bored, but this is ridiculous and the abnormal part is just simply offensive. I think the thing I love best about this is that duriong M’s reading this, he whistles to himself as if in affirmation of his own heterosexuality.

I am not sure if it’s because the book was written in the 60’s or if Ian Fleming had started to get bored.

Unlike other books in the series, this iteration’s film counterpart has almost no resemblance to the original novel. I can’t say if it’s a good thing, as the film is equally ridiculous, the only difference is that the film has an aim, whereas the book seems to just linger on without much direction. The only noticeable similarities between the two are the main antagonist and the Bond girl are the same. I’m not sure what Bond girls are like in his other novels, but this one was completely useless, forgetable and had no page time whatsoever, except in the final scene, which amusingly Bond reflects that he wouldn’t linger with her, because she wasn’t good enough. I love how, with Bond, it’s got to the point where he’s whimsically discarding the girls before he’s even bedded them.

The writing style is slow and attention is fleeting, the whole affair is treated with little weight and the final confrontation was one of the worst and most pointless in all of action anythings. I expected a gunfight, but was treated to a scrabble and some plot inconsistencies instead. The fact that there are discontinuity issues inside of one book is really bad.

This wasn’t a great way to start the series, mostly because it’s the last bloody book, but also that this one is regarded as unfinished and pales in comparison to earlier works. Although lack-lustre, the experience isn’t off-putting, it’s just a little disappointing.

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