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Literature / On Her Majesty's Secret Service

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The eleventh James Bond book by Ian Fleming, published in 1963.

After the success of Operation Thunderball, SPECTRE has more or less disbanded and the hunt is on for its leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but he seems to have disappeared from the face of the Earth. Bond, contemplating about resigning from the secret service, is in France investigating possible leads. There he runs into depressed Teresa di Vincenzo, and he stops her from committing suicide. This leads to him being introduced to the crimeboss Marc-Ange Draco, her father, who asks him to help her. Bond agrees, but only he receives help for his task of locating Blofeld. This leads to a dangerous game high in the Swiss alps, where a big plan to attck England is being concocted.

The novel was adapted into the sixth James Bond film.

This novel has the examples of:

  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: Bond's daring escape from Piz Gloria on skis takes place on Christmas Day.
  • Base on Wheels: Due to his profession, Marc-Ange Draco has to be constantly on the move, and his offices reside in a trailer pulled by a truck.
  • Big Bad: Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: When about to leave Bond to speak with Draco, Bond's driver gives him "a smile, a wink, and a bone-crushing handshake".
  • Broken Bird: The death of her child left Tracy tired of life, and she doesn't care about anything anymore. Until Bond comes along.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Bond reads the Daily Express, which at the time had a 007 comic strip. Doubtless deliberately done by Fleming, who had previously established Bond as a reader of The Times.
  • Continuity Nod: As Bond drives through Royale, he remembers the confrontation that he had with Le Chiffre in its casino. He actually visits there annually due to the memory of Vesper Lynd.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: One of Blofeld's henchmen is killed by getting thrown down a bobsled track, and another one is minced by a fan.
  • Dirty Communists: Russians are suspected to be the financers of Blofeld's operation, due to it being based on hypnosis, a field they apparently excel at. Many of Blofeld's goons are also ex-SMERSH operatives who've gone freelance and went over to SPECTRE.
  • The Don: Marc-Ange Draco is the leader of Union Corse, an organized crime outfit which is described to be even older than The Mafia.
  • Downer Ending: Just when it seems that this time Bond gets the girl after all by marrying Tracy, she is killed by Bunt and Blofeld. Notable for being the only James Bond film other than Casino Royale without at least a Bittersweet Ending.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Marc-Ange Draco admits that he is a criminal with lots of shady businesses, but even he thinks that Blofeld is a horrible person.
    • Blofeld has one of his guards thrown down a bobsled run and into a shed at the end at full velocity for entering a patient's room at night and "mucking her about".
  • Everyone Has Standards: After a guard is executed via being thrown down the bobsled run for sexually harassing a patient, the other girls debate whether the victim should have told on him. One of them also lambasts another for insulting the man's appearance after his death.
  • Evil Plan: Blofeld has planted deadly viruses to animals on his allergy patients, which are supposed to ruin England's economy when they return home to their agricultural jobs.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: Bond tells Tracy to kiss him while they pass two mooks as they walk out of the icerink.
  • Famous Ancestor: At the College of Arms, James Bond learns that Sir Thomas Bond is a possible ancestor of his, although this is played as most likely a long-shot in an attempt by the College of Arms to drum up some business out of him.
  • First-Name Basis: It is a strict rule in Piz Gloria that the female allergy treatment patients are only referred to by their first names. This measure is in place so that once the girls return home, they'll be harder to locate, and they can spread the deadly virus placed on them in peace.
  • Foreshadowing: Bond has a slice of Christmas pudding with trinkets baked into it at a party shortly after getting engaged, and his slice has the bachelor's button in it, implying that he won't be married for very long.
  • Hair-Trigger Avalanche: The gunfire behind Bond during his escape on skis from Piz Gloria causes an avalanche, and he must outrace it.
  • Improvised Weapon: While escaping from Piz Gloria, Bond places his Rolex across his fist and uses it as a knuckle-duster, which he uses to kill a guard.
  • In Medias Res: The novel opens on Bond spying on Tracy, and stopping her from committing suicide by drowning herself on the sea. He is then captured by two gunmen, and the next chapters explain how this came about.
  • Invisible Writing: James Bond uses his urine ("the oldest [secret ink] in the world") to write down the names of the allergy treatment patients in Piz Gloria, before he tries to make his escape from the place.
  • Karma Houdini: Both Blofeld and Bunt get away and kill Tracy at the end.
  • Mythology Gag: Bond is revealed to have Scottish heritage as a nod to Sean Connery, who had impressed Fleming with his performance in Dr. No. Also, Ursula Andress, who played that film's Bond girl, is mentioned as a guest at Blofeld's ski resort.
  • Not Quite Dead: Irma Bunt is apparently killed when the Union Corse storm Piz Gloria near the end of the book, since she is only seen out of the resort when she is meeting up with Bond at the airport. However, it turns out she was elsewhere at the time, as she joins Blofeld for a sneak attack on Bond and his new wife in Germany.
  • Rape as Backstory / Values Dissonance: Draco tells Bond that Tracy's mother came to Corsica looking to be raped and that Draco obliged. In an echo of Kerim Bey's backstory in From Russia with Love, she later fell in love with him. Fleming does not have Bond react let alone object to this.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Or rather, sexual harassment is something that even Blofeld won't tolerate, as he has a guard killed by throwing him down a bobsled run and into a hut at the end.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: M, spymaster and former wartime admiral, cultivates orchids and paints watercolours of them.
  • Ridiculous Future Inflation: Bond likes to think of the money in his pocket in old francs because that makes him feel richer, while counting his expenses in new francs to make them seem smaller (At the time the book was written, the franc had recently undergone a 1000:1 devaluation).
  • Road-Sign Reversal: Bond reverses a sign to trick a bunch mooks who are chasing him and Tracy into crashing through the guard rail instead of going around the corner, and they plummet to their deaths.
  • Sexy Secretary: Mary Goodnight, taking over for Loelia Ponsonby. The 00 Agents have a betting pool over who will be the first to sleep with her. Bond and 006 are the favorites, but Bond withdraws his name from the contest as his relationship with Tracy deepens.
  • Shout-Out: At his introduction to the beautiful patients at Piz Gloria, Bond tells the girl next to him he feels like a film comedian trapped in a girls' school like St. Trinian's.
  • Shown Their Work: Since part of the reason he was writing the book was to give Bond a Scottish ancestry (due to being so impressed by Connery's performance in Dr. No), Fleming researched genealogy himself. He determined that the motto of the real-world Bond family is "Non Sufficit Orbis" ("The world is not enough" or "The world does not suffice"), and incorporated it into his book (and, hence, the movie—and, hence, The World Is Not Enough).
  • Skeleton Key Card: Bond sneaks a strip of plastic from the Piz Gloria ski manufacturing workshop to defeat the room locks while spying at night. Part of why he gets caught and has to escape is the SPECTRE agent running the place actually has good enough inventory records and immediately counts the strips after "Sir Hilary Bray" leaves, immediately reporting the missing strip to another worker.
  • Storming the Castle: In order to capture Blofeld, Bond attacks his base with the help from Union Corse. Bond, however, goes after Blofeld, and this storming of the castle is not described beyond Bond waking up to an explosion.
  • Take This Job and Shove It: Bond feels that Operation Bedlam is a waste of his time and dictates a letter of resignation to Moneypenny. She alters it to a request for a leave.
  • Tap on the Head: Averted; Bond kills a guard with one good punch to the head, albeit using a metal Rolex as an improvised knuckleduster. This trope is played straight on Bond himself in the film.
  • Tempting Fate: Bond says to his new wife on their honeymoon, "We have all the time in the world." And then Blofeld shoots her.
  • Title Drop: Done after Bond sends a message to M about Blofeld getting away.
    Bond watched the message go, the end of another chapter of his duties, as Marc-Ange had put it, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service".
  • Tuckerization: The name Hilary Bray was that of an old-Etonian with whom Fleming worked at the stock broking firm Rowe & Pitman, whilst Sable Basilisk was based on "Rouge Dragon" in the College of Arms.
  • Yodel Land: Blofeld's base is located around the Engadine region of Switzerland.
  • You Have Failed Me: One of the workers in Piz Gloria dies when he slides down a mile-long bobsled track, and crashes into a hut below at terminal speeds. Bond overhears that the guy had sexually harassed one of the Blofeld's allergy treatment patients, and comes to a conclusion that this had been a typical SPECTRE execution rather than the story given, which was that he slipped while watering the run.