Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Flandry And Bond

Is Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry a science fictional equivalent of Ian Fleming's James Bond? There are obvious parallels. However, having just reread the opening chapters of Casino Royale, I am more aware of several differences.

By contrast with Bond, Flandry functions almost as a private operator. After his induction into Intelligence by Max Abrams, he is shown as receiving orders from a superior on only four occasions:

from Kheraskov, once;
from Fenross, twice;
from Molitor, once.

Moreover, Molitor is the Emperor and gives Flandry a free hand. Flandry progresses from Ensign to Fleet Admiral whereas Bond remains a Commander.

Fleming presents a lot of details of the Intelligence network of which Bond is just one part:

M's Chief of Staff and private secretary share a room;
M receives a memorandum from Station S, with Appendix A on Le Chiffre from the Archivist and Appendix B on SMERSH, unsigned;
Section Q runs the Morgue, travel and equipment;
the head of Bond's department is called Clements;
Leningrad Section III gave Le Chiffre funds to finance a French trade union that will be a fifth column in the event of war (as a former trade unionist, I question whether any trade union would be able to receive and conceal Russian funds or to control its members as a fifth column but I do not know about circumstances in France in the early '50s);
Le Chiffre embezzled the funds to buy brothels, lost this investment because of changed laws and police raids and hopes to recoup the money through gambling (thus he combines every possible kind of evil!);
Bond bought his Bentley in 1933 and gained his 00 number by killing a Japanese cypher expert in New York and a Norwegian double agent in Stockholm;
while in France, he is controlled obliquely through Jamaica and we are told how this works;
he is helped by Mathis of the Deuxieme Bureau, Vesper Lynd of Station S and Leiter of the CIA;
there is probably another Secret Service agent reporting independently from Royale-les-Eaux.

All this sounds complicated, sordid and very different from the universe inhabited by Dominic Flandry.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Actually, I found the grubby, even sordid details about Intelligence work you listed from the Bond books a REALISTIC touch. Esp. the behavior of Soviet agents. They WERE often ruthless and merciless and certainly did subsidize unions and other organizations to be their puppets.

    And Poul Anderson was aware of how grubby Intelligence work could be. In ENSIGN FLANDRY we see Commander Max Abrams frankly telling Dominic Flandry that Intelligence work was often a dirty business. It was simply necessary, given the facts of life in a fallen world.


  2. Also, Flandry predates Bond's arrival on the scene.

  3. Also, Flandry predates Bond's arrival on the scene.

    1. Mr Stirling,
      He does indeed although it would be all too easy to assume the opposite.

    2. Dear Mr. Stirling,

      Quite true! And, one point I think no one has mentioned is that I find the Flandry books both more realistic than some of the Bond stories and less DATED than Fleming's books as a whole.