Moonraker is one of my favourite Bond novels, mainly because of the villain. I was amused by the idea that this man Drax had pulled the wool over the eyes of the British establishment and only Bond and M were onto him - and then only because he's a card cheat. (Shock horror! Imagine - a missile programme at risk because the man behind it pulls a fast one at the bridge table!) Auric Goldfinger is a similar villain in that he, too, seems a respectable "British" type, but is anything but. However, it always amazed me that no-one dug deeper into Drax's background, accepting the "official" line about him as the "man from nowhere". Then again, if they had, there would be no story.
MOONRAKER is the novel where the plot holes - and Fleming's carefreeness to cover them - become really apparent. What Fleming wanted was a fantastical thriller with a most appalling villain and a threat that most of his readers still remembered only too well from a mere nine years ago. He could just have made up a story about a Nazi who uses an ultra-secret and 'forgotten' V2 base to fire an updated version with nuclear warhead on London.
But that wasn't enough for Fleming, he had to have the Nazi disguised as a rough-but-amicable working class type and supposedly tragically wounded British soldier claiming amnesia about his background. He had to have the updated V2 base and the rocket itself built right into the symbol of Britain's impregnableness, the cliffs of Dover. Using a whole team of German Nazis as his workforce and being aided by the USSR - a famous ally of the Germans, which is why they won the war; wait... - with the donation of a gratis atomic bomb.
To pick just a few things apart let's start with the Soviets: well, given the fact Nazis were their sworn enemies who managed to murder millions of Russians, military and civilians indiscriminately, they should at least consider the theoretic possibility that Drax's weapon, conceived to reach Moscow by official design, will in the end reach Moscow. After all they occupy half of Drax's home country, didn't show undue restraint in paying their German enemies back for attacking them and used to be generally not known for their warm feelings towards the fascist and racist ideology. Let's ask ourselves: is it really a good idea for them to hand Drax not just the expert German rocket personnel in their immediate reach but also the atomic device he needs to exact his vengeance? No, I don't think so.
But that's not the end of it yet. The USSR also had the British intelligence and security apparat as well as parts of the political establishment infiltrated like few other countries, to the point of gaining serious information about high-level political decisions. Drax's Moonraker attack on London would undoubtedly have wiped out the greater part of that intelligence pool, cutting the MGB from one of its main assets. Furthermore, the only sensible use of this operation from Moscow's point of view would have been to use the subsequent chaos and confusion after London's destruction for a fast and relentless dash across Western Europe with the combined strength of their tank forces and their airforce, perhaps in combination with an invasion of the British Isles. Ok, MOONRAKER doesn't dwell on the topic, but the fact remains nothing in the novel suggests the Soviets intended to cash in on their investment. The very least one would expect would have been a warning to their most valuable agents in London and Britain. No such signs seem to have come to the attention of MI5 and Secret Service.
Which brings us to the crucial part of Drax's scheme. Not only does he need the authorities' combined ignorance about his own background, he also brings a considerable workforce of Germans - several of them known and wanted war criminals - into the country, every single one of which has to be vetted by MI5 and M's very own department. The only explanation for this practically unprecedented scale of failure in every single case is: MI5 and SIS - and possibly a large-scale conspiracy of political figureheads behind them - must have been in on the whole scheme, provided support and were ready to profit from the outcome. The Mail would doubtlessly squeal with joy and point at Miliband. But who would profit more than The Mail from London in ashes?
But the real implausibility of it all is mentioned in the book itself, plain for everybody to see. If Drax indeed can show up in Moscow and convince whoever's in charge of their Department for World-Domination on that day to lend him a king-sized fire cracker - instead of being sent to Sibiria or just to the cellar - then that's really all he would have needed. Get the thing from the jetty to the Mercedes, drive it to Ebury Street, wait for Trooping the Colour and watch the cloud from Calais. End of. Bond's briefing at the Ministry of Supply mentions the Moonraker rocket uses a kind of homing device to find its target, but the actual warhead doesn't have to arrive by air, it could just as well take a taxi, making the whole trouble with the Dover base, rocket site, exhaust, blast wall and so on obsolete.
Mind you, it's Fleming's talent that makes all those implausibilities irrelevant for the time reading. It seems the final chapter with its call for caution regarding a German rearmament - then topical and highly controversial headline stuff - points also to a less modest aspiration of Fleming's book, mirroring Erskine Childers's THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS and its warning of an Imperial German Naval Force. But all in all it's also the book that introduced speed to get over the bumps in the plot.
Edited by Dustin, 06 October 2013 - 07:31 PM.