What it’s about
A brainwashed James Bond has tried – and failed – to assassinate M, his boss. Now Bond has to prove he is back on form and can be trusted again. ‘All’ 007 has to do is kill one of the most deadly free-lance hit-men in the world – one Paco ‘Pistols’ Scaramanga, the Man with the Golden Gun.
This is the final of Flemings twelve Bond novels, but unfortunately it is far from the best, and in fact arguably is the worst. Before getting onto the problems, as most people who plan to read this book will likely have seen the film, the only real similarity between the film and the book is the fact that Bond is doing battle with Scaramanga a.k.a. the Man with the Golden gun.
So the book and the film are two completely different kettles of fish, that means if you are expecting the book to be similar to the film, and as a result a better version of the story than the film, you will be disappointed.
With that said onto the problems with this book, the first being that James Bond himself does not appear properly for far too long, in fact he does not really make a proper appearance until about one third into the novel. The majority of the first third of the book is based around M dealing with the reappearance of Bond after he had been missing for a year.
Basically Bond went missing a year ago and was presumed dead but in fact has been captured and brainwashed by the Russians – he now sees British Secret Service as the enemy. As a result of his brainwashing he attempts to assassinate M, but fails and as a result is captured by the British and sent to a facility to be basically un-brainwashed.
We don’t follow him to this facility instead we jump straight to him being released from it, though we do learn a little about it, some sort of shockwave therapy was used on him, and now he has to prove it has worked and redeem himself by killing Scaramanga, who has been killing British agents.
M makes out that this Scaramanga is an unbeatable gunman and believes that James Bond, due to M sending him after him, is likely being sent to his doom, the trouble is the so-called man with the Golden gun just never really seems that smart or that good.
But before getting to that, so after all this build up and all this blah blah, the book finally starts because we finally start following James Bond, he is in Jamaica where Scaramanga is believed to be holding up. The last time Bond was in Jamaica was in Dr No, and Fleming is not shy about touching upon this fact though only briefly as there is no link between the stories, but it is a quite nice touch if you have read Dr No.
But back onto the main point of the bad guy just not seeming that bright, firstly, Bond first meets his deadly nemesis in a whore house, he just so happens to go to a whore house which has been put up for sale at the exact time that Scaramanga makes an appearance, Scaramanga is a very difficult guy to find and yet Bond manages to find him before really even beginning to start looking for him.
I’m diverting from the point here, next Scaramanga decides to employ Bond, who pretends to be someone else, as a bodyguard as such, which allows Bond access to Scaramanga’s secret base where a secret meeting will take place by a secret faction which is linked to the KGB. Felix Leiter and his CIA buddy are of course already there spying on this secret mission.
So just to put this into perspective Scaramanga, this super skilled killer who we’re supposed to believe is every bit Bond’s rival if not his superior, has hired the CIA and James Bond is an effective protection for this supersecret mission, and is clueless of the fact that he has done so, the reason being he met them in random places and so assumed they clearly must be legit.
Don’t get me wrong this is a novel and poetic licence is allowed, but considering just how clever Scaramanga is supposed to be, it just seems a stretch that he could be so unlucky as to hire three agents. And I have not even mentioned the elephant in the room yet, Bond could have killed him many times but does not, it seems he is battling with his conscience, doesn’t like killing in cold blood…
You read that right, Bond could have killed Scaramanga many times over but does not because he battles with the morality of killing in cold blood, so basically this is a story of Bond in effect waiting for Scaramanga to try to kill him before killing him because he doesn’t like the idea of killing in cold blood. James Bond, licensed to kill assassin. Not wanting to kill the man who has been killing his fellow agents, despite being given the order to kill him…
I have read the Bond books and I have to say it just does not feel like this is how James Bond would ever act, I get he is supposed to be knocked off his game due to this brainwashing but, still, it just doesn’t really make for a compelling story, at least not the way it is written.
Perhaps if the story had been solely focused upon Bond having lost his nerve for killing it could have worked but it just wasn’t about that, in fact it seemed more a story about eavesdropping and learning about the KGB secret operations which they had been running out of Jamaica, along with their future plans for Jamaica, but that just did not make for compelling reading. To be honest I could go on and on with the complaints but I will just leave it there.
In regards to the action at the end, it isn’t bad, it’s nothing special, but it does at least keep you turning over the pages, there is also a corker of a final line, though feminists beware of this line as it is most definitely probably the closest moment James Bond comes to to feeling like James Bond in this novel. I won’t give it away but it will either make you smile or will infuriate you.
All in all I can’t really give this book a thumbs up but if you are a fan of Bond, and as this is the last in the series, it is still worth reading even if only so that you can say that you have read them all.
Writer: Ian Fleming
Genre: spy thriller, mystery, action