|Dr. No is Ian Fleming's sixth novel, originally published March 31, 1958. The work was originally designed as a screenplay for the 1956 production of a TV series titled Commander Jamaica. When the plans for the TV series fell through, Fleming adapted the screenplay into a novel originally titled The Wound Man. Dr. No is significant in the series because we see the first appearance of Major Boothroyd who issues Bond his signature Walther PPK to replace his trusty barretta. Bond is also issued a Smith and Wesson revolver, which he elects to take with him on his adventure in search of Strangways' killer. |
This adventure takes Bond to Jamaica where he's investigating the death of John Strangways, the head of Station J. With the help of Honey Rider and Quarrel, Bond uncovers a plot by Dr. No (an ex-Tong gang member and medical doctor interested in human limitations) to steal American missile technology. After sneaking onto Dr. No's Crab Key island and enduring a twisted experiment designed by Dr. No to test the limits of the human pain threshold, Bond dispatches Dr. No (by burying him in bird dung) and alerts the Jamaican authorities to the true nature of Crab Key.
- Canoe ride to Crab Key with Quarrel
- Night at the river camp with Honey Rider
- Description of Dr. No's facility
- Discussion between Dr. No and Bond at dinner about power
- Dr. No's obstacle course
The novel opens in Kingston, Jamaica at the Queen’s Club, an elite country club for western dignitaries and VIPs. John Strangways, the head of Station J, is playing bridge with some friends, about to leave for his home where he is scheduled to report back to MI6. Strangways is a creature of habit and leaves his habitual bridge game each evening at 6:15 pm to make this report. On this particular day however, Strangways is greeted by three blind men as he’s approaching his car. As Strangways deposits a coin into their begging cup, the three blind men shoot him, collect his body, and place it in a coffin inside a hearse that’s just arrived. The three men drive to Strangways’s house, and kill his secretary (Mary Trueblood), after she’s initiated the call to London at precisely 6:30 pm. The three men place Mary’s body on top of Strangways' inside the coffin, torch the house, and take the coffin to its final resting place in Mona Reservoir.
At the end of the novel, From Russia with Love
(immediately preceding Dr. No),
we’re unsure of Bond’s status. He was poisoned by Rosa Klebb (who we learn has been captured and died) and we’re unsure whether or not Bond recovers. We leave Bond just as he collapses in the final scene in From Russia with Love
. At the beginning of Dr. No
, M discovers that the poison used by Klebb was extracted from a Japanese fighting fish, and paralyzes the victim, leaving him conscious. Eventually, the victim dies from asphyxiation due to paralysis of the throat. Bond is saved by Rene Mathis, who performs CPR until a doctor arrives. Luckily, the doctor spent time in Africa and is familiar with the kind of poison used on Bond, so he’s able to treat Bond appropriately, increasing his chances of survival. The prognosis is not good, but <SHOCKING>... Bond survives.
As Bond returns to work, M is still concerned with his health, so he sends him on a "simple" mission to Jamaica to take in some relaxation. While he’s there, M instructs him to try and figure out what happened to Strangways. Bond met Strangways for the first time in Live and Let Die
, so the two have worked together before and Bond is familiar with Strangways and his idiosyncrasies. As Bond arrives in Jamaica, he gets in touch with his old friend Quarrel (from previous work in Jamaica) and hires him for his connections to the “colored” community in Jamaica and his expert nautical skills. Bond and Quarrel go to Pus-Feller’s bar (Bond orders a gin and tonic with lime), and they catch up on old times. Quarrel tells Bond of a time when Pus-Feller went out to a small island called Crab Key on the edge of the Cuba Deep (the deepest waters in the Caribbean) and wrestled a giant octopus, and thus got the name “Pus-Feller”. Bond inquires about Crab Key and Quarrel tells him what he knows about the island: it’s owned by a Chinese-German who likes his privacy… and it’s inhabited by a dragon. As Bond and Quarrel are talking, a Chinese girl named Annabel Chung starts to take Bond’s picture. Quarrel grabs her and they interrogate her, but when she won’t tell who hired her, Bond tells Quarrel to let her go.
Bond and Quarrel make plans to train (so that Bond can recover all of his strength) and to head out to Crab Key to investigate. Bond and Quarrel head back to his hotel where Bond instructs Quarrel to get a new car. Strangways' car, which Quarrel had been driving, associates them with Strangways and his death, so Bond figures that the photographer found them because of the car. Bond leaves to talk to the governor, who tells him that some bird researchers recently went missing on the island. He explains that Crab Key is owned by a guano (bird dung) farmer named Dr. Julius No, and introduces Bond to Pleydell-Smith, an official working on the case. The governor is convinced that Strangways and Trueblood were lovers, and ran away together. Pleydell-Smith tells Bond that the guano trade is lucrative because it’s the best chemical-free fertilizer in the world. Bond and Pleydell-Smith go to the Queens Club, and then Bond retires to his hotel room.
Back at the hotel, Bond gets a basket of fruit delivered and as he’s eating a tangerine when he notices that there’s a minute pin hole in the skin. Suspicious since the incident with the photographer, Bond has the fruit sent to Pleydell-Smith for testing. He goes to the hotel restaurant, and then back to his room to bed. In the middle of the night, Bond is awoken by a large (4 inch) centipede in his bed. After a tense few minutes as the insect moves slowly over his body, Bond seizes the moment when the centipede moves to his pillow, throws the bug onto the floor, and proceeds to kill it with his shoe. Immediately following this episode, Bond rushes to the bathroom and is overcome with nausea.
The following day, Bond meets back up with Quarrel and is told that Quarrel hired two men, disguised as Bond and Quarrel, to drive around Kingston in Strangways’ Alpine Sunbeam. Bond and Quarrel make plans for the eventual trip to Crab Key. Bond returns to his hotel and receives a telegram from Pleydell-Smith that says that each piece of fruit contained enough cyanide to kill a horse. He muses about which weapon to take with him on the island (the Smith and Wesson revolver or the newly issued Walther PPK) and decides on the revolver because of its range and power.
Later that night, Bond and Quarrel head out from Port Maria to Crab Key in Quarrel’s canoe. After a long night of taking turns paddling and sleeping, Bond and Quarrel arrive on the island and quickly fall asleep. Bond awakes to a naked woman, clothed only in a diving knife, collecting shells close to where he and Quarrel fell asleep. After some coaxing, Bond finds out that her name is Honeychile Rider, and she frequently paddles her canoe over to Crab Key during the day to collect shells. As they’re talking on the beach, a powerboat comes into earshot, so they all hide. The boat blindly opens fire on their approximate location and then via megaphone, announces that they will return with the dogs. The gunfire destroyed Honey’s canoe, so she’s forced to accompany Bond and Quarrel as they search the island. They decided to head inland, via a river running through the center of the island. As the three passed through a Mangrove forest, they heard the sound of a search party. They hide under the water (using hollow reeds for air) and wait until the search party passed. Bond is forced to dispatch a straggler, and they happen upon tracks that Honey attributes to the dragon. Clearly, the tracks are made by some kind of half-track tank… not a dragon.
The three continued up the river to the camp used by the researchers. Here they bed down for the night, with Bond and Quarrel taking turns at watch. Before they go to sleep, Bond discovers that Honey is an orphan who lives in the cellar of her parent’s burned-down house. Her family was some of the original western land owners in Jamaica, but after years of mismanagement, the family was poor when her parents were killed. Honey now lives alone (for 5 years since her nanny died when she was 15) collecting shells to make money to have her broken nose fixed in New York. She lives off a subsistence diet of fish. Honey took care of the animals and insects that lived in the cellar (scorpions, mongoose, snakes, etc.) and passed the time with the animals as her friends. Honey reveals that her nose was broken by man named Mander, who tried to rape her while she was living alone. She also reveals that she collected one of the Black Widow spiders that lived in her cellar, climbed a tree outside of Mander’s house, and dropped the spider onto him while he slept. It took him a week to die. Honey tires, and invites Bond into her sleeping bag. Bond declines, torn between Honey’s childish naiveté and her womanly body.
Bond is awoken by Quarrel as the “dragon” approaches in the middle of the night. Bond and Quarrel shoot at the “dragon” but the armor is thick and the bullets have no effect. The “dragon” is armed with a flamethrower, which makes quick work of Quarrel. Two men step out of the dragon and capture Bond and Honey, taking them to Dr. No’s facility located inside the mountain in the eastern side of the island. Inside the dragon, Bond assesses that it’s some kind of tractor, outfitted with a flamethrower, and heavily armored. Once they arrive at the facility, Bond and Honey are instructed to knock on a door, which leads down a corridor, to a reception area. The reception area did not fit the austere exterior of the facility. The lavishly decorated reception room has worthy of the greatest American corporations’ front offices. Bond and Honey are greeted happily by Sister Lily and Sister Rose, who take information on the two. Bond claims to be John Bryce, an ornithologist with Honey as his wife. Bond and Honey are shown to their room, complete with fresh clothes, bath, and breakfast. This was certainly the finest room Honey had been in. Overcome by the luxurious surroundings, Honey entices Bond for passion. Bond denies her, preferring to keep his mind sharp and “cold”. Bond and Honey bathed, changed clothes, and sat down to breakfast. The breakfast was laced with a sleeping agent, and Bond and Honey passed out quickly. As they were sleeping, Dr. No entered the room and examined both of them in detail.
The following morning, Bond and Honey are taken to Dr. No’s private audience room. Dr. No was a tall, thin man, a full six inches taller than Bond. Dr. No had steel pincers instead of hands. Dr. No and Bond talk extensively about the nature of power and of Dr. No’s background. Dr. No reveals that he was born to a German Methodist missionary and an upper-class Chinese girl. Dr. No went to work for the Tongs, a Chinese gang in Shanghai. Because he was so effective at this kind of work, rival gangs wanted him killed, so the Tongs sent him to the United States to work as an accountant for the Hip Sings, one of their American branches. The American authorities raided the Hip Sing headquarters, but Dr. No was able to escape with a million dollars in Tong money. This angered the Tongs, so they captured Dr. No and tortured him, eventually cutting off his hands and shot him in his heart… except that Dr. No’s heart is on the right side of his body (a one in a million chance). Dr. No survived and invested the million into stamps while paying for plastic surgery to change his appearance. He changed his name to Julius No, Julius for his father, and No for the rejection of him. He moved to Milwaukee and enrolled in a doctoral program in medicine so that he could attain his ultimate goal… total security from physical weakness. Dr. No bought Crab Key, staffed it with local Jamaicans and Cubans and overseen by “Chinese-Negros” imported from Harlem. Finally, Dr. No describes what happened to the researchers. The found that an endangered spoonbill was nesting on the island and the Jamaican government sent word to Dr. No that a hotel would be erected on the Crab Key for tourism surrounding the endangered bird. Dr. No burned all of the birds’ habitats (with the dragon) and killed the researchers.
Bond, Dr. No, and Honey proceed to dinner where Bond manages to steal a knife and a cigarette lighter from the dinner table. Dr. No continues the conversation from before and reveals that his latest project is to develop Crab Key into a jamming station for missiles being launched from the American testing facility at Turks Island, about 300 miles away. Dr. No plans to steer the missiles so that they land close to Crab Key, and then salvage the experimental missile technology, eventually selling it to the Russians. Bond asks what’s to become of him and Honey. Dr. No explains that one of his hobbies is studying human pain thresholds, so he plans to involve both Bond and Honey in an experiment. Bond will be locked in a cell where he must pass a number of different challenges, described as an obstacle course, in order to escape. Honey will be tied to a rock and eaten alive by crabs. During both of these experiments, Bond and Honey will be observed by Dr. No and his researchers and data will be collected.
Bond is taken to his cell (the beginning of the obstacle course), and offered a change of clothes. He changes from the kimono that he’d been wearing into slacks and a shirt. He files down the tip of the dinner knife into a point and places it inside his belt with the lighter in his hip pocket. Bond sees a wire grill guarding the ventilation shaft in the cell, but when he tries to remove it, he’s shocked. Bond’s hands are badly burned, but he cuts a piece off of the kimono and safely removes the wire grate. He straightens the wire from the grate and makes an improvised spear, which he places down his pant leg. Bond works his way through the shaft, up a vertical bit about 50 yards long. Exhausted, Bond makes it to the top of the vertical shaft and collapses in exhaustion. Above his head, he sees a porthole where he is being watched intently by Dr. No’s researchers. Bond continues on down an adjacent shaft. The metal on this shaft is heated, and is blistering Bond’s skin. He takes off his shirt and uses it for some protection for his hands. Bond wishes for death on a number of occasions, but thinks of the horror that Honey is enduring, which gives him strength. When he reaches the end of the shaft, the air becomes cool and he passes out from the pain under the watchful eye of another research porthole. When he awakes, Bond continues down the pitch-black shaft, using the lighter to find his way. He comes to a tangle of poisonous spider webs. Using the flame from the lighter and the spear, Bond kills all of the spiders and then continues down the shaft. The shaft suddenly turns downward, and Bond falls through the shaft and is deposited into the sea below. Bond discovers that he’s fallen into a cage and begins to climb out when he’s attacked by a giant squid. Bond stabs at its eyes with the spear and eventually escapes.
As Bond makes his way around the base of the mountain, he arrives at the main guano harvesting operation on the island. Bond commandeers a crane and uses it to dump a load of guano on top of Dr. No, burying him alive in the bird dung. Bond finds Honey, who had escaped from the crabs, and they made their way to the machine shop, where they stole the dragon and made their escape from the facility, back down the river to Quarrel’s canoe. On the ride down the river, Honey told Bond that she felt comfortable with the crabs since she had so much experience with them in Jamaica, so she slowly untied herself and was able to escape.
Bond returns to the Jamaican governor and debriefs him about the operations on Crab Key. The governor orders soldiers to clear the island and arrest Dr. No’s men. Bond asks Pleydell-Smith to watch out for Honey. Pleydell-Smith agrees, and says that he thinks he can get her a job at the Jamaica Institute. Bond says that he’s arranged for Honey to have her nose fixed and says that he’ll accompany her to New York. Bond returns to his hotel where Honey has bought a double-wide sleeping bag. Bond and Honey exchange a few passionate words and then bed down for some “slave-time” in the sleeping bag.
|Differences between the Film and the Novel:|
- In the novel, we're given an extensive background on who Dr. No is, and the motivation behind his scheme. Dr. No is presented as not only insane, but also as determined, hard working, and able to overcome physical hardship, all qualities which have inspired his evil passions.
- Like with Dr. No, in the novel, we're given more background on Honey. In the film, Honey is a naive girl whose father is a biologist, so she's out collecting shells because she's naive and being silly. In the novel, her character is more complex. She was orphaned, and collected the shells so that she could survive. Honey develops as a character in the novel, and we see little of this development in the films. As with most women in Bond novels, Honey is strong and independent. She doesn't need Bond to rescue her.
- As with most of the novels, Bond's character is much more complex than in the films. Bond struggles with his passion for Honey in the novel, while in the film, she is the first in a long line of conquests. Bond and Honey grow together in the novel and Bond waits to sleep with her until the end of the novel, after she's lost some of her naivete and is in a safe situation. Bond truly cares for her, making sure that he's set her up with a good job and loving support network (in the Pleydell-Smiths) before he leaves for England. He also discourages her from getting surgery on her broken nose because he wants her to see the beauty in people's "flaws". Bond isn't the stereotype of masculine dominance in the novel that he is in Connery's portrayal of him in the film.
- Professor Dent does not appear in the novel.
- Quarrel is much more of Bond's peer in the novel than in the film. Quarrel was Bond's trainer in Live and Let Die, and they share a much more equal relationship in the novel. Bond seldom orders Quarrel around in the novel and genuinely asks Quarrel for advice, which he tends to heed.
- One of the most powerful scenes in the novel is the "obstacle course" designed by Dr. No and Bond's struggles in mastering it. This scene does not exist in the film. The electro-shock grate is all that's left of Dr. No's course in the film. This is one of Bond's most physically challenging episodes in all of the novels, and serves to help define Bond as a fundamentally inwardly-focused individual, capable of drawing incredible strength from within. Again, we seldom see these kinds of struggles in the films.
- Dr. No's death is much less climactic in the novel, as he's buried alive in bird dung. In the film, Bond and Dr. No have an epic struggle to the death over a nuclear reactor cooling pool.
- In the novel, Dr. No is a medical doctor, while in the film, he's a nuclear physicist. In the novel, there's no mention of nuclear power on Crab Key or radiation, which is the reason why Strangways was investigating Dr. No. Likewise, Strangways' house is destroyed in the novel, while in the film, Bond searches Strangways' house for a lead that will take him to Dr. No. In the novel, Crab Key seems to be a mysterious place where people keep disappearing. That's the only lead Bond gets. He initially sets out to investigate the island. In the film, Bond knows that he'll find Strangways' killer on Crab Key, so he enters the situation knowing that there is going to be trouble.
- Dr. No is working for the Russians in the novel, while he's working for SPECTRE in the film.
- The poison fruit does not appear in the film, and the spider that Professor Dent places in Bond's bed is changed from a centipede.
- There is no direct connection between the beginning of Dr. No and the end of From Russia with Love in the films.
|Key Passages and Commentary:|
- Dr. No on "maniacs": Doctor No said, in the same soft resonant voice, "You are right. Mister Bond. That is just what I am, a maniac. All the greatest men are maniacs. They are possessed by a mania which drives them forward towards their goal. The great scientists, the philosophers, the religious leaders - all maniacs. What else but a blind singleness of purpose could have given focus to their genius, would have kept them in the groove of their purpose? Mania, my dear Mister Bond, is as priceless as genius. Dissipation of energy, fragmentation of vision, loss of momentum, the lack of follow-through - these are the vices of the herd." Doctor No sat slightly back in his chair. "I do not possess these vices. I am, as you correctly say, a maniac - a maniac, Mister Bond, with a mania for power. That" - the black holes glittered blankly at Bond through the contact lenses - "is the meaning of my life. That is why I am here. That is why you are here. That is why here exists."
- Commentary: This passage demonstrates the depth of Dr. No's character in the novel. Through his rhetoric, Dr. No takes Bond's statement that he's a "maniac" and turns it around to position himself alongside the great thinkers and scientists of history. In this passage, we see the scope of Dr. No's vision, and have an understanding of the kind of individual who can survive having his hands cut off, graduating from medical school, disappearing from society, and developing an environment where he is, in essence, a deity.
- Bond works through Dr. No's obstacle course: Bond turned the corner and forged forward into the heat stench. Keep your naked stomach off the ground! Contract your shoulders! Hands, knees, toes; hands, knees, toes. Faster, faster! Keep going fast so that each touch on the ground is quickly taken over by the next. The knees were getting it worst, taking the bulk of Bond's weight. Now the padded hands were beginning to smoulder. There was a spark, and another one, and then a worm of red as the sparks began to run. The smoke from the stuff smarted in Bond's sweating eyes. God, he couldn't do any more! There was no air. His lungs were bursting. Now his two hands shed sparks as he thrust them forward. The stuff must be nearly gone. Then the flesh would burn. Bond lurched and his bruised shoulder hi the metal. He screamed. He went on screaming, regularly, with each contact of hand or knee or toes. Now he was finished. Now it was the end. Now he would fall flat and slowly fry to death. No! He must drive on, screaming, until his flesh was burned to the bone. The skin must have already gone from the knees. In a moment the balls of his hands would meet the metal. Only the sweat running down his arms could be keeping the pads of stuff damp. Scream, scream, scream! It helps the pain. It tells you you're alive. Go on! Go on! It can't be much longer. This isn't where you're supposed to die. You are still alive. don't give up! You can't!
- Commentary: This passage demonstrates the Bond's resolve that we see so often in the novels that is rarely translated into the films. In the films, Bond proceeds through the stories with his wit and good luck. In the novels, Bond's successes, and at a fundamental level, his character, are determined by the resolve we see in this passage. The literary Bond frequently doubts himself, finds strength from the inside, and overcomes the challenges he's confronted with.
- Honeychile recounts her rape and revenge: "I tried to kill him with my knife, but he was very strong and he hit me as hard as he could in the face and broke my nose. He knocked me unconscious and then I think he did things to me. I mean I knew he did. Next day I wanted to kill myself when I saw my face and when I found what he had done. I thought I would have a baby. I would certainly have killed myself if I'd had a baby by that man. Anyway, I didn't, so that was that. I went to the doctor and he did what he could for my nose and didn't charge me anything. I didn't tell him about the rest. I was too ashamed. The man didn't come back. i waited and did nothing until the next cane-cutting. I'd got my plan. I was waiting for the Black Widow spiders to come in for shelter. One day they came. I caught the biggest of the females and shut her in a box with nothing to eat. They're the bad ones, the females. Then I waited for a dark night without any moon. I took the box with the spider in it and walked and walked until I came to the man's house. It was very dark and I was frightened of the duppies I might meet on the road but I didn't see any. I waited in his garden in the bushes and watched him go up to bed. Then I climbed a tree and got on to his balcony. I waited there until I heard him snoring and then I crept through the window. He was laying naked on the bed under the mosquito net. I lifted the edge and opened the box and shook the spider out on to his stomach. Then I went away and came home." "God Almighty!" said Bond reverently. "What happened to him?" She said happily, "He took a week to die. It must have hurt him terribly. They do, you know. The obeahmen say there's nothing like it. " She paused. When Bond made no comment, she said anxiously, "You don't think I did wrong, do you?"
- Commentary: This passage demonstrates the complexity of the literary Honey as opposed to the one-dimensional Honey of the film. The literary Honey is independent, in a sense, to a vengeful and ruthless degree. But Fleming juxtaposes this independence with a sense of naivete as she asks Bond whether what she did was wrong. Bond is the first "good man" that Honey has met, and we see her develop from the vengeful rape victim depicted in the passage above to a more socialized and trusting individual ready to leave her cellar domicile for the challenges of life in Jamaican society.