Literature / Dr. No

The sixth James Bond novel by Ian Fleming, published in 1958.

Bond has recovered from the attempt at his life from the end of previous book, and is given a supposedly easy assignment at Jamaica, where he has to investigate the disappearance of local head of operations. He learns that he has been investigating the activities of one Dr. Julius No, who is in fact working for the Soviets to sabotage nearby American missile tests.

The novel became the basis for the very first James Bond film.

This novel has the examples of:

  • Air-Vent Passageway: Subverted. The air vent system in Bond's cell is purposely designed to allow passage by a man... but as an endurance-course, to see how much pain a man can endure, through mounting physical challenges—which are also psychologically testing Bond, as they get more horrific. It ends with Bond having to fight a Giant Squid.
  • Animal Assassin: No's agents attempt to kill Bond by releasing a venomous centipede in his room.
  • Antagonist Title: The titular Dr. No.
  • Artificial Limbs: Dr. No has two artificial pincer hands because they were cut off by his former Tong employers as a punishment. He uses them for dramatic effect to enhance his ominous nature.
  • Big Bad: Dr. No.
  • Bus Crash: The fate of Rosa Klebb, the Big Bad of the previous novel, is summed up as "She died."
  • Charm Point: Bond sees Honey Ryder's broken nose as this, and secretly hopes that she won't fix it in a surgery as she plans to.
  • Creepy Centipedes: An attempt is made Bond's life by letting a venomous centipede in his room.
  • Cutlery Escape Aid: Bond attempts to steal a steak knife while he is having Dinner with Dr No. Dr No, however, is wise to this trick and has Bond searched before he leaves the table.
  • First Law of Resurrection: Invoked in a justifiable manner. Bond wasn't dead at the end of the previous book, he was only dying, and the people who were with him managed to keep him alive long enough for a doctor to be summoned.
  • Genre Shift: Hoo boy. The previous books were all gritty, grounded spy thrillers set against the backdrop of the Cold War, in appropriate locations with plausible villains, with Bond being a ruthless, anti-heroic hitman throughout, while the women were mostly protected/saved by him. Dr. No, however, reads much more like a traditional adventure/superhero story, being set on a very exotic tropical island with a hidden underground base. Instead of a crime lord, Dr. No is a hammy supervillain with a private army to go along with it and a very unusual physical appearance, compared to the other villains from before. Bond, while still an assassin, is much more polite and kind this time round and pulls off some very traditional heroic acts, such as fighting a giant squid. Honey Ryder is not only capable of kicking ass, she actually escapes without his help and even drags him into bed instead of the other way round.
  • Giant Squid: The title character puts him through a torture labyrinth ending with an apparent escape only to be attacked by a giant squid. Improbably, Bond wins.
  • Heart in the Wrong Place: Dr. No tells Bond how he survived reprisal from the Tong after embezzling funds - after hours of prison torture, they chopped off his hands and shot him through the heart, or thought they did. As it turned out, he was a rare case with his heart on the right side of his body.
  • High-Class Call Girl: Honey Rider tells Bond she plans to become one of these, so she can get the money for her operation. Bond, however, points out why it's a bad idea.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Dr. No dies by being Buried Alive in the same guano that was a key component in his operation.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Played with re Honey Rider. She casually mentions her ambition to work in New York as an escort girl, and is unaware that society would find this idea objectionable.
  • Kick the Dog: Dr. No had an entire bird sanctuary burned to the ground and its staff murdered just because it was a bit too close to his base.
  • Rape as Backstory: Honey Rider was raped by the man who oversaw the property where she is currently living. She retaliated by putting a venomous spider in his bed.
  • Red Right Hand: Dr. No has no eyelashes (he has a pair of contact lenses to protect his eyes), eyebrows or any hair on top of his head. Instead of hands, he has a pair of steel pincers.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Zig-zagged. Bond's Smith & Wesson Centennial Airweight does fine against Dr. No's mooks. However, it can't fully burst the wheels of the Dragon Tank, which results in Bond and Honey getting captured. By the end of the book, Bond's switched to his signature Walther PPK.
  • Skinny Dipping: Bond first meets Honey Ryder when she's seashell hunting while wearing only goggles, a snorkel, and a belt for her knife.
  • The Name is Bond, James Bond: Bond introduces himself this way to Honey.
  • The Swarm: Honey Rider is tied down on the shoreline ostensibly to be eaten by a swarm of crabs, but more likely to scare her to death. However, she knew her sea life and knew them to be harmless, so she calmly let them march over her.
  • Tank Goodness: Dr. No's most terrifying weapon is a black-and-gold armored car with a flamethrower that also looks rather like an actual dragon.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Bond receives a basket of fruit that he sends for testing. The telegram he receives in reply says, "Each object contained enough cyanide to kill a horse. Suggest you change your grocer."
  • Unbuilt Trope: The novel prominently features Doctor No's incredibly elaborate, cozy island lair, which was later immortalized in the film adaptation and set the standard for larger-than-life evil lairs everywhere. However, it also goes into detail about the time, money and resources that would go into constructing such a thing — Dr. No first appears in person as Bond wonders just how he managed to build a window facing out into the ocean into the wall, and how much such an operation would cost. Bond is also well aware of how strange, surreal, and (given that he isn't expected to leave alive) morbid his welcome is. The whole thing exists to serve Dr. No's special brand of megalomania. The movie included the impressive lair, but cut out the details of its construction and the kind of mind that led to its creation, making it seem a good deal less extraordinary.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Averted. Bond has to tell himself that the two nameless security guards he is about kill were almost certainly murderers themselves.