Bond in Print: 'Diamonds are Forever' - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Bond in Print: 'Diamonds are Forever'

Alexander Wallace finds forever is a long time.
Despite how well-known the perfidy of De Beers in increasing the price of the precious gems, we still love diamonds. We have made a whole ritual of presenting them to our beaus when we ask them to marry us, and De Beers happily takes the profits. The sharp ends of the diamonds we adore distract us from how they are all too often cruelty extracted from mines using cheap, maltreated labor, often in Africa.

It is with that atmosphere of oppression that the fourth James Bond novel, Diamonds Are Forever, begins. It does not begin with people being brutalized; its opening is far more memorable than that. Fleming takes the time to describe a scorpion on the prowl, waiting for just the right moment to kill the beetle that would soon become its prey. While it is eating its meal, it is killed by a man who will vex 007 for about two hundred pages.

After the relatively sedentary Moonraker, James Bond goes on yet another border-crossing adventure in Diamonds Are Forever. Much like Live and Let Die, that exotic foreign land in which Bond gets into strange situations is the United States. In the 1950s, to Britons, America was a bountiful land where modernity reigned, and perhaps most importantly, no German bomber fleets had levelled their cities. Britain was still rebuilding from World War II (even as it tried to show the world that it was recovering, as the 1948 London Olympics were intended to show), while America bestrode the world like a colossus.

While Casino Royale depended on Soviet spying and Moonraker revolved around rogue engineering projects, Diamonds are Forever takes a cue from Live and Let Die in revolving primarily around smuggling, in this case diamonds. The organization operates mostly in the United States; as such, the whole book can feel like a funhouse display of 1950s America, filtered to be captivating to an audience from a country still trying to stand on its own two feet.

You are transported to New York, briefly, and catch up with one of Bond’s friends. You see horse racing (and the attendant gambling) in upstate New York. You visit Las Vegas, in all its glitzy, tacky magnificence. A climactic scene occurs in a recreation of an Old West town, built for no reason other than a magnate’s ego. As such, it is perhaps the most aggressively opulent of the Bond novels thus far, so detailed is the prose. Unfortunately, it can lead to prose that drags, especially when he describes the mechanics of horseracing.

The Bond girl here, Tiffany Case, deserves a comment. She is far more reticent, more hesitant, than we would generally associate such women to be. She’s an interesting character, involved with espionage in her own right, but Fleming uses a history of sexual assault in a way that made me somewhat uncomfortable.

Diamonds Are Forever is a book that stands out to me most due to its imagery, particularly the opening scene. It is an appropriate metaphor for the viciousness of the plot, and how people are willing to do heinous things in the name of what are ultimately shiny rocks. It is an inglorious plot in glorious setting, and the juxtaposition is memorable.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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