Thursday, February 23, 2012

Quantum of Solace/For Your Eyes Only

Quantum of Solace
by Ian Fleming
narrated by Simon Vance
Ⓟ 2008, Blackstone Audio, Inc.
The first five stories = 5.60 out of 9.30 hours

  • "From a View to a Kill"
  • "For Your Eyes Only"
  • "Quantum of Solace"
  • "Riscio"
  • "The Hildebrand Rarity"

After having shared seven adventures with 007 in previous novels, you become somewhat inured to Fleming's political incorrectness and you start appreciating the other elements of his writing: the way he can create tension and surprise you; the way he shapes Bond's interior dialogue; the attention to detail beyond the travelogue descriptions - and in the end you begin to like Bond again, even after the misogynistic fiasco that was Goldfinger. It's not that Bond has changed much. He's still thinks and says things that place him squarely in the ranks of the mid-century man; but in this collection, we sense that perhaps his views, however much they are shaped by his times, are not concretized - that Bond has the capacity to turn things over in his mind and realize that all may not be as they appear. This idea of deception becomes the theme of the collection (or at least the first five stories):

"From a View to a Kill"
This is the first story in the collection and treats the idea of deception in the most basic and physical of ways. A dispatch courier is ambushed along an isolated highway by another courier wearing the same uniform. Bond, with his ability to sense "the invisible factor" or "the invisible man" - the element of a mission's mystery that had been overlooked by others but turns out to be the key to the mission's success, dresses in two different disguises to figure out what's going on. First, Bond dresses in camo and uncovers a well concealed camp; and later Bond dresses as a dispatch courier himself to lure the would-be perpetrator out.

"For Your Eyes Only"
Set against the changing political climate of the Caribbean as Castro moves against Batista, the story looks at political subterfuge in the grossest criminal way: One of Castro's henchmen, Major Gonzales, goes around Jamaica coercing plantation owners to sell their properties. A political exile, his business transactions are actually incidents of bullying and extortion with violent implications. Major Gonzales and his two sidekicks eventually end up in Vermont (!?) Bond assumes the identity of a game hunter, special attention paid to his clothing and licenses to complete this mission of justice (or revenge depending on one's point of view) and encounters a woman along the way with a similar mission.

"Quantum of Solace"
The eponymous story of the collection, this is the piece that plays as an exposition of social and personal deception in two layers. It is actually a story within a story: Bond attends a rather dull dinner party and afterwards needs to kill about a hour with his host before he can politely leave. An off-chance remark of Bond's initiates a story, as told by the host, about a man who marries an air hostess. The air hostess-wife eventually becomes involved in an indiscreet affair. Her true colors having flown, the first surprise is in what the husband then proceeds to do! The social charades and the personal face the husband tries to maintain play out against the rarefied air of the Service's cliques in Bermuda. The story, which has engaged Bond beyond the hour that decorum had dictated, has a final surprise and teaches Bond a lesson about not making judgements from first impressions.

The term "riscio" means risky business and ostensibly refers to the smuggling world into which Bond finds himself. Sent to Italy to track down illegal opium shipments, Bond is set up with a contact, Kristatos at a restaurant. The apparent quarry is Alberto "The Dove" Colombo, not only the restaurant's owner, but a major player in contraband shipments. The story evolves out into a question of who to trust: Who are your allies and, who are your enemies?

"The Hildebrand Rarity"
This short, more than even "Quantum of Solace" displays more of Bonds interior dimension than the others. Though not has clever as "QOS," even rather ham-handed in its way, "The Hildebrand Rarity" has Bond thinking about relative morality. Mr. Krest, a wealthy American man who uses his pleasure yacht to collect specimens for the Smithsonian (a tax evasion scheme) hires Bond and Fidele Barbery to track down a rare fish, "The Hildebrand Rarity" in the Caribbean. There is nothing to like about Mr. Krest: He is a mean boor, a sadist, a corrupt businessman, a drunk and overall unscrupulous. And yet, Bond puts up with quite a bit, "eating crow" for four days. Bond equivocates, is uncertain about what to do, questions his smaller actions against larger contexts. What does he really see? What does he really know? What is the right thing to do? In this story, Bond himself might not be the man we have been led to believe he is.

Perhaps "deception" is too broad a theme for spy thriller adventures - after all, espionage is built on subterfuge; and yet with this collection, one can't help but notice the different kinds of deceits being played out very specifically in each story: From the basic physical deceptions of "From a View to a Kill" to the questioning ruminations of Bond in "The Hildebrand Rarity," Fleming skillfully writes in layers about the various kinds of deceptions.

Simon Vance narrates the audiobook edition of Quantum of Solace. Inasmuch as readers and listeners may have become inured to Fleming's provocative passages about social issues through seven novels, listeners have come to expect certain things from Simon Vance in the series as well. He narrates the stories, and wholly creates Bond and M. Though his American and female characters are usually suspect, SV delivered credibly and well in this collection. Mr. Krest ("The Hildebrand Rarity") speaks like Humphrey Bogart and SV does an imitation well enough that the listener understands the vocal inference. Other foreigners (Italians, Jamaicans, etc.) are differentiated from Bond's British accent and while they may not exactly sound native, the characters are well delineated.

See Also:
The first five stories in Quantum of Solace are contained in the audiobook, For Your Eyes Only. The next two featured films in the Shaken, Not Stirred... Challenge are Quantum of Solace (starring Daniel Craig) and; For Your Eyes Only (Starring Roger Moore.) Both movies are based on these first five shorts in the collection. For a complete breakdown of the short stories featured in Quantum of Solace and their related movies, see FYI: Quantum of Solace. For a look at my brain while it is watching NFL playoffs and trying to figure out what Bond novels go with which movies, check out Old Skool "Infographic": Bond Novels 08 - 14 :-)

For a breakdown of the tracks on the Quantum of Solace MP3-CD, see Quantum of Solace: MP3-CD Track List.

For other Shaken, Not Stirred posts, see:
Casino Royale (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance)
Goldfinger (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance)

Other Stuff: Quantum of Solace (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance) is a part of the

I received a MP3-CD edition of Quantum of Solace (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under professional courtesy/reviewer auspices.. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.


  1. I'm almost done with For Your Eyes Only and should finish today on my trip to Richmond. I have to say that I did not relish getting back to Bond again after Goldfinger, Quantum of Solace thus far has been pretty good. I'm looking forward to the event tomorrow. More Daniel Craig is a good thing. :)

  2. It sounds like you guys really are having fun with Shaken, Not Stirred!