The Science of James Bond: From Bullets to Bowler Hats to Boat Jumps, the Real Technology Behind 007's Fabulous Films Paperback – Aug 1 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Everyone knows which secret agent drives a car that turns into a boat at the flick of a switch, leaves fake fingerprints and, of course drinks his martinis shaken, not stirred: Bond. James Bond. Gresh and Weinberg, having surveyed the science of supervillains and superheroes, turn to Bond and all the wonderful toys conjured up for him by Q, as well as the weapons created by his enemies. They explain how "dirty bombs" work while noting that Goldfinger's plot to contaminate Fort Knox with one wouldn't work, because the radiation would turn gold into liquid mercury. Biological agents were also used by one of Bond's foes. Fortunately, Hugo Drax's Moonraker scheme to destroy humankind with a poison made from orchids was fairy tale stuff. Gresh and Weinberg's book goes up against last year's Death Rays, Jet Packs, Stunts, & Supercars by Barry Parker,, but they write better and their book is more accessible to Bond fans who've forgotten their high school science. Readers might check out the appendix on the Bond martini first, so they'll have something to sip while enjoying this lively read. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the authors of The Science of Supervillains (2004) and The Science of Superheroes (2005) comes this lighthearted examination of the real-world truths behind the fantasy world of 007. Can a tossed bowler hat really decapitate a man? Can a car really fly, or turn into a submarine? Can a simple wristwatch do all the wondrous things Bond's watches have done over the years, from garroting people to detonating bombs to shooting out laser beams? The authors take none of this too seriously: the book is written in the spirit of the Bond films, with a wink and a nod. But there is a wealth of fascinating information here for fans of Fleming's superspy, and some readers might be surprised at just how many of the fictional gadgets were based on, or evolved into, real pieces of hardware. The book is being published to coincide with the release of the new Bond flick, Casino Royale, so expect some demand. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Moving on to the subject of boat jumps, let me describe, in sum total, how much the authors have to say about them (and let me be the first to admit that the "Live and Let Die" boat chase scenes were among my favorites): Nothing.
That's right, not a single word, phrase, or discussion about any of this -- not the technology needed to film them, the stunt men, nothing.
There's quite a bit more wrong with the book, even if taken as 'tongue in cheek', because it's obvious that the authors (who claim to be science-aware) don't understand even basic facts. For example, they go on and on (over several pages) about how Blofeld's spaceship in "You Only Live Twice" is unrealistic because, after all, it wouldn't be able to 'stop' in space, as it needs to go 17,000 MPH to be in orbit, etc. They completely ignore relative speeds -- the Blofeld spaceship only needs to go slightly faster/slower than the target ship, not thousands of miles per hour different. I won't go into the whole 'orbital mechanics' that happen with rendezvous in space (most of which are counter-intuitive), because the authors don't touch on it at all. The authors go on and on about how they can't understand how (at the time the movie was released, in the sixties) NASA wouldn't have 'seen' the spaceship on radar, without understanding how much work had gone into being able to track vehicles that we KNEW about (let alone unknown ones). And there is only a passing reference, several chapters later, about the most 'incredible' aspect of this spaceship -- that it's able to land vertically, under power, on land.
The blurb on the back cover of the book even talks about the "ever-popular rocket-firing cigarette." Of course, if you're anticipating reading anything about that in the book, rest assured -- you won't. It isn't there. And while they spend pages and pages explaining bullet calibers, and why Bond has a Walther PPK, there is nary a mention of one of the most fascinating 'gadget guns' in any of the movies, the 'golden gun' used by Scaramanga in "The Man with the Golden Gun".
In short, this seems to be a somewhat rambling discourse on logical flaws in the Bond movies, with a bit of 'science' thrown in, but it doesn't hold together well, and I can't help but feel cheated by the comparison of the book cover blurbs and the actual content. It doesn't make me feel good to realize that I spent more time reading this book than the publisher did...
My other complaint is how often the authors plug another one of their books. Several times in "The Science of James Bond," when the authors have introduced a field of science, they drop the topic, explaining that the reader will have to find more information on the particular field by referencing another title by the authors. To me, this reeks of laziness and commercialism.
As you might expect the book is mostly about the science and technology used in the long running film series (or at least its first twenty films from 1962's Doctor No to 2002's Die Another Day). Here the book excels. Writers Lois H. Gresh and Robert Weinberg seem to have done their homework as they present the scientific, technical and even historical reality of a whole multitude of gadgets, villains and plots. The results can be utterly surprising at times such as the reality of the background of A View To A Kill's Max Zorin or exactly how plausible is the Goldeneye EMP weapon from the film of that name. Other examples include the writers also look at two of the urban legends born out of 1964's Goldfinger, how plausible Goldfinger's plot really is and taking many of the plot points of 1967's You Only Live Twice to task (including the Volcano Base itself). All the while the writers manage to stay both technical and readable, especially with their tongue in cheek prose style. The result, on this side of things anyway, is a readable reality check of the James Bond films.
The book does have issues though. While the writers have done their homework on the science and technology, their knowledge of the films themselves seems to be utterly lacking at times. There are numerous goofs such as, for example, listing Bond creator Ian Fleming with writing the film version of A View To A Kill, despite it having been written twenty years after his death, the writers literally missing whole plot points for Goldeneye or listing the novel Fleming was working on at the time of his death as On Her Majesty's Secret Service (when it was really The Man With The Golden Gun). The writers also take several importunity's to plug their previous books in The Science Of series such as into the section on the Little Nellie auto-gyro for example. There's also a whole list of other gadgets including the "bowler hats", "boat jumps" and "the ever-popular rocket firing cigarette" that the book mentions on its cover that aren't covered in any size, shape or form within the book itself. Considering how well written the rest of the book is these things all come as rather disappointing.
Overall The Science Of James Bond an enjoyable and at times even surprising accounting of the reality of quite a few of the gadgets, villains and plots seen in the first twenty James Bond films. Yet the numerous factual errors on the Bond films, the unnecessary plugs of other The Science Of books and the lack of items included on the book's own cover do show that the book has issues though. It may not be perfect or even essential reading for Bond fans but if you're looking to cover the world of 007 a reality check look no further.
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