I’ve read two other James Bond books — Casino Royale and a story collection with The Living Daylights and Octopussy. This is the second novel I read, and I liked it a lot more than the first one. I think the biggest difference is that I am reminded that James Bond is usually the least interesting part of any James Bond movie or story and the fact that this book doesn’t bring him in until about halfway through makes it much more interesting of a novel.
The story involves a young woman in the USSR who is tasked with falling in love with Bond, or convincing him of such, and posing as a defecting analyst who wants to escape to the West to be with Bond. She’s young, not entirely inexperienced in love and sex, but is hesitant, but forced into it via her commanders and controllers. And on the receiving end, we have Bond also asked to fall in lover with, or give her the impression of such, with the young woman, by his handlers. You can imagine what happens.
The biggest difference between the books and the movies, and this tends to be true across the board with spy books, is that movies cannot understand subtlety and scope unless it’s bred into the story ala Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and other Le Carre books. When let loose, the spectacle of film takes over.
The book is not entirely subtle, but the conceit is only the main part of the book, which among other things takes us the Levant and other parts of the meeting of East/West in really engaging ways, and has a thing or two to suggest about imperialism.