Website last updated: 25-11-2022

A review of Superspy Science written by Kathryn Harkup

By: Brian Smith
Published:
2022-11-04
Superspy Science book review
Sixteen years ago, I reviewed a book about the science of James Bond. I commented that the authors knew a lot more about science than James Bond. I recommended it until a better book on the subject came along. That book has finally arrived.

Superspy Science’s 25 chapters are named after each successive Bond film – Dr. No through to No Time To Die. However, the content of each chapter is themed so Goldfinger, for instance, which introduced audiences to the first on-screen laser beam discusses their appearance throughout the series. Likewise, the gamma gas from Thunderball expands to other forms of poisoning, such as Mr White’s Thallium in Spectre. This is a clever construct and makes for an engaging read.

Science and gadgets have always been central to the James Bond films. Even the more down-to-earth Bonds have storylines driven by science, such as the Lektor decoder in From Russia with Love or Blofeld’s bacteriological warfare threat in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.


Harkup’s scientific credentials appear obvious, but so too is her knowledge of the Bond films and, just as importantly, the Ian Fleming books, which is greatly appreciated. Where the worlds of Bond and science collide, Harkup provides context. She doesn’t criticise the filmmakers for getting it wrong. She understands the nature of these films and the requirement to stretch believability in order to move the plot forward or just to provide great entertainment.

Science was never my strong suit; fortunately, the real science that inspired these films is brilliantly explained in layman’s terms, but never at the expense of the films for which the author has obvious affection for. A case in point is in the Moonraker chapter, which deals primarily with things blowing up. Even though on-screen explosions defy scientific rationale, Harkup makes a good point of acknowledging that the ‘scientific, engineering and technical skill of those making them is undeniably first class.’

Superspy Science is an impressive technological history of the Bond films. It was a delight to read - cleverly constructed, funny, well observed - and I daresay I learned quite a bit in the process.


Review by Brian Smith. Copyright © 2022 From Sweden with Love. All rights reserved.

Editor's Note:
Available Superspy Science: Science, Death and Tech in the World of James Bond editions:

>UK hardback edition
>UK paperback edition
>US hardback edition (to be published on 15th November 2022)
>UK audio book edition
>Kindle edition

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