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Moonraker is the third novel by British author Ian Fleming featuring the fictional British Secret Service agent Commander James Bond, first published by Jonathan Cape on April 7, 1955. Set completely in England, it follows Bond's mission to stop an industrialist, Hugo Drax, from destroying London with a nuclear weapon.

The novel's name was used in 1979 for the eleventh official film in the EON Productions Bond franchise and the fourth to star Roger Moore as James Bond. However, the story of the film was significantly changed so as to include outer space.

Plot summary

M asks James Bond to investigate the multi-millionaire businessman Sir Hugo Drax, who is winning a lot of money playing bridge at M's favorite club, Blades. M suspects Drax of cheating, but although claiming indifference, he is concerned why a multi-millionaire and national hero, such as Sir Hugo, would cheat at a card game. Bond confirms Drax's deception and manages to "cheat the cheater" — aided by a cocktail of powdered Benzedrine mixed with non-vintage champagne and a deck of stacked cards — winning £15,000 and infuriating the out-smarted Drax.

Drax is the product of a mysterious background, unknown even to himself (presumably). As a supposed British soldier in WWII, he was badly injured, and stricken with amnesia, in the explosion of a bomb planted by a German saboteur at his field headquarters. After extensive rehabilitation in an army hospital, however, he would eventually return home to become a major aerospace industrialist.

Now, Drax and his firm are building the "Moonraker", Britain's first nuclear missile project, intended to defend the United Kingdommarker against its Cold War enemies (c.f. the real Blue Streak missile). Essentially, the Moonraker rocket is an upgraded V-2 rocket using liquid hydrogen and fluorine as propellants. It can withstand the ultra-high combustion temperatures in its engine thanks to the use of columbite, of which Drax has a monopoly. Therefore, because the rocket's engine can withstand higher heat, the Moonraker can use more powerful fuels, greatly expanding its effective range.

After a Ministry of Supply security officer working at the project is shot dead, M assigns Bond to replace him, and also to investigate what may be going on at the missile-building base, which is located between Dover and Deal on the coast of Englandmarker. Oddly, all of the rocket scientists working on the project seem to be German.

At his post on the complex (where he is billeted in the Drax mansion), Bond meets Gala Brand, a beautiful Special Branch agent working undercover as Personal Assistant to Drax. He also uncovers some clues concerning his predecessor's death, concluding that the former Security Chief might have been killed for witnessing the clandestine delivery of some secret cargo by submarine off the coast.

Drax's henchman Krebs is caught by Bond while he snoops through his room. Later, an attempted assassination nearly kills Bond and Gala under a landslide, as they swim beneath the Dover cliffs. Drax takes Gala to London where she discovers the truth about the "Moonraker" (by comparing her own launch trajectory figures with those in a notebook picked from Drax's pocket) - but she is caught. She soon finds herself captive at a secret radio station (intended to serve as a beacon for the missile's guidance system) in the heart of London. While attempting to rescue her in a car chase, Bond is captured, as well.

It turns out that Drax was never a British soldier and has never suffered from amnesia. In fact, he was a German commander of a Skorzeny commando unit and the saboteur (in British uniform) Graf Hugo von der Drache who set the bomb at the army field headquarters, only to be injured, himself, in the detonation. The amnesia story was simply a cover he used while recovering in hospital, in order to avoid allied retribution - though it would lead to a whole new British identity. Drax, however, remains a dedicated Nazi, bent on revenge against England for the wartime defeat of his Third Reich Fatherland and his prior history of social slights he suffered as a youth growing up in England before the war. He now means to destroy London with the very missile he has constructed for Britain, by means of a Sovietmarker supplied nuclear warhead that has been secretly fitted to the "Moonraker". He also plays the stock market the day before to make a huge profit from the planned disaster.

Brand and Bond are imprisoned under the Moonraker's booster engines so as to leave no trace of them once the Moonraker is launched. But before this first (supposedly un-armed) test firing, Bond and Gala escape. Gala gives Bond the proper coordinates to reprogram the gyros and send the Moonraker into the sea. Having been in collaboration with Soviet Intelligence all along, Drax and his henchman attempt to escape by Russian submarine - only to be killed as the vessel flees through the very waters onto which the "Moonraker" has been re-targeted.

Later, after their de-briefing at headquarters, Bond meets up with Gala, expecting her company - but they part ways after Gala reveals that she is engaged to be married. It is the only Bond novel (discounting some of the short stories) in which Bond does not end up having a romantic relationship with the girl.

The T-Force Connection

Elements of the plot came from Fleming's knowledge of wartime operations carried out by T-Force a secretive British Army unit which had been formed to continue the work of 30 Assault Unit, itself created by Fleming. The connection was first revealed in historian Sean Longdens book 'T Force, The Race for Nazi War Secrets, 1945'.


Chapter XX, Drax's Gambit, features a car chase down the Dover Road with Bond in his Bentley pursuing Drax in his Mercedes Type 300S, briefly (and fatally) interrupted by an Alfa-Romeo supercharged straight-eight. At the end of the chase, Bond's battleship grey 1930 Bentley 4½ Litre Convertible Coupé, with French Marchal headlamps and an Amherst Villiers supercharger, is wrecked when Krebs releases rolls of newsprint from a moving Bowaters lorry.

At the end of the book Bond takes delivery of a 1953 Bentley Mark VI with an open touring body, in battleship grey with dark blue leather upholstery.

Title changes

Many suggested titles existed for the novel. These included The Moonraker, Mondays are Hell, The Moonraker Sense, The Infernal Machine, The Moonraker Secret, The Inhuman Element, Wide of the Mark, The Moonraker Plan, Hell is Here, Bond and The Moonraker, The Moonraker Plot, and Too Hot to Handle.

For an unknown reason, Moonraker's title for the first U.S. paperback publication by Permabooks in 1956 was changed to Too Hot to Handle. One possible reason might have been to avoid confusion with the then-current stage play The Moonraker by Arthur Watkin (which was made into a film of the same title in 1958). Similar to Casino Royale, however, the novel was subtitled (Moonraker) on the cover. Too Hot To Handle is notable for being the only Fleming Bond novel that was "Americanized", replacing British idioms with American ones: for example, "knave of hearts" became "jack of hearts". The title was later changed back to Moonraker in 1960. Discounting magazine publication of some of Fleming's short stories and the novel The Spy Who Loved Me, this was the last time a Bond novel was retitled for American book publication until John Gardner's COLD in 1996.


  • James Bond: A British Secret Servicemarker agent, coded as 007.
  • Hugo Drax: A German spy, who becomes a patriot extraordinaire in London.
  • Gala Brand: A spy posing as Drax's personal secretary. She is named for the cruiser in which her father is serving at the time of her birth.
  • Willy Krebs and Dr. Walter: Drax's assistants.
  • M: The strict head of MI6 who asks Bond to investigate Drax and involves himself in a card game between Drax and Bond.


The novel was praised to have established Fleming's skill and said to be "mercilessly readable". The New Statesman stated that "Fleming is splendid; he stops at nothing" while a Daily Telegraph reviewer said "I couldn't put this book down." According to The Scotsman "James's companion is as smashing a lovely as any predecessor in the role, the villain as sulphurously infernal, the declaration of war as dramatic". The Oxford Mail appreciated the writing and story development. Raymond Chandler described Bond as what every man would like to be and what every woman would like to have between her sheets. The Washington Post said that Bond is "back with the old derring-do in Penguin's dazzling new reprints"


The Moonraker comic strip.
The first adaption of Moonraker was on South African radio in 1956, with Bob Holness providing the voice of Bond.

Actor John Payne acquired the rights to Moonraker and unsuccessfully attempted to film it with himself in the lead.

"Moonraker" was used as the title for the eleventh James Bond film, produced by EON Productions and released in 1979. Directed by Lewis Gilbert and produced by Albert R. Broccoli, the film featured Roger Moore in his fourth appearance as Bond. As 1950's era nuclear missile technology was no longer relevant, however, the plot of the film was updated to focus on the new US space shuttle program and the story was completely re-written. Other than the Bond character (together with some of his MI-6 associates) and the title, very few elements from the book survived into the film version. Most prominently, the character of Hugo Drax was retained as the villain, but he was changed from a British aerospace industrialist to an American one. The principal Bond girl is retained as an undercover agent working within the Drax operation, but her name is changed from Gala Brand (a Scotland Yardmarker agent working as Personal Assistant for Drax) to Holly Goodhead (a CIA agent working as an astronaut for Drax). As in the novel, the film starts out with Bond collecting evidence from the Drax mansion (on the moonraker project site) and retains a scene where Bond and Goodhead are imprisoned beneath rocket exhaust nozzles to be incinerated upon launch (though the details of both elements are significantly changed). Also, the Nazi inspired element of Drax's motivation in the novel is indirectly preserved with the "master race" theme of the movie plot. It is widely believed that Broccoli had decided to take advantage of the success of the film Star Wars and accordingly, the plot of Moonraker was modified so as to involve outer space. Since the screenplay was original, EON Productions and Glidrose Publications authorized the film's screenwriter, Christopher Wood to write his second novelization based upon the film. It was titled James Bond and Moonraker, and became a best-seller in 1979. Several elements of Moonraker were seen in other Bond films. Drax's warning to Bond to spend the prize money quickly after being defeated in a gamble was quoted in the 1983 film Octopussy. The 2002 film Die Another Day used some of the novel's content, such as the Blades club. According to actress Rosamund Pike, speaking for the DVD commentary of Die Another Day, her villain character in that film, Miranda Frost, was originally to have been named Gala Brand, the name of the Bond girl in this novel.

Moonraker was adapted as a daily comic strip which was published in the British Daily Express newspaper and syndicated worldwide. The adaptation was written by Henry Gammidge and illustrated by John McLusky, and ran from March 30 to August 8, 1959. Titan Books reprinted the strip in 2005 along with Casino Royale and Live and Let Die as a part of the Casino Royale anthology.

Publication history

The following are the publications of Moonraker.
  • April 4, 1955 - 1st edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK) released - Jacket artwork devised by Ian Fleming,
  • September 20, 1955 - 1st edition Macmillan hardback (USA)
2nd edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK)
  • October 15, 1956 - 1st edition Pan paperback (UK)
  • December 1956 - "Too Hot To Handle" Permabooks paperback (USA)
  • 1958 3rd edition Jonathan Cape hardback (UK)
  • 1959 4th edition Jonathan Cape hardback; Pan paperback 2nd and 3rd editions (UK)
  • October, 1960 - 1st edition Signet paperback (USA); 4th edition Pan paperback (UK)
  • 1961 Pan paperback 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th editions (UK); Jonathan Cape hardback 5th edition (UK)
  • 1963 Jonathan Cape hardback 6th edition (UK); Pan paperback 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th editions (UK)
  • 1964 Jonathan Cape hardback 7th edition; Pan paperback 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th editions (UK)
  • 1965 8th edition Jonathan Cape hardback Pan paperback 20th, 21st and 22nd editions (UK)
  • 1966 Pan paperback 23rd edition (UK)
  • 1969 Pan paperback 24th edition (UK)
  • 1971 Pan paperback 25th edition (UK)
  • 1972 9th edition Jonathan Cape hardback; 26th edition Pan paperback (UK)
  • January 1975 - 1st edition F.A. Thorpe/Ulverscroft large print hardback (UK)
  • 1976 27th edition Pan paperback (UK)
  • November 1978 - 1st edition Oxford University Press China children's edition paperback (UK)
  • June 1989 - 1st edition Coronet paperback (UK) - Introduction by Anthony Burgess
  • April 4, 2002 - 1st edition Viking/Penguin hardback (UK) Photography by Toby Mcfarlan Pond


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