Author: Ian Fleming
Publication date: 5th April 1955
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Cover artist: Kenneth Lewis
Moonraker saw James Bond based in the UK, where strictly he was not supposed to operate. The book again features the thrilling card games of Casino Royale and has to be noted as the only book where 007 does not get the girl.
The plot centres around a wealthy industrialist, Sir Hugo Drax, and his ambition to finance Britain’s nuclear strike capability. We first meet him at M’s private members club, where he is exposed as a cheat by Bond and needless to say all is not as it seems.
The novel is unique in that it all takes place in England. The Moonraker site is located three miles north of Dover, an area known well by Fleming as the location of his weekend retreat.
What we say
After the exotic locations of the first two books, Moonraker was far more modestly set in London and Kent. Ian Fleming knew this area of England well, owning a weekend cottage at St Margaret’s Bay, outside Dover.
The plot concerns a wealthy industrialist, Sir Hugo Drax, who is financing the Moonraker missile. The project is intended to provide Britain with an independent strategic nuclear capability. When a Ministry of Supply officer working on the project is murdered Bond is sent to investigate. He soon learns that Drax’s motives are not as philanthropic as they first appear.
While the locations are not as exciting as the previous books, Fleming does provide a gripping bridge game. However, readers used to overseas adventures wrote to complain they felt short-changed by the locations. Fleming took the criticism to heart and with the exception of one short story, The Property of a Lady, all subsequent Bond adventures took place overseas.
The opening chapters of Moonraker mouth-wateringly detail Bond’s dinner and drinks at Blades with M. Then immediately afterwards the reader is treated to the excitement of the card tables. Both are subjects Fleming wrote exceptionally well about after introducing them as part of his formula in Casino Royale.
But the third novel disappointingly sees 007 on a mission in the south of England and instead of the exotic locations of its predecessors, Moonraker makes do with London and Kent. While that’s not entirely a bad thing, the novel does suffer as a result with one of the key elements of Fleming’s novels abandoned. On the other hand Fleming is able to provide more details of Bond’s day-to-day life in London.
There is no real love interest either, as Gala Brand is engaged and, at the end of the book, about to become married. While Bond does his best to seduce her, Gala gives him the cold shoulder, which he can’t quite make out until the last page.