Goldfinger by Ian Fleming, the 7th volume in a classic novel series that detail the world famous exploits of British secret agent 007, otherwise known as James Bond. The novel has the same plot as its movie adaption which is arguably more famous then the book ever was. Bond has to stop the dastardly Auric Goldfinger from stealing all of the billions in Fort Knox and using the money to finance anti-American spy interests. To someone completely unfamiliar to spy novels, this concept might seem "breathtaking" just as the back cover claims, but to an experienced reader, the plot is rather typical, and unexceptional in any way. For a classic novel such as Goldfinger, a description like "typical" is actually more compliment then insult, since classics are, by definition, made up of what we know. Calling a classic "typical" is really just a way of admitting the extent that certain elements of it have invaded pop consciousness.
There are many typical James Bond elements in this story, some work, and some don't but all of them are classic. Thinking about what doesn't work, the villains method of "killing" James Bond is always comical. We get the famous, "Here is how we are going to punish you: with this slowly rotating saw moving at 1 centimeter per minute. Now, excuse me while I leave the room, Mr. Bond, to serve myself a cup of tea.. " The villains attempting to do the killing are typical cartoonish James Bond bad guys, with smirk worthy names such as "Oddjob" and "Pussy Galore." You'll find no evidence morally grey, complex characters here, not even among the good guys, but at least James Bond will take a moment to reflect on somebody he just killed while sipping his morning booze. And at least James Bond knows how to kill.
The prose is worthy of neither praise nor condemnation. Ian Fleming efficiently tells the story, which I suppose is all I have a right to expect, but I expected more anyway. I have no specific criticism of the way it was written, other then the writing was standard, which I found disappointing. That doesn't mean I found it boring though. Goldfinger is a thriller that successfully managed to thrill. Nearly every chapter ended in a plot twist, and this kept me happily engaged for the couple of hours it took to read it cover to cover. I should add though, The lengthy and completely unnecessary descriptions of golfing at the beginning wasn't a high point. Golfing just doesn't have the sexiness of car chases. The book is most fascinating as a document that reflects the sexism and racism of a (mostly) vanished era: an era where, for example, Koreans are genetically more cruel, and lesbianism is an unfortunate but predictable outcome of allowing women to vote. These ideas are so ludicrous they would be genuinely laughable, but for the fact that I know of people who earnestly believe both these things.
Overall, Goldfinger was a decent book that has aged reasonably well. It managed to entertain me, and make me feel better about how far most of society has progressed in such a short time. I'll probably read another Bond novel... if I have nothing better to do.