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[James Bond Novels]
section break "When a stranger arrives in the Bahamas, the locals barely turn their heads, seeing another ex-pat with money to burn at the casino tables. But James Bond has more than money on his mind; he's got less than a week to find two stolen atom bombs hidden among the coral reefs. While acting the playboy, Bond meets Domino, sultry plaything of secretive treasure hunter Emilio Largo. In getting close to this gorgeous Italian girl, Bond hopes to learn more about Largo's hidden operation. "
-From the 2002 Penguin Edition

For fans of the literary James Bond, Thunderball is one of the most pivotal works of the series. It was in Thunderball that Bond creator Ian Fleming first introduced the world to perhaps the ultimate Bond villian -- Ernest Stavro Blofeld. Though Bond and Blofeld never actually meet in Thunderball, it is in this book that Bond first battles the schemes of SPECTRE, Blofeld's criminal organization.

The plot of the book (which, as with most of Fleming's best work, is disturbing plausible) deals with SPECTRE's theft of two nuclear missiles and their attempt to blackmail the world with atomic destruction. On little more than a hunch, M (Bond's superior, as gruffly humorous as ever) sends Bond down to the Bahamas to search for the missiles. (It is made clear that other intelligence agents are combing other locations as well.

One thing that sets the book apart from the film is the portrayal of James Bond as not the absolute best secret agent in the world but instead as just a hardworking professional who, often times, resents the intrusion of work on his private life.) While in the Bahamas, Bond meets the book's main villian, Emilio Largo (well characterized as an almost likeable rogue), Largo's mistress Domino (who has a nicely vulnerable speech in which she analyzes a picture on a pack of cigarettes), and old allies like Felix Leiter. Along with the usual nonstop action and the vivid descriptions that Fleming was known for, Thunderball contains some of Fleming's most memorable characterizations. While little new is revealed of Bond, Largo and Domino grab hold of the reader's imagination and linger after the end of the book.

Famously, this book was inspired by Fleming and producer Kevin McClory's attempts to launch a pre-Connery James Bond film series. The plot was invented for the movies and occasionally, the book suffers for it. The final battle between Largo and the military, for instance, reads a bit flat and doesn't carry the same charge as the earlier, less epic scenes.

Surprising as it may be to some of Fleming's detractors, the writer main strength was always his ability to create compelling one-on-one scenes between Bond and the various eccentrics populating his world. And it is here that Thunderball really shines. It's too often ignored that Fleming was a witty writer whose Bond books often carried a comedy-of-manners feel. This is certainly true in the first part of the book in which Bond finds himself sent to a health salon to recover from a life of hard living. Bond's attempts to quit smoking and drinking are hilariously lampooned by Fleming, who makes little secret that he's mocking the critics who complained that his books were immoral. (Indeed, when we are first introduced to Blofeld, we are quickly informed that this man doesn't smoke, drink, rarely eats, and is apparently a virgin.

In short, he lacks all of Bond's vices and, Fleming seems to suggest, turns to the business of international villiany mostly because he doesn't have much else to do.) By the time this book came out, Fleming had certainly grown as a writer from the first Bond books. Gone are the occasional awkward passages that occasionally pop up in Casino Royale. Every character speaks in his own individual voice as opposed to everyone speaking like an upper class English gentleman. In short, Thunderball is an excellent adventure that should thrill Bond fans and non-Bond fans alike.

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March 27, 1961
Author: Ian Fleming

Villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld;
            Emilio Largo
Organization: SPECTRE
Bond Girl: Domino Vitali;
                 Patricia Fearing
Allies: Felix Leiter




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 Casino Royale
 Live and Let Die
 Diamonds Are Forever
 From Russia With Love
 Dr. No
 For Your Eyes Only
 The Spy Who Loved Me
 On Her Majesty's Secret

 You Only Live Twice
 The Man With The Golden


 Ian Fleming Biography

Also in Universal Exports' Literature Section
Ian Fleming John Gardner Raymond Benson

Charlie Higson Samantha Weinberg
Other Literature

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