Should the Ian Fleming Novels be read in the publishing order?

aidenbroadbentaidenbroadbent Posts: 2MI6 Agent
edited April 12 in James Bond Literature

Morning/Afternoon/Evening everyone (depending on what time of day you are reading this).

I have been recently taking a fair bit of time to read the original Novels and I have just finished Moonraker this weekend (shame the film isn't as good as the book!)

I am fairly sceptical about following the order of the Novels as some of the next few books that follow Moonraker are rather low rated from speaking to fellow Bond fans and watching plenty of James Bond YouTubers.

Should I be relentless and stick it out in the publishing order or do I go freestyle and just choose any novel from the collection (I know there are references to Casino Royale and Live and Let Die but other than that, I am unsure of any other references).

Thanks in advance!

Broadbent, Aiden Broadbent.


  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 25,163Chief of Staff

    You should read them in order if you can 🍸

    YNWA 96
  • The Domino EffectThe Domino Effect Posts: 3,109MI6 Agent

    Definitely read them in order, if at all possible.

  • emtiememtiem SurreyPosts: 4,090MI6 Agent

    It would be the best order, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t :) They all make sense on their own anyway.

  • Asp9mmAsp9mm Over the Hills and Far Away.Posts: 6,719MI6 Agent

    What they said ^^^^^. Read in order.

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,226MI6 Agent
    edited April 12

    short answer - yes!!

    they are all short, quick reads, and add up to a saga in 14 parts. Plot elements do not really build from novel to novel (mostly) but Bond's character does evolve with his years in this Dirty Damn Business, and that's best appreciated when read in order.

    Diamonds are Forever is probably the weaker book folks are warning you about, but if you focus on Tiffany's character, and Bond's interest in her, that's more interesting than the thriller plot. Bond's (in)ability to form relationships with women is one of the thematic threads that arcs through the 14 books, so best appreciated if read in order. You will have noted that was a theme developed in Moonraker. Also, there's some of the great Bond/Leiter dialogs in that book.

    From Russia With Love is maybe thought by some as more difficult, but is one of the very best of all the series. In the first chapters, the SMERSH conspirators do review the events of the first four volumes, so continuity counts there. Best appreciated read in publication order, and definitely do not skip just because the first chapters may be difficult. (we see the Soviet's secret file on Bond!) Also, we see the tail-end of the Bond-Tiffany relationship, so that's another reason not to skip Diamonds are Forever before reading this one.

    From Russia with Love ends with a cliffhanger resolved in Dr No, so again best appreciated once read in sequence

    This begins a stretch of four books in a row very similar to the films, can't believe you'd be tempted to skip any of those. Though continuity does admittedly disappear during this middle stretch.

    Thunderball through to ...Golden Gun are all linked by tight continuity and definitely need to be read consecutively, and yes that includes the Spy Who Loved Me.

    Octopussy is leftover short stories and is debatable where best to read them in the sequence. To keep things simplest, just read them after ...Golden Gun just like they were finally compiled in book form, or between On Her Majesty's Secret Service and You Only Live Twice if you want to read them closer to when they were written without overthinking it.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 30,899Chief of Staff

    What he said.

  • aidenbroadbentaidenbroadbent Posts: 2MI6 Agent

    Thank you all for the feedback. I have decided to stick it out and move on to Diamonds are Forever 👍💎

  • Miles MesservyMiles Messervy Posts: 1,556MI6 Agent

    Good decision. I echo the others. Bond’s character does indeed evolve rather subtlety, and it can’t be properly appreciated unless the books are read in order.

    And beware of other people’s reviews! There’s something to love in all of the Fleming books (even DAF, which is admittedly my least favorite).

  • ChriscoopChriscoop Belize Posts: 10,421MI6 Agent

    Read them in order, they follow Fleming's natural flow with character development, I'd also not be too swayed by what others think. I enjoyed DAF and FRWL, Dr No I found hugely enjoyable but have to say Goldfinger is not one of my favourite reads. I'm convinced many read the books in film order and struggle to accept the novels as a seperate entity (TMWTGG being one often quoted as one many struggle with) my personal favourite reads will always be Casino Royale and Moonraker. Enjoy your reading 👌

    It was either that.....or the priesthood
  • Golrush007Golrush007 South AfricaPosts: 2,917Quartermasters

    From my point of view there's no reason not to read the novels in publication order if you are able to. On the other hand, my own initial reading of the Fleming books was not strictly in publication order and in most cases that didn't affect my enjoyment of the books. (That said, my first Fleming novel was TMWTGG which is definitely not one I'd recommend as a starting point to anyone!!)

    The one exception that did affect my enjoyment was that when I read the novels for the first time I skipped past DAF and went straight from MR to FRWL. The reason for this was purely because I didn't have a copy of DAF available at that stage and I finally came back to it right at the end, which I think did diminish my enjoyment of that novel a little bit. After having read all of the excellent Bond books, coming back to one which is arguably a lesser entry wasn't a great reading experience. However, years later when I re-read DAF I enjoyed it immensely, so that remedied my initial disappointment with it.

  • emtiememtiem SurreyPosts: 4,090MI6 Agent
    edited April 14

    I read them out of order originally too and it’s easy to fit them in place in your head: you just remember what happened at the end of FRWL etc. They’re really entertaining but they’re not hugely interlinked or big character pieces. Not unlike the films really: if you watched Spectre before Casino Royale you’d still get the gist.

    But as everyone else says, if it’s a choice between in order and out of order, do in order. But I don’t think it’s essential.

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,226MI6 Agent

    I too read them in the order I saw the films, at least the first couple.

    So the very first was actually Christopher Wood's James Bond The Spy Who Loved Me. I didn't know I was supposed to be looking for the name Fleming, and Fleming's book was out of print. Probably just as well as the book I read was exactly like the film, and I would have given up on the books immediately if I'd started with the real Fleming book.

    Next two films on television were Diamonds are Forever and the Man with the Golden Gun, so I got those books, and they were (almost) nothing like the films! How could this be when the first book I read was so similar? The opening of ...Golden Gun was especially incomprehensible, as it is resolving a cliffhanger ending from a book I had not yet read, and was definitely not part of the film.

    Thankfully Goldfinger was the next film on teevee, and other than You Only Live Twice the remaining books-that-had-been-adapted were very close. Casino Royale I left almost to last as there was no (proper) film. I actually saw both You Only Live Twice and Casino Royale (the "funny" version) after reading the books and was watching closely for what few elements got adapted from the books (Casino Royale may be closer).

    Octopussy and the real Spy Who Loved Me were both out of print at that point, and I had to start haunting used book stores to find them, and they were the very last I read. I may even have read Colonel Sun and Pearson's Bond Biography (both of which were in print) before finding those two.

    So, all out of order. But as well as the weirdo opening to ...Golden Gun, I did not even notice there had been a cliffhanger ending to From Russia with Love, resolved in Dr No, until I read them properly in order decades later.

  • PPK 7.65mmPPK 7.65mm Saratoga Springs NY USAPosts: 1,096MI6 Agent

    Just a quick note, the short stories, The Living Daylights and Property Of a Lady take place in between Thunderball, and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. While this did not affect my enjoyment of reading the novels, I was a little confused when I read The Man With The Golden Gun for the second time since at the beginning it is mentioned that a minor character from Property who was a KGB mole within MI6 was finally discovered.

    That said, I hope you enjoy reading the novels. I read them myself out of publishing order, however the references to what came before helped me to understand how the timeline Ian Fleming created worked.

  • hobnobhobnob Posts: 2MI6 Agent

    You can read them standalone, but there are callbacks to previous novels. Fleming does what most authors with stand-alone novels and a recurring character do. They always recap anything necessary to understanding the current novel. However, the smaller details are not recapped and they can make the story richer.

    I do think it helps to read them in order when the ending of the previous novel directly influences the beginning of the one you are reading. That’s the case with the cliffhanger in FRWL, and YOLT which opens with the consequences of Tracy’s death in OHMSS.

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