A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
M’s head was sunk into his stiff turned-down collar in a Churchillian pose of gloomy reflection, and there was a droop of bitterness at the corners of his lips. He swiveled his chair around to face Bond… Then began speaking, fast, clipping off his sentences as if he wanted to be rid of what he was saying, and of Bond, as quickly as possible.
“The Living Daylights” presents a much more somber Bond than usual. There’s no exotic locations, no flashy villains, no real action at all. M sends Bond to a dreary Berlin apartment to commit murder, plain and simple. Bond spends most of his time in Berlin moping around town, hanging about in coffee shops and visiting museums. Sounds rather like a librarian’s vacation, not an MI6 agent’s. Sure, there’s a characteristically brief romance, but it’s actually unrequited, and sees Bond acting a good deal sappier than usual.
So why’s it my favorite Bond short? Well, it’s all about Bond’s conscience. He struggles with a job he doesn’t want to do and in the end muffs it on purpose. He even vehemently expresses his desire to be rid of his double-o status, to be fired for screwing up the job. It adds an element of angst to Bond’s character that I think he needs to rise above the thin debonair veneer we see in the films. I think “The Living Daylights” is actually a pretty good place to start reading Fleming’s Bond. Of course, when you’re done with it make sure to flip back to the beginning of this volume and read “Octopussy” too. It’s a lot more fun.
Review by Matthew