Audiobook Review: Thunderball by Ian Fleming

audiobookSo…now that I’ve successfully hidden from the Ordo Hereticus I can finally start my next review. As for my topic however? I think I will discuss Mr James Bond. I’m sure my readers will be familiar with the film series based on the original Ian Fleming books. But there is quite a discrepancy between the Bond of the films and the Bond of the books. The best way to explain this is to review the original Thunderball.

Thunderball the book was originally released in 1961 and is somewhat famous as the beginning of the ‘Blofeld Trilogy’ of novels. The admittedly well known plot is as follows: Bond is – somewhat against his will to put it mildly – sent to a relaxation and recovery home of sorts for a mandatory holiday. After a few incidents at that home, Bond returns to the 00 section only to find they are on all systems go. While he was away the Prime Minister and US President received a threat letter from the so-called SPECTRE group. Two nuclear explosive devices are in possession of the group and they are attempting to blackmail these nations in order for the bombs to be returned.

The Bond of the books is considerably more callous than you might expect. There are not nearly as many quips or ridiculously cheesy moments as you get in the Bond films across the decades. His attitude to people in general with a few exceptions – even noted by Bond himself in some cases – could potentially be considered some form of sadistic. Yet interestingly despite the book version being a lot rougher around the edges and much closer to what you assume an actual spy would have to act like, he also seems like more of a fully developed person. He seems to have actual limits to his capabilities, has moments where he questions a lot of the assumptions he’s made up to that point in the narrative, genuinely seems to have SOME level of affection for the ‘Bond Girl’ of the story and in lots of small ways feels more human. I’m not exactly saying I like this version of Bond (There are a few points I’d be more than willing to punch him in the face…or somewhere lower.) but there is still more to this version than there is to the Bond of the earlier films.

Being a book from 1961 and a Bond story at that, I’m sure my readers can guess the language isn’t exactly polite or what would be considered the right terms today. For some of my readers or fellow potential listeners that could easily be a massive issue. I appreciate that however at the same time this was a book written in a different age which had its own much different standards. I won’t hold the book to our current standards as that wouldn’t be fair. For all my issues I may have with Bond as a character once I was able to get myself in the right mind set it became oddly easy listening. There are some issues I had personally with the narrative I can’t really spoil – so it can’t be a perfect book – but it was enjoyable enough for what it was.

The narration comes courtesy of Jason Issacs an actor of reasonably high renown who has been in several series or projects ranging from playing Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter film series to playing Captain Gabriel Lorca in the recent Star Trek:Discovery series. Issacs is actually a surprisingly good fit for the series. He manages to maintain Bond’s roughness without him coming across as completely heartless. He can pull off being professional as befits M or Blofeld whilst also performing Largo with distinction. I would be quite enthusiastic if I was to hear that Issacs would be performing audiobooks on a more frequent basis.

There are possibly a few accents for various characters throughout the book that may seem somewhat over the top but in all honesty I think it suits the story. Just because Bond is a bit more sadistic doesn’t mean that this isn’t a fantasy wish fulfilment spy story.

NephriteI would say this audio version is worth your time provided you either already enjoy Bond stories or you can get in the right mindset to enjoy it personal tolerances permitting.

Have fun should you join me in listening and I’ll see you all soon.




Thunderball audio book
Thunderball on Audible

Thunderball By Ian Fleming on Audible 

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