03 June 2012

Dr. No, by Ian Fleming (Audio Review)

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Who doesn't want a little British spy intelligence and James Bond action to kick off the summer?

Two agents from the British MI5 disappear in Jamaica, and it's up to James Bond to get to the island and figure it out. When his sleuthing uncovers a trail leading right to the elusive and mysterious Dr. No, Bond realizes he might be in a little over his head.

I so wanted to fall down and love this story. I really did. Even after a few days since its conclusion, I'm sort up in the air on this one and would love to get your thoughts.

I think I expected an extremely sophisticated spy-thriller, which would keep me nail-bitingly at the edge of my seat. While it certainly retained all of the key elements to nurture that expectation (and some heartfelt, sad moments to top it off), all in all, it was a story with not much thrill for me, and minus the fun gadgets shown in the films. (Listen, I really, really tried not to let my movie-watching experience taint my perspective of the book itself, but clearly it did and I can't change that initial perception.)

This was my very first time reading/listening to a James Bond story, and I think I would have enjoyed and appreciated this more had I experienced the other stories in the series first. I think it suffices as a standalone, as I wasn't terribly confused by anything, but I think part of the enjoyment of the James Bond franchise is experiencing the evolution of him as an agent to an even more experienced one. After all, in Dr. No, the book starts off with a tad bit of embarrassment for him because he didn't quite execute the previous case successfully, and M, his handler, is annoyed with Bond. That was actually quite intriguing and I enjoyed that the most overall.

When Bond flew to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of fellow agents, the case leads directly to Dr. No and a section of Jamaica called Crab Key. James Bond's reconnaissance on Crab Key results in meeting Honeychile, an orphaned island woman whose beauty and island intelligence makes her much tougher than Bond expects. I didn't mind this interaction and found it interesting, but again, it wasn't something that made me a James Bond fan.

Overall, while I was disappointed as my expectations were extremely high. I will not shy away from this series, though, and will be trying another James Bond novel again, and will definitely listen to the audio version as Simon Vance completely rocked it.

Audio Notes: For all the overall pieces of the story I didn't like... had it not been for the vocal stylings of Simon Vance, I would have stopped the story and moved on to another one. Simon Vance was impeccably engaging and his voice silkily mastered the James Bond narration. He did a fantastic job with Honeychile and Dr. No as well, and I was riveted by his voice alone. Click here for a sample on Audible.com (click the play button below the cover).

Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Release Date: 10/9/06
Audio Time: 7 hours, 13 minutes
Narrator: Simon Vance

Others said:

About the Author
Author of one of the best-selling fiction thriller series of all time, Ian Fleming was an English journalist and author, and also was a British Intelligence officer! The man was *the* man. I think I might like his biography much more.

Visit the author:

This was another selection for Teresa's 2012 Audio Book Challenge. 


  1. I actually enjoyed this one very much when I read it a few years ago, but I think part of that enjoyment is built from the point you made about reading them in order and seeing his evolution. The first book, Casino Royale, is particularly good, and while I have some real problems with the racism of the second book, Live and Let Die, it actually has a carryover character and builds strongly on the first book. The two of them together give a really good foundation of just who James Bond is and reading the subsequent stories (I'm up to Goldfinger at this point) there is real enjoyment in seeing him progress.

    Dr. No in particular ties in with the events of From Russia With Love, my favorite Bond book thus far. It will probably be spoiled for you, but you really should go back and start with Casino Royale. Dr. No also returns Bond to the setting of the events in Live and Let Die.

    I didn't expect to really like the Bond books, but Daniel Craig's portrayal in Casino Royale sent me scrambling to read the novel and I've been very impressed with the series. It has some racial/gender issues common of the day, but beyond that they are rollicking good adventure/spy tales.

    My Dr. No review:


  2. When I was in middle school I went through the original Flemming Bond novels (and the later novels set in the 1980s by John Gardner) in rapid succession.

    Dr. No kinda seemed underwhelming from what I remember. While I will agree with Carl V., in part, that Casino Royale was a much better novel, I never felt like the Bond novels needed to be read in any order. There are references to other novels (like when Bond was getting chewed out by M in Dr. No, which refers back to the previous novel, the books are mostly stand alones as long as you know the basic characters (Bond, M., maybe Felix). Some are much better than others. Oh, and as for the gadgets or Rodger Moore's sense of humor, it usually is lacking in the books. That was mostly for the films.

    If you wanted any recommendations or anything, let me know.

  3. I am so embarrassed to say that I have never read any of the Bond novels -- I've just seen the movies. I always loved Roger Moore's comic take on Bond! Your review sort of confirms what I've heard from others, that the movies stand on their own. But they might be interesting to understand the inspiration for the movies. Thanks for your review!

  4. You are right! Some James Bond is a perfect way to start the summer! Beach reading at its best...


  5. I love watching James Bond movies! Such fun if I do say so myself :) I'm not sure that I realized that the movies were based off of books...I'm definitely interested in giving one of the books a try!

  6. I've never read any of the Bond series but can imagine that starting from the beginning might help.